Friday, December 26, 2008

Where has the time gone...

How in the world is it December 26th? This year has gone by so fast, I just can't believe it. Usually around this time every year, I ask Trevor these questions:
-What were the best things about this past year?
-What do you want to accomplish next year?
Trevor does not like these questions - I ask them in many different forms all year round - for example, after a party I say "who was your favorite guest", when we have our anniversary, I make him list things he loves about me (this question game has never made the list of things he loves about me).
I always think I know the answer to these questions and Trevor ALWAYS surprises me with his answers. He almost always gives me some sort of answer that makes me want to cry - because I realize that for all the grief I give him about just about everything in our lives....he loves me and our life is just as important to him as it is to me.

I'll have to post his answers to these questions, but for now, I'll give you my answers:

- What were the best things about this past year?
This past year was really about change and challenge for us:
  • In January, we made the decision to open a business and spent all year actually opening it.
  • My brother and his wife had a baby in March.
  • Trevor lost his job in April, just two weeks before our trip to China...and we went to lunch to celebrate.
  • We spent a week in China, which is something so outside my comfort zone in so many ways. We ran 13.1 miles on the Great Wall of China.
  • We opened our store at the end of August and have done so in a very harmonious way. Trevor is a great partner - we think alike, want the same things and complement each others strengths and weaknesses.
  • I learned to swim in June and completed my first triathlon in August, followed by another one in September.
  • We've made the change from a two income household to one income and we haven't lost any of our houses, property or material things. Plus - we still have a strong relationship and supportive family. We are fortunate - many people right now cannot say the same thing.
  • We've both lost a few pounds - our eating has been much healthier this year - more consistent.
  • All of our pets are healthy, we made it through another year.
  • We added sweet Roxie to our brood - this little kitty has no idea how lucky she is.
  • I flossed more than 360 days this year. Yay to good oral hygiene!
Overall, this has been a great year, I feel like we've had far more good days than bad. We have taken steps towards a better future and really isn't that what every year should be about?

What do I want to accomplish next year - 2009?
I was thinking this morning about New Year's Resolutions and how most people only make them on January 1st. But really, isn't every day an opportunity to make a resolution? You don't have to wait until January 1 to make a change. That is the best thing about life, each day provides the opportunity for change. - the opportunity to say, "this isn't working for me, I want to try something different".

  • Continue to improve upon my swimming - get at least two pool workouts a week.
  • Work towards a 1/2 Iron man triathlon in August and be ready for it, complete it and be satisfied with my performance.
  • Live on a budget. Ugh. I think I say that every year...this year...I really mean it.
  • Open our second store by the end of summer 2009.
  • Fully embrace every change that is made at my job.
  • I also plan to work on not taking things so personal and letting at least some things roll off my back instead of jamming me up.
So, that's a start I guess. Some years I say I want to be nicer, but that only lasts like one day, so I"m not planning to work on that this year because I really need all my energy for the live on a budget bullet.

Whatever 2009 brings you - you can be sure its what you need...even if it isn't what you want.
Have a good one.

Customer Service is dead

I've been saying that for a while, but today, for me, it has truly died. Time for the funeral, get out the bagpipes and lets lay it to rest, because it is deader than dead. In fact, we probably don't need to bury it, its has been pummeled into a dust so fine, that there it probably can't even be contained in an urn. It is that non-existant.

To say that I am angry is an understatement, in case I haven't been clear on that.

What the hell is going on in the world, when the customer isn't right anymore? My dad will probably fall out of his seat when he reads this - because he remembers the days when I worked at our ice cream store and truly believed that the customer was always WRONG. Well, that was 20 years ago and I'm an adult now with a business and a career. I have learned over the years from many smart people that it doesn't matter if the customer is right or wrong - they are the customer and the only thing that matters is that they are happy. That is, if you want them to continue being a customer and if you care about the people they know. When you upset one person, you don't just lose them as a customer, but you have to be prepared for them to tell everyone they come into contact with NOT to do business with you. That's a scary thought.

I really do try to provide excellent customer service. I don't argue with people before I give in and let them have what they want. I always try to just do the right thing by them in the first place. In my advertising job - if something is done wrong, if an ad appears incorrect, even if it was their fault, almost all of the time, I credit the ad - with an apology that it was wrong. If it was the customer's mistake - I usually tell them that I'll credit it this time and then give them some guidelines for the future so that it doesn't happen again - or if it does, they'll take the blame.

At our store, we work really hard to give our customers what they want. We sample anything in the store so they are sure they like it before they buy it. And if they get it home and it isn't what they thought or they don't like it or just don't want it - we take it back. And we'll return their money any way they want.

This is our theory - say someone buys $100 worth of stuff and for whatever reason, they want to return it. We can either give them their money back, provide a pleasant experience and expect that they will come back and buy more - also that they will tell their friends how great we are - how easy we are to deal with OR we can hold on to that $100 as tight as we can and hope that's enough to pay the rent this month and every month after because that customer will probably never come back.

Over the last few months, we have had an increasing number of bad service experiences. The one I have had today is the final straw for me. And I'm mad, because I really value the business that gave me this crappy service and I don't want to stop doing business with them. I really don't want to. I've always been happy before. But not today. And so, they will get a lot less of my business. Eventually they will get none of my business. I am sure they will wonder why.

The saddest part about it is that this business is in trouble. They are hurting financially. Their customers are going away in droves, their revenue down significantly. Shouldn't they be holding on to every customer for dear life? I guess they'd rather cling to my $200. I hope its enough to pay the rent, because I won't be paying it for them anymore.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Back in the saddle again...

Well, not the saddle, but the pool. I am back in the pool again! You may remember that over the summer I completed my first triathlon. I liked it so much, I did it a second time. I learned to swim in June and the first tri was at the beginning of August. And it nearly killed me. If you go back and read my posts from both triathlons, you'll find that the swim really freaked me out. I didn't have enough time this season to get comfortable. I just knew I had to get through it and then I could bike and run just fine.

Next summer I have three triathlons planned - a sprint, an olympic and a 1/2 iron-man. One of our friends thought this was a little too aggressive, but we don't care. If you think you can't do something, the best thing to do is DO IT. Plan for it, work towards it and get through it. In planning for it, I knew that I would need to spend more time in the pool over the winter to build a base and start to overcome my fear, yes fear, of the water.

After the last triathlon in September, I stopped going to the pool and got back into my workout routine that included only running, biking and lifting. I figured there was plenty of time for swimming. To be honest...I've been dreading it. I've planned it in my routine a few times and always talked myself out of it.

This week, I realized that it had been three months since my last swim and that January will mark the beginning of my official off-season triathlon training. To me, this meant that I really needed to get back in the water.

So Tuesday morning at 5:15, I got up, put on my suit and headed to the gym. I had a workout planned that included drills to work on my stroke and form. It was 55 minutes of torture and I wanted to quit the entire time. I kept reminding myself that I used to feel this way when I first started running and when I first started spending more time on the bike. I am now at the point when I run that I can actually enjoy the process - enjoy the miles, instead of wanting them to be over. I am almost at the point on the bike, I enjoy it sometimes, others I watch the clock. So I know its possible to transition to that point with my swimming, but I have to put in the time. There is no other way to see progress. Damn it.

Thursday morning, I got up at 4:45 and headed to the gym to swim 800 meters before spin class. This swim was so great - the water was really really warm and I was there alone. It was so quiet and peaceful and I really focused on enjoying the distance instead of just wanting to get from one side to the other. I remembered the open water swims where I had to let go, relax and just swim. It was a great reminder to me that training is ever-changing. That one day it can be so hard you want to cry and the next it can seem like the best thing you've ever done.

I finished my swim, changed and ran upstairs for my spin class. After it was all done, I had the feeling that I do it all for - accomplishment and self-satisfaction. Pride. I'll take some more of that please...