107. How to be an Entrepreneur

Craftsman front door with boots

A pair of saleswomen came to our door this morning. They taught me about flawless customer service. Here’s how the conversation unfolded:

(ipod rock music playing)

Me: Hi, how can I help you?

SW#1 (carrying a container with coins): Well, we have a cleaner bottle here. It’s for your clothes. But we haven’t tested it.

Me: Great, how does it work?

SW#2 (carrying a bag with small spray bottles in it): Well, you spray it on your clothes before you put it in the laundry. We have tested it. You can also spray it on your skin and it will clean your skin.

Me: So, I could use it to clean my hands after I have been gardening?

SW#2: Yes, just spray it on and rub it.

Me: Do you make this product yourselves? What’s in it?

SW#2: Well… we smash up one of those bath balls. And it has water, and what’s that purple stuff?

Me: It looks like lavender flowers. Is that it?

SW#1: Yes, it’s lavender.

Me: How much does it cost?

SW#2 (looking at the container of coins): It’s two dollars.

Me: I’m afraid I don’t have enough coins. Can I give you a bigger bill and you give me the change – do you have $8 worth of coins?

SW#1: Yes, we can do that.

Me: So, here’s ten dollars. Can you count out $8 worth of coins?

SW#2: I’m not good at math.

Me: Okay, you hold the $10 bill, and I’ll help you count out your coins. This is two dollars and this is one dollar. How many dollars is that?

SW#2: Three dollars.

Me: Okay, these are quarters, and four of these make one dollar. So if I add four of these..

SW#2: Four dollars (continues to count as I add piles of four quarters)..five..six..seven..

Me: And these three quarters make seventy-five cents. Do you know how many cents are in this nickel?

SW#2 (looking closely at the coin): 5 cents.

Me: So that added to seventy five cents is…?


Me: Eighty cents. You have seven dollars and eighty cents in coins. So I can give you an extra twenty cents for my bottle of cleaner. And I give you this ten dollar bill, and keep your coins, all right?

SW#1 (with a furrowed brow): That’s not a good deal for us.

Me: Will you be able to get change for your $10 bill?

SW#2: Yes, yes we can get it at home. We have coins at home. (Turns to leave.)

Me: Okay, may I have my cleaner then?

SW#2: Oh, yes, here it is.

Me: Thank you. Good bye.

(I drop the coins into my change purse, then:)

Knock, knock, knock!

SW#1: We want our money back. You can keep the bottle.

I dig into my change purse, and put all my change into their container, without counting it. They give me my $10 bill back.

Me: Okay, I’ll owe you two dollars then. It’s easier to divide coins between you, isn’t it?

SW#1 (to SW#2 as they walk away): I feel much more comfortable with that.

SW#2: I feel better, too.

What did I learn about running a new business? For CEOs:

  1. Your sales force should consist entirely of six-year-olds.
  2. Money isn’t everything. Customer service is.
  3. Engage your customer in the math process. It makes her feel needed and guarantees she’ll test your product.
  4. You want your salespeople and customers both to end the transaction feeling satisfied. (Is it fair to quote Maya Angelou? She said, “People will forget what you did, people will forget what you said, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”)