Patty Cake, Patty Cake … Communicate!

The recent Supreme Court decision concerning a business owner’s right to refuse a customer brings up all sorts of political, religious and legal debates. All of that uncomfortable stuff aside, I have to wonder why you would want someone to bake a cake for you who clearly is more focused on issues other than buttercream versus whipped cream.

Regardless of your politics, your view on gay marriage, or your grasp of the purpose and powers of the Supreme Court, the baker raises some interesting concerns for business owners. At the heart of it all, of course, I find the communication solution.

When was the last time this happened to you?

A customer walks into your business with a desire for what you offer. She heard about your products from a friend and comes to you as a hot prospect. Or maybe he sees your sign every time he drives to the gym and is finally ready to stop by and make a purchase.

You happen to be working the counter on a nondescript Tuesday, and you watch this new customer come through the door and begin to browse. Of course, you were working the counter that day. Your one full-time employee takes Tuesdays off to attend a class at the local community college.

This eager customer approaches the counter with checkbook in hand. You smile. She smiles. A purchase is about to take place. When she reaches the counter, you politely tell her to put her checkbook away because you cannot do business with her. Sale averted!

Please say, Never!

As a small business owner, I’m sure you would never turn business away. Sometimes you neglect to follow up on every potential sales lead, but when customers present themselves, checkbook in hand, at your place of business, you always sell them something.

I often hear complaints from my clients who are stressed out by running their business. They are frustrated with employees who are not good brand ambassadors or with staff who do not make the best use of their time and materials. Business owners never complain about customers — unless their checks bounce.

If you have any business sense at all, no matter what industry you represent, you don’t turn away a sale. You may turn away a special request that is outside of the scope of your expertise. You may even deny a customer’s desire for a service you don’t offer, and which you know is not worth your time. But if you’re a baker and someone wants to pay you to make a cake, well…that is what you are in business for.

What’s the issue?

Business owners are not required or even expected, to sell their souls for business. There is nothing positive about the claim that a used car salesman would sell his own mother for the right price. As a business owner, you have to decide what you will focus on, what you will specialize in. If you don’t have a specialty, you may be considered only mediocre at all you do.

Now we’re living in a time when you have to protect your business from political correctness. It’s not that easy, though. You may be damned if you do and damned if you don’t, as the old adage goes. Knowing where and if you can draw a line can be tricky.

Now we’re living in a time when you have to protect your business from political correctness. It’s not that easy, though. You may be damned if you do and damned if you don’t, as the old adage goes. Knowing where and if you can draw a line can be tricky.

What if the baker had given in to his religious beliefs and made a cake for a gay wedding? How would that impact his current customer base, some of whom may patronize his business because of his strict beliefs? What about previous customers he turned away for similar reasons, how would they feel? And, by refusing to make a cake he is alienating another potential customer base.

Just like the used car salesman who would sell his mother for the right offer, the baker has to look himself in the mirror every day. How you run your business ultimately has to square with how you run your life, or there is no real purpose to it at all.

Communication as an Antidote to Moral Dilemma

What if these surprising business moral dilemmas didn’t arise? You know what you believe in and how strongly you feel about certain issues. You also know that to be a successful business owner, you may have to interact with all segments of the population. One day you dreamed that your business would be popular with multiple demographics, a sort of world domination scenario. Today, you feel a little cautious.

The easiest ideals to uphold are the ones that are never challenged. Not one to hide from a challenge, I will advocate for avoidance in this instance. Sometimes, if you talk the talk, you never have to walk the walk.

When you are clear on your business communication, and your branding accurately reflects your values, there is a much smaller chance of encountering an awkward situation. Here are some tips for aligning your branding with your values:

  • Identify your audience before crafting the message. Be specific about the profile of your ideal client, speak their language, and take your messaging to them where they hang out.
  • Act on your beliefs within your community. Even if you have an online business, news of your local engagement with charities in your area that align with your values should be featured on your website. (If you worship at the altar of business, there are non-profit organizations for that, too.)
  • Speak your politics, its okay. If politics are important to you, there is a way to weave this into your messaging in a positive light. You may turn some people off to your business, but they were not your ideal clients, to begin with. Some who do not agree with you politically will still support your business if your messaging is consistent, positive and respectful of others.

Clearly communicating your company’s values should help you avoid awkward situations where you might be inclined to turn business away. After all, you started your business to bake cakes, build homes, take photographs, or whatever your skill and passion combined leads you to. Making sales is at the heart of any business, and communication is always the key.

Christine Andola
Christine Andola
CHRISTINE’s expertise in business communication is the result of 25+ years of working in various types of business structures and management styles and writing for various purposes of internal and external communication. An experienced reporter, technical writer, and marketing content developer, Christine’s writing skills and experience span several industries and subject areas as well as all digital and print platforms. Christine is a skilled marketing and communications strategist who excels at staff development and project management. She has helped new managers develop effective systems for hiring, training and managing rockstar employees. By implementing successful internal communication strategies, Christine has saved companies thousands of dollars in reduced turnover rates and increased productivity.


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Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo Delli Paoli

The chain of corporate value, ranging from suppliers to end users, through the human resources of the company, lives in meaningful interpersonal relationships. The competence and effective communication are related to multiple variables: own communication styles of each, use of language tools, rich vocabulary, wealth of their own nonverbal repertoire, ability to record verbal and nonverbal messages, and to interpret them properly, decentralization compared the role and the situation in which the exchange takes place, cognitive, affective and behavioral resources. Among the several factors that can be considered in the analysis of the communicative competence I personally consider primary the presentation of oneself, the ability to express feelings and emotions, the ability to listen, clarity in expression.



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