Be Careful What You Call Yourself

There's a local tavern in West Los Angeles named Mom's Bar. Given that we have an extraordinary gastropub in town named Father's Office, Mom's fits in as part of the cool, local scene. You can raise a few after work, or pop in later when the trendier crowd arrives and creates a hip club scene.

Mom's Bar. Sounds like a nice place. It was.

Last weekend, a co-worker went there with his wife. They are typical locals having a drink at 7:30 PM. Low key and relaxed, they happen to be on the quiet side, very courteous and polite.

At work, he's the guy who pops into my office only when he's got something interesting to say. From time to time, he snaps a photo of my dog doing something silly, and sends it like a little gift into my email inbox. I always seek him out when I need good advice on a whole host of issues, technology, vendor management, and purchasing particularly. He also steps up when my business partner is off, taking on the questions and requests from staff, vendors and clients that I can't handle on my own. He's also an inventor, so he's on top of all kinds of trends. He's solved a particularly miserable health problem of mine with a recipe he cooked up.

So why would such a great guy with a terrific wife stop in for one drink after work, and get tossed out of Mom's Bar?

He happens to have a congenital eye condition. Light causes searing pain if he doesn't wear dark lenses. He wears them all the time. We've never had a client or anyone else even mention it at work, at home when we entertain a group for parties, or even when we were working with the The New Girl's producers, who used our location for a shoot. It's clear that he's not trying to be cool by wearing shades indoors. It's clear he's rather heroically managing a major medical problem, very gracefully.

Apparently, you can't have a disability and get served at Mom's Bar. Not even after a polite explanation by a very articulate couple, who were just quietly going about their lives.

There's an epidemic of this kind of stupidity, not just among small businesses that make the mistake of treating local customers badly. Think about the service you get at Staples, Best Buy, and Bed, Bath and Beyond.

If I depended on the staff at Staples to help me really stock up on the staples I need for work, I would risk owning the worst possible printer, phones that don't function and "sale" items that aren't on sale. Oh! I did risk that. And got attitude just for shopping there.

Best Buy is pretty much the worst buy possible. There's a lot manufacturers' field reps milling around in the aisles talking down the competition, but rarely any store staff or any inventory.

And Bed, Bath and Beyond is almost beyond imagination. The last time I went the check-out clerk asked if I had any coupons. I did not. She moaned, "Wow, that's too bad because this is going to really cost a lot." It did. I didn't realize that we're paying a 20% surcharge by not having coupons (which brings down items to regular price). Way to make me feel stupid for shopping at your store!

So Mom's isn't alone. Retail, restaurants and just about anywhere you buy anything seem to have lowered the bar on courtesy, common sense and customer service.

The fix? How about writing a mission statement that embraces good business practices - and reading that aloud everyday? Or how about re-naming your business for what you actually do provide? Some come to mind.

Might Still Be Fresh Raw Seafood Bar (got sick last Saturday night in Beverly Hills)

We Have a Whole Lot of Electronic Junk (Chain store pushing old tech in its ads)

You'll Stand in Line and Get a Really Messy Dressing Room (Shopping mall retailers)

What is the lesson that personal brands can take away?

All you have is your name. Make sure when it comes to our minds, you've done what it takes to make us smile, remember what you do well and look for ways to help you get where you want to go. That's what your name means when you are a really well managed brand with your audience uppermost in your mind.

Author:

Nance Rosen is the author of Speak Up! & Succeed. She speaks to business audiences around the world and is a resource for press, including print, broadcast and online journalists and bloggers covering social media and careers. Read more at NanceRosenBlog. Twitter name: nancerosen