McVane Consulting

Embrace the Stuff


Sometimes stuff happens – bad stuff – stuff that annoys customers and causes them to take their business elsewhere. With so much going on – and without the breadth and depth of business capabilities that big businesses have, it’s tough for small businesses to cover all the bases, and consistently get it right all the time. You can get 10 things right, but when you flub the 11th thing, customers quickly forget the first ten.


Of course, learning from mistakes is the right long-term strategy, but what do you do when bad stuff happens – and you have to deal right now with a cranky customer?


Sometimes, the answer is to “embrace the stuff”. Seize the opportunity to convert a cranky customer into a happy and loyal customer. Business literature is full of stories of how businesses respond to bad stuff. Some companies respond poorly and make matters worse – some companies respond well. Those that respond well earn customer loyalty.


I’ve got a story to tell about a small hotel in a very remote location that responded well when bad stuff happened.


I recently booked two nights with Captain’s Landing on Ocacroke Island, North Carolina, which you get to by driving down the full length of the Outer Banks, or by taking a 2 ½ hour car-ferry across Pamlico Sound. It is remote, quaint, and very quiet. Captain’s Landing is a small three-story hotel right on the harbor. A great location.


Then bad stuff happened. Because of a process glitch (see learning from mistakes), the room got double booked – and it was the last available room. Not good. We were really looking forward to this getaway so I was a little cranky.


The island realtor who handles bookings called me and said all the right things. First, she sincerely apologized, explained the problem, and said that they would absolutely honor their commitment. She also asked if I would be willing to stay somewhere else. (I think that if I had been inflexible, she would’ve started calling other reservation holders – of all the rooms – until she found someone who was flexible.) In fact, I was flexible, so she offered me a reservation at an alternate location that was just as nice and actually higher cost, but at the same price I would’ve paid. After a quick internet search of the alternate location (an excellent and highly-rated Bed & Breakfast), I accepted her offer. In fact, the B&B really was quite nice and had earned its high ratings.


A perfectly satisfactory ending?


Not for a small business that knows how to “embrace the stuff”.


The next day, the owner of Captain’s Landing called me to personally thank me for my flexibility – and to see if we would be interested in staying on the island for a third night. If so, she offered to let us stay in their Penthouse Suite – at no charge. This was an enormous suite covering the entire third floor with three separate decks overlooking the little harbor. And they prioritized cleaning that suite first, so we could check in early. And they offered late check out so we could linger the next morning. They probably could have still rented that room for >$400 for that night, but they recognized the opportunity to turn a cranky (prospective) customer into a happy and loyal one.


That’s the way it’s done.


We had a great three-night stay on Ocacroke Island, and will certainly return. I doubt I can coordinate our schedule with that of our three grown children, so we probably won’t need the Penthouse Suite. But I do know that we’ll stay at Captain’s Landing.

Write it down

Write it Down

Working with a marketing expert and web designer has been a very productive experience for me.  In particular, it has reinforced the value of “writing it down”. The agreement we signed called for me to “provide website content”.  How tough can that be?  Should be no big deal.

It was a big deal – it forced me to properly articulate what McVane Consulting is all about and what it attempts to do. It has been a real-enough business for years, but all done on a pretty informal basis, built around marketing message consisting solely of an elevator speech about how I can help small business owners cut through their clutter, workload, and conflicting priorities to help them clarify what they’re trying to accomplish, assess how they (and their business) are doing, and then define the best 2-3 “next steps” to tackle in moving their business forward (and giving them personal confidence that they’re on the right path). With that marketing pitch, I’ve taken on clients and charged them by the hour for my time.

One of my best next steps has been (for awhile now) to set up a website for referring small business owners to find out more about what I can do for them. After the elevator speech, the usual next question is “do you have a website?” I finally got tired of feeling like a dinosaur, so here I am – with a website to call my own – and to send prospects to.

The process of Getting here – writing it down – forced me to clarify and articulate:

  • what it is I really offer
  • what I think you need as a small business owner – while recognizing that I probably won’t really know until we’ve spent some time together
  • how to structure my services
  • how to structure my pricing – as most small business owners will be put off by being charged by the hour (potentially with no end in sight!)

An incredibly healthy exercise.

I also see the value of “writing it down” in one of my favorite business tools that I use with clients – the Business Model Canvas. This is a “simple” one-page business model format that I came across in a book Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur. The Canvas is a visual format consisting of boxes representing nine key elements of a business model.

The power of this format is also “writing it down”. Thinking and talking your way through all the boxes – and writing it down – forces clarity, highlights strengths, and exposes both performance gaps and improvement opportunities.  Every time I use this tool, I get reactions like:

  • “gee, I haven’t thought of it  that way”
  • “so that’s why I’m struggling!”
  • “wow, I can’t wait to tackle that!”

I recommend this format.  Go buy the book.  Or better yet, call me and let’s tackle it together.

Let’s Get Started

Ready to take the next step? Contact McVane Consulting today!


"Dan McVane has been our business advisor since early 2010. My partner and I hired Dan to consult with and advise us in order to improve our business processes, organizational structure, and growth with a more clearly delineated strategy. As an individual, Dan consistently demonstrates the highest level of character and integrity. He is a no-nonsense consultant, who is not afraid to speak his mind while also functioning well as a team with a collegial approach. He has been an integral part of our significant growth over the past four years in both revenues and profitability."
Dr. Mark Vasiliadis, Owner
Executive Healthcare Services, PLLC


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