I know you’re already worried. Business lesson?, you probably grumbled. If you’re like me when I read blogs, I simply set out to be mildly entertained (and at times inspired) by another’s adventures in life. After a long day at the shop, being educated on business practices isn’t at the top of my To-Do List either, but stick with me…
…. drum roll, please…
The Books by Design Business Lesson Number One is called, “The Owner of Books by Design MUST be Friendly and Make Small-Talk (as Advised by Her Parents).” Please note, this particular lesson will consist of two parts. One part slightly more painful than the other, though which one is which varies depending on day. Brace yourselves.
This may or may not come as a shock to some of you, but as a general rule, I do not classify myself as a friendly sort of girl. Not that I view myself as particularly unfriendly either. It’s just that I like to find myself in that wonderful safety zone of “sincerely friendly when appropriate.” At first glance, everyone probably thinks they can agree with this sentiment, but the problem comes when an attempt is made to define the “when appropriate” part.
From my original perspective, there are three absolutely appropriate times to be sincerely friendly—1) when someone visits my house, 2) at church, and 3) when another person is sincerely friendly to you first. You will notice several occasions and institutions have been left off this list—parking lots, grocery stores, gas stations, and sports functions–among others. It’s not that I wouldn’t be friendly (or even be friendly first) at one of these events, but I would just give it at least thirty seconds of considerable thought before proceeding.
Why?, you ask.
Because let’s be honest with ourselves—sometimes we do not want to be bothered. There. I said it. Whether it’s a good ideology or not, we can hem-haw around all we want to and deny it, but you know… you know there are times when you sit in your stuffy car, just seconds before taking the key out of the ignition and say a silent prayer for no one to notice you in Wal-Mart because you really just don’t feel like it today. Am I right? Or am I right?
Familiar with that particular prayer myself, I literally do unto others as I’d have them do to me. If we make eye contact, bump buggies, or something of that unavoidable nature—sure! Say hey and give me a hug! I will be genuinely happy to see you. If I’m fifteen aisles over, let’s just avoid the hunt. Let me slip on by, so you and I both can get out of Wally World that much easier. =) Maybe that’s even a matter of practicality rather than friendliness?… but I digress.
Therefore, in the first two days of regular Books by Design business, I carried this experience and shopping preference with me to the store in a thought process that went something like this…
People visit Books by Design. I want to make sure they feel welcome when they enter the shop—I briefly welcome them to the shop. Customers like books and want to browse the shop. My talking to them would hinder their concentration and annoy them. I do not want to hinder them. I do not want to annoy them. Hence, I am quiet after my initial greeting.
Sounds sufficient, right? Mmmm.
Evidently, there was a flaw in this logic. Apparently, not everyone has a fear of hindering concentration and verbal annoyances like I do. Unbeknownst to me at the time, people want more than the quick hello and synopsis of Books by Design… they want The Overview. Plus some.
Fortunately, this point was brought to my attention by my parents a few days after visiting the shop. In a way that only parents can, they pretty much full-on, flat-out said I was not being friendly enough… in the most loving way possible, of course. They said that I needed to engage in this foreign and frightening conversational tactic called small-talk. They said that (though growing) Villa Rica is still a small town at heart, and people are probably looking for me to “go the extra mile” and facilitate conversation when they come into the store. Customers want to know I care. I needed to show I care through friendliness and small-talk.
Guess what? That news was not well received. Although I am incredibly close to my parents and in much part skipped over the whole teenage angst phase, I felt like I already had enough on my plate to deal with without additional comments about the measure of my friendliness or lack thereof. SMALL TALK? I hate small talk. Remember, small talk is what I do my best to avoid in Wal-Mart. It takes up time and sucks up oxygen. They’re kidding, right? They don’t actually want me to… small-talk, small-talk. Shutter the thought. I was admittedly defensive and extremely upset by the notion.
However (and this is a big HOWEVER), I am keenly aware of and convicted about listening to wise council. I know that God places people in our lives to give us advice because they have more experience and wisdom than we do sometimes. This conviction is difficult to deal with because I am often very torn between listening to the wise council and going with my gut. I know that God has entrusted me with the responsibility of Books by Design, and like I said in an earlier post, I also know that the ultimate success or failure of Books by Design will rest on my shoulders. So what do I do? Listen to my council or my gut?
This time with the whole small talk situation, I decided to listen to the council—albeit on a trial basis. I’d try the whole extra-mile—friendly—small town—hugs and kiss with small talk bit. I mean, at worst people would either be annoyed or laugh at me when they left, I would feel awkward and in a couple of days I would go back to my polite yet reserved self.
Only the oddest thing happened.
It seemed that my parents were… right. Imagine that. Most people enjoyed the small talk. They liked for me to introduce myself, tell them a cute anecdote about the day, the weather, my time at UGA, or my growing up in this neck of the woods. They wanted me to explain the trade-in policy verbally, introduce them to the various sections of the bookstore. And don’t let me forget to include the most important part—people like for me to ask questions about them. What kind of books do they read? How did they hear about Books by Design? Where do they live? Are they ready for cooler weather? Football season?
Amazing and still shocking to me at times. In just the past couple of days, I have learned so much about small-talk and how to engage in it enjoyably. I’ve talked about everything from religious disciplining principles to healing scars, talking cats, and entrepreneurship. I’m still not great at it, but at least I am no longer terrified by the notion, and overall, I now realize that most people find small-talk enduring, not annoying. And while cultivating my knack for small-talk, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know my patrons. People are incredibly complex and oftentimes I find myself surprised by the colorful and varied conversations that arise.
Next thing y’all know I’ll be jumping buggies in Wal-Mart just to say “HEY!” and show off my new mad small-talking skills. 😉
The moral of Books by Design Business Lesson Number One? Learn how to make small talk. It’s fun. You’ll learn a lot. And apparently, it works.
And oh, yeah. Listen to your parents, er wise council. That works, too.
P.s. Picture time… Look what Books by Design is giving away! Bookmarks! Which, might I add, were another shoe-string budget endeavor. FedEx Office wanted to charge me $55.00 plus tax to make 150 of these bookmarks… and they WOULD NOT have had bows. Little Books by Design couldn’t afford that! Instead, I used half an ink cartridge (~$6.00 because we get them refilled at Walgreens), card stock (~$5.50 because it was one sale at Hobby Lobby last week), and twine (~$3.00), and made these cute little numbers for what? Lesss than $15.00! WaHOO. Stop in today and get one! =)