Friday, 11 October 2013

The Jack Bunney Rant of the Week!

We have had another cracking year here at JB central.  Another bumper wedding hire season and more 'Made to Measure' & 'Made to Order' suits were sold this season than were sold over the whole of 2012.  So that's all good.  It means we are doing something right, which is good.   I get quite excited talking about this stuff and I do have a tendency to get quite excited when talking to customers in the shop here. And most customers enjoy me being passionate about my profession, some do not.

 Most of our customers are couples, getting married, who have found our business online and have travelled a fair distance to come to our shop here.  We are exceptionally lucky that we have such wonderful customers and the vast majority understand why our services are deemed desirable and why it is worthwhile choosing our business despite the logistical problems of travelling long distances.  However there is a minority who visit our shop, or contact us via the website and social media, who just do not understand our business and why we get booked up so far in advance.  I know I shouldn't moan about such a small minority and I shouldn't let a very small percentage of potential clients influence any of my decisions but I always react the same; I try to defend our business and explain the ideas, the model, the concept of Jack Bunneys to them.  Inevitably this leads to blank expressions and much under-the-breath mutterings, which I am sure refer to a 'shop-keep with ideas above his station'.

I think, like most passionate people, I still feel the need to defend my position on certain things and this normally leads to a certain amount of tension which is never a good thing at the beginning of a working relationship.  I imagine that at times this initial tension can lead to potential customers choosing to go elsewhere , which is fine, I would recommend for anyone who is planning a wedding to not book a supplier if you do not have a positive relationship with the person providing the service.

 Sometimes the consumer can be quite determined and will choose to book the product or service despite not having the best rapport with us.  And again this is fine, we are a business, after all, and like all business we can't always be best friends with our clients, we also can't discriminate.  We cannot and will not pick and choose our customers according to our own personal tastes or views, that's a morally slippery slope, and definitely not a professional way to conduct business.

So what's the point of this blog post?  Some times we get on and some times we don't?  Seems like a pretty obvious point to make I suppose.  But that point is actually pretty important and worth making.  A professional business can have a 'professional' relationship with those customers who are not their most favourite people on a personal level, by contrast, a professional business cannot be too 'friendly' with their customers no matter how much they like them personally.

The difficult part is to find that balance.  Every business wants that 'friendly, family' atmosphere and we are quite lucky as we have this built-in!  As we are actually a family and we all get on very well,  so the friendly family atmosphere is here at all times but we also need to have a distance, we need to do our jobs, be professional and at the end of the day take payment for our services.   It isn't always easy finding that balance, sometimes you want to scream or pull your hair out in frustration and at other times you can let the professional facade drop for a moment because you are engrossed in a fun chat with a customer who you get on with well.   Both of these reactions can be equally disastrous! Saying the wrong thing to a potential client, no matter how harmless you may think your remarks are, could cause offence, equally showing your frustrations can also seem petty and unprofessional, it's all about professional discipline, something I find lacking on the high-street.

So why is the high street lacking in this professional discipline?   I don't really know for sure but I have my theories.
 1. Part-Time workers. :  When I first started in retail, all of the employees were full-time.  O.K. not all of them were professional! but they certainly knew the consequences of getting caught doing or saying something morally dubious.  Paying your rent or mortgage is a pretty good incentive to keep your job.  By contrast part-time workers in retail tend to be either A) students B) retired persons C) someone supplementing their income D) parents earning a bit extra in between child-care (this is obviously a generalisation, I know their are plenty of exceptions), part-time workers just do not have the same incentive to take a disciplined-professional approach to their work.
 2.  Trying to be cool! :  Retail has always been about buying a brand rather than a product.  But it seems every business in the world wants to be 'cool'.  I have news for you: You're either cool or you're not!  And this 'cool-ness' will wax and wane with the popular zeitgeist,  you may be cool on a Monday but by Saturday you are old and crusty!  A 45 year old man with a 40 waist and a balding head does not look 'cool' if he is wearing skinny jeans and has put some product on his hairs.  Act and dress as you really are and some people will see you as cool and others will not.  I refer to people who work in retail like this as 'jonny-try-hards' and it is a step over the line of professional discipline.
3. Alternative:  We all want to be different.  So I will tell you what, i'll be different by being exactly the same as everyone else!   There are a million sub-cultures out there and I love people who are passionate about their alternative lifestyles, whether they are skin-heads or goths I really do not care, if you love your culture and lifestyle it shows you care about something (and we all need to care about stuff!).  As well as having friends, a community and likewise people who share you passions.  The high-street though would rather you dedicated your time and passion (and of course money) to it!  So the high-street has slowly manoeuvred itself into a position where it can hijack nearly every sub-culture around.  My question is this; when does an alternative lifestyle stop being alternative?  Is it when 12 and 13 year old kids are walking around Lakeside shopping centre in steam-punk outfits? Or when babies are wearing Ramones baby grows?   I really do not know.  But I do know that I would like sub-cultures to remain sub-cultures.  Being alternative is bit like being cool, if you're not actually alternative then you're just trying-hard.  This leads to a lack of professional-discipline.  Trying to ingratiate yourself into someones pack by being one of them is a case of being over familiar.


Those are my theories anyway.


In conclusion to this rambling rant; 1) We can't all get along  2) As professionals that should not matter 3) Lots of things about the high-street annoy me


If you had the patience to read all this, thank you.

Kind Regards
Marc