It's Not Always About You: Keep Your Entitlement In Check When Dealing With Small Businesses

Having a more empathetic approach to the entrepreneurs and the teams behind them would serve us all better in the long run.

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A few years ago, I used this platform to talk about why entrepreneurs need to keep their sense of entitlement in check, saying that they shouldn’t expect to be “gifted anything on a silver platter,” and that this is what they should keep in mind as they go about soliciting support for their respective enterprises. Now, I still stand by this line of thought; however, recently, I’ve found myself wondering about the other end of this equation: for those of us who interact with entrepreneurs and the small businesses they run, are we also being mindful of our sense of entitlement as their patrons or clientele?

This question popped into my mind after coming across a couple of instances of late where entrepreneurs and their teams at their relatively young enterprises were being faulted or criticized (rather disproportionately, in my opinion) for apparent faults or errors in their offerings. One example I can offer here is that of a newly launched F&B venture in Dubai that found itself being panned for its seeming inability to receive and respond to all of the calls it got on its bookings line. Granted, the restaurant here definitely had a problem when it comes to ensuring its customer experience- but I also do have apprehensions about the outrage with which complaints about this situation was characterized by many among us.

I mean, it’s one thing to say you were put off by an occurrence like this; it’s another thing altogether to accuse (and assume) the restaurant is doing it as a deliberate affront to you as, say, some kind of marketing ploy. Why was this thought of as an acceptable theory explaining the problem at hand, as opposed to the alternate (and, honestly, more plausible) reasoning that, well, this is a business that’s only just begun to run, with the entrepreneur behind it being a first-time restaurateur who, along with their team, are only just starting to learn the ropes of the trade? Maybe they were just overwhelmed with work and that’s why they didn’t pick your call; maybe they just don’t have the resources in place to ensure a more seamless operation.

Calling businesses out for their faults is our right, sure, but I can’t help but feel that having a more empathetic approach to the entrepreneurs and the teams behind them would serve us all better in the long run. Now, an argument can be made here that, as a customer, you don’t really need to concern yourself with how or why a product or service has not been presented in the manner you expect. And this is, I must admit, a perfectly valid point of view- there is, after all, a reason why “the customer is always right” is an adage that pervades our consciousness on a day-to-day basis. The transactional nature of such a relationship does allow for one to not have to engage with the trials and tribulations of those we’re interacting with, regardless of whether they are a small business, or a corporate behemoth.

Having said that, I do wonder if this is the kind of behavior that any of us would want to see in ourselves or those around us. There are plenty of examples in the world today that make the case for why a selfish, “me, me, and only me” attitude to life is a problematic one- as such, why would any of us want to associate ourselves with that kind of philosophy? And that in itself is, I think, a good enough reason to keep our sense of entitlement in check.

Related: Taking One For The Team (And What Doing So Says About Your Leadership Style)