Marriage Memories: Part 1

With my fourth anniversary approaching, I have decided to write a two-part series on our experiences surrounding our wedding and how those experiences can be related to business, and more specifically, customer service.

Due to my husband’s work schedule, a summer wedding was the only way to go, therefore we began our hunt for a location very early, as those places fill up quickly!  We looked at countless venues, searching for “the one” that offered us everything we needed at a price we could afford.  Wedding spending has a funny way of getting out of hand fast, so we were specifically looking for a location with one price from start to finish, without a lot of add-ons available.  After weeks of searching, we finally found a venue that boasted one price, including food, decorations, set-up, take-down, etc.  It was the right size, right distance from the church, and looked beautiful inside and out!  The owner/operator of this venue was so attentive during our visits, and that really sealed the deal.  We were looking for a location with someone who we could contact throughout the planning process, to touch base about food and decorations as needed.  So we put down a deposit and got to planning my wedding!

Immediately after the deposit check was written, things started taking a turn for the worse.  My parents began receiving bills for the remaining costs, but every time one of us tried to contact the owner, she was unavailable.  We were told initially that there was seating for around 150 people, but as we began mapping out the seating chart, we realized that there was only room for about 120; that is quite a difference!  We were finally able to visit the venue again to pick out decorations, as well as taste and choose the menu.  Because we were told that the food was included in the price, we didn’t think about anything cost-related while choosing our menu; we went for the duck!  It was delicious!  She took down our choices and we went on our way.

Now fast-forward to three days before the wedding.  We were busy putting together last-minute details when I received a call from my parents, saying they had just received an additional bill for $3000!  Apparently our menu choice was an extra expense, and while we were not informed of this before choosing the venue, or even during the tasting, the bill arrived and we were left scrambling to choose a new menu.  I headed down to the reception location to meet with the owner, and was greeted by her brand-new assistant.  This brand-new assistant informed us that the owner had another engagement on our wedding night, so the new girl would be going solo for the first time at our reception!  Now, I was a pretty calm bride throughout the entire process.  I didn’t have “freak-outs,” I wasn’t ever a “bridezilla.”  I had fun with the planning and was laid back from beginning to end.  But I will admit, on my way home from that meeting I finally had a little cry.  I knew that everything would be just fine, but it was so frustrating that my parents were spending money on this wonderful occasion, and it didn’t feel like we were being treated the way we deserved.

The wedding and reception did turn out great.  Wonderful, in fact.  It was a beautiful day and all of the things I was worried about with the reception went just fine.  In fact, the assistant did a great job and we were actually happier with her than we would have been with the owner!  But this experience did teach me a lot about looking for a service provider; first, do not be embarrassed to continually ask about all additional charges.  I used to be worried that it would make me look cheap, but in reality it’s just smart.  If you don’t ask, that opens up an opportunity for the business to take advantage.  Two, be sure to get everything in writing.  Even details as small as communication methods.  Make sure there will be someone there to answer your questions as needed.  Finally, do your research reach out to prior clients/customers.  Had we checked the reviews ahead of time, we would have seen that everyone commented on her poor communication skills.  This was something that was very important to us, so we probably would have looked elsewhere.  Whatever kind of service provider you are looking for, remember that your money is valuable and should be treated that way.  You may have to put in a little more in order to receive the service that you require, but when you’re making an investment, you expect the very best so that is what you should receive.

Advertisements

Is bigger always better?

Something I always dread is going to Wal-Mart.  Or Home Depot.  Or THE MALL. Ugh, the mall.  I never look forward to going to giant stores with people who walk side by side, taking up the whole aisle, at half the speed of smell.  Or who park their carts DIRECTLY in front of the exact item I need and act annoyed with me when I politely say “excuse me,” grab my item and run away.  One time at Home Depot, a woman was standing in front of the paint samples I was looking at, so rather than say anything I just placed the sample I didn’t need down on the counter.  And she yelled at me!  She was upset because I DIDN’T say excuse me.  I can’t win.  So if I have the choice, I prefer to go to smaller stores with plenty of people around to help me if I need it, but not a ton of people slowing me down at every turn. Does this look like fun to you?

A store that I really like is Westlake Ace Hardware.  Westlake was actually founded in Missouri, my home state, and the President and CEO of Westlake gave the commencement speech at my undergraduate graduation.  So I might have a little soft spot; but I also never dread going there!  They always have what I need, and if they don’t they will gladly order it for me.  When the technology came about that allowed hardware stores to match your paint color to an item, I was so excited to find a new color for my home that was created by me!  I took in a pillow to Home Depot and was told that for one reason or another, they were unable to match it; something to do with the fabric, or that it was fabric, I don’t quite remember.  What I do remember is that the person working seemed like he wanted to be anywhere else and I didn’t feel that I had been helped to the fullest extent of his abilities.  I then decided that I would give Westlake a try, and lo and behold, I walked out of that store with the exact color I needed!  The sales associate was friendly and helpful, as they always are there, and they now have a customer for life.

Physical stores are not the only businesses that can benefit from staying at a smaller size.  A personal touch has been all but forgotten in this automated world; it’s gotten to the point where it’s a surprise when a phone is answered by a person, rather than a machine.  There is nothing more frustrating than needing to speak to someone RIGHT NOW and being forced to spend countless minutes pushing a number, or screaming “Speak to a representative!!!!” in the phone.  If there was an emergency at your home, you could call 911 and speak to someone immediately.  So if there is an emergency at your place of business, don’t you want that same opportunity?  If you walk into a flooded store, you don’t have time to go through a long menu of items before you can finally speak to someone who may or may not be able to help you.  Royal Services offers the personal touch for your facility maintenance needs; when you partner with Royal, you will always have one point of contact because Royal has seen the benefit of being smaller than some of the huge international corporations, like JLL or CBRE.  They have focused on developing long-lasting relationships and quality service.  But just because they are a little bit smaller than the giants does not mean they do not have all of the resources that your business needs.  Take a look at this video to learn more about Royal and what they can do for you!

Doing what you love

I have recently decided to start a small photography business in my spare time.  I have two young boys, so there isn’t much of that going around, but I got a fancy camera for Christmas and it turns out I’m not half bad!  I’m constantly taking pictures of those poor boys, so much so that my 7 month old smiles when he sees me get the camera out.  I’ve trained him well.  I love capturing those precious moments with my own family and thought that it would be nice to do that for other families as well.  Since the moment I decided to embark on this new adventure, I have not done much else with my time; I absolutely love it!  And the best part is that when I am focusing all of my time taking pictures, editing, and perfecting, my husband can’t roll his eyes because I could actually make money from it someday!  I finally know what it’s like to “love what you do.”  I have had several jobs in the past, but I have always completely checked out at the end of the day and not given my work a single thought until the next morning when I punched in.  As you can imagine, that did not make for very enjoyable days.  But now, something has changed.  I look forward to working, I think about it constantly and am always trying to come up with new ideas for the business.  Now, at this point you might be thinking that this is actually more of a hobby, and you would be right as I have yet to make any money.  But the idea of monetizing this passion I have is so exciting and I look forward to working toward this goal and making a mini-career out of it.  As the famous quote states,

Are you wondering why I’m telling you all of this?  It’s to inspire you to do what you love!  Not everyone has the opportunity, I understand that.  Sometimes you have to take jobs that you don’t love in order to support yourself or your family, and that is just a fact of life. Sometimes you might be afraid that if you start doing what you love for a job you will not love it any longer.  Those are both valid concerns and things to think about before you make any big changes.  But if you have the chance to take a job that truly makes you happy, you should do whatever it takes to make it happen.  This might mean you take a pay cut.  If you can afford to do that, your health and happiness might just be worth it!  This woman changed her career to do something she loved and has compiled a list of “essential ingredients” for doing what you love.  Take a look and it might give you that extra push!  Now this approach is not for everyone.  You’ll want to be realistic and make sure you have a solid prospect before you make any big decisions.  Do NOT be like George:

George quit his job in a fit of rage and has literally no skills.  He probably should have kept his job.  And you also might be fearful to make a move if what you truly love isn’t something that you envisioned yourself doing, or isn’t up to the standards that you think others have for you.  But don’t let this deter you.  The people who truly care about you want you to be happy; in fact, your mood probably affects them as well so they will be happier if you are!  And if you are afraid of judgement from your friends, then you probably shouldn’t  be friends with those people anyway.  Sometimes what we love as grown-ups isn’t what we thought we would love when we were in high school or college, planning for our futures.  But I have personally witnessed several people in my life, including myself, who are doing things that they had no intention of doing, but found the love and passion and ran with it.  If you can find a job that you love, you have the opportunity for happier days, less stressful evenings and a more enjoyable life all around.

Good luck on your new adventure, I’m off to take more pictures!

How to convince your husband it is time to replace your dishwasher

Ok not really.  This is actually an article about whether you should repair or replace your appliances.  But that sounded too boring, and you’re reading aren’t you?  And who knows, maybe some of my pointers will get you that new, state of the art (or ridiculous, depending on who you are) dishwasher that’s hidden in the wall! Hey, a girl can dream. Anyway, on to the real story.

My house is overflowing with toys.  We no longer have a dining room, as it is now a toy room.  When we moved into our house, we had great plans for a basement with a bar and a pool table and just a general hangout for adults.  We have the pool table, but it is just taking up space that the toys could be using.  You would think that we would look around and realize that our boys do not need more toys!  But no.  As they get older and their interests change, it is so hard not to provide them with toys that will put a big smile on their face and introduce them to new learning opportunities.  And let’s face it, that never changes!  I love toys too.  Just different kinds of toys.  Furniture, dishwashers, refrigerators, mattresses, etc. are the toys I am interested in now.

This toy kitchen is nicer than my real kitchen!

Unfortunately, I cannot run to the secondhand store and buy one of those things for two dollars.  Buying the larger items requires a much more involved thought process, and the question of whether the item could just be repaired rather than replaced.  I will admit that if it were up to me, I would go straight for the replace option.  There is always a newer, fancier model available and I always want it!  However, my husband has to be the sensible one in these matters, so we typically look at all options before jumping in with a new purchase.    If you are in a similar situation, here are some helpful tips to follow:

  • If a repair will cost more than half of the new item and your current item is more than 6 or 7 years old, it’s time to buy new (yay!)
  • The National Association of Home Builders provides the following estimates for the longevity of common household appliances:
    • Dishwasher – 9 years
    • Refrigerator – 13 years
    • Freezer – 11 years
    • Kitchen range/oven (gas) – 15 years
    • Washing machine – 10 years
    • Dryer – 13 years

      (If you have 1 minute and 27 seconds to spare, I would recommend watching this.  It will put a smile on your face):


MORE- SHOULD YOU REPAIR OR REPLACE?

Sometimes, you might think the appliance simply needs repairing.  In that case, you’ll want to ask yourself a few helpful questions.

  • Is it really broken?
  • Is it under warranty?
  • Have you had trouble before?
  • What would a similar appliance cost?
  • Would a new appliance have additional features? (In my opinion, the answer to this question is always YES!)
  • Would a new appliance provide energy savings?

MOREHVAC UNITS: REPAIR OR REPLACE?

And if all else fails, ask an expert!  Find a reputable technician and they will let you know if you can simply repair, or if your item requires replacement.  And if you decide to purchase new, I always recommend checking Amazon reviews.  Even if you aren’t purchasing there, it’s a great place to check out what other people think of an item.  People even leave reviews on Amazon when they’ve purchased the item in the store!

In the end, the most important thing is that you do what is right for you and your family. Determine what you can afford and which option will fit best into your budget, research all options and speak to a professional for the most accurate assessment!