“Yes” is the answer, what was the question?
When I struggled two years ago with not being able to transition out of the service industry, I took career into my own hands and launched a wine tasting business. I had only 2 free nights a week and I spent them attending panel discussions, networking events, and founder meetups. I felt a lot like a new kid in school, however I quickly discovered that I was naturally great at figuring out how to make a business tick and quickly acquired customers. These are the things they won’t teach you in business school — mainly, how to be someone that people want to do business with.
How to be “unflappable” in the face of adversity One of the first valuable lessons I learned was to be unflappable. I worked for a burger chain with the motto: Yes is the answer. What is the question? We were trained to say yes to everything — extraneous requests, fielding concerns, providing special services that were outside of the ordinary — and given the autonomy and budget to do so. That even included being encouraged to walk to the grocery store when someone requested peanut butter and jelly on their burger. While working at Nordstrom, I was allowed to leave with the mobile security tag removal device when a fellow associate left it on a customer’s garment. These types of experiences have made me a can-do person with the right attitude, a solution-obsessed worker, and a “yes man” because it has been drilled into my head.
How far being “friendly AF” will go in terms of providing exemplary customer service to your clientele Being inconveniently nice has, at times, been the difference in making (closing) a deal. Being nice to people because it is such a large part of my work history has made me stand out in a business world where most people don’t want to be inconvenienced to do more unless they are paid extra. I am friendly AF, and as someone who always has the time to walk the metaphorical extra five steps without expecting anything in return, I have have been paid off in people regularly trusting me further and allowing me more leniency than they would with others.
Learning how to be resourceful and not compromising on your wants I like nice things, so I recommend the same nice things I like to people I meet with. Since I worked for Marriott, I know that lobbies are the most underrated free place to conduct business meetings. I never suggest meeting at a Starbucks or a bustling coffee shop because hotel lobbies also offer free wifi, far less noise, comfier seating, and more luxurious amenities than any Starbucks could. My top three places for meeting people are The JW Marriott lobby, The Four Seasons, and The Stanford Court lounge. No one cares that you are conducting business and no one suspects that you aren’t staying there. You could easily order a bottle of Voss water on a marble table before your meeting and all it cost you was $10 to impress the heck out of them.
How to be accountable in all meetings so people can depend on you I show up to all meetings and events despite how I am feeling. Why, you ask? More than a fear of failure, I have a fear of disappointing people, and I’ve made showing up no matter what my best habit. In the service industry, you can’t call off sick without letting everyone down — people have to stay late or someone gets called in to cover for you. Also, your sick pay as a tipped employee is not worth calling in sick for, so I am used to working through whatever it is that is ailing me — biohacking my brain to function in the midst of a vertigo spell, DayQuilling through respiratory infections, or gulping Pedialyte and Pepto Bismol to assuage the cruelest hangover are just par for the course.
How to be unphasable when disaster strikes I live by the phrase “On the fly,”. I once worked a shift at the busiest supper club and music venue in San Francisco on a Friday night where the entire kitchen staff decided to quit in the middle of dinner. Having started as a server, I morphed into a publicist, a line cook, AND a dishwasher. All in an instant. And all with a smile. If one thing is out of place in restaurants, it can set your efficiency back and cause extra steps, creating unnecessary tension and aggravation. Service workers learn to innovate, streamline, and adjust to a number of issues and difficulties regularly and quickly.
Lauren is Co-Founder/CMO of Second Steep, a luxury loose leaf tea and lifestyle company based in San Francisco. When she is not slinging tea, she consults for early and mid-stage companies that need an effective sales and marketing strategy.