Always Clean Up

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A few days ago, I made a family affair, about 150 people, in a local neighbourhood hall. We rented the hall, photographer, music and caterer separately. The hall is part of a larger institution, so there is a manager who handles all of the day-to-day functions, like opening and closing, and managing cleanup.

When the caterer was ready to start setting up at about 4:00pm, we met the manager and caterer at the hall. The manager opened it up for us, gave the caterer instructions, and left. When we were done at around 11:00pm, we were to call the manager back, who would checked the condition of the place for damage and cleanliness, lock it up and we would all go our merry way (after I paid the hall and caterer, of course!).

When the manager did his status check at the end, he had nothing but effusive praise for the caterer. He said he could tell me stories that would make me shudder, about damage, and mess, and anything you could think of, yet my caterer had left the place even better than he wanted it. My caterer responded, "it is a responsibility; you leave things in at least as good shape as you found them."

For some of us, that is understood as a basic adult responsibility. Yet in our day to day lives, we encounter instances where people: leave dog droppings on the sidewalk; leave the coffee mug on the office counter; leave the hall dirty; leave the customer hanging; the list goes on.

While the caterer was talking of responsibility, he was also selling; he has convinced me to use him again in a heartbeat. I was able to walk away from the event with zero headaches. Sure, the food and presentation had to be good, but there are lots of caterers and ways to do it. But when all is said and done, and I am writing those checks, having absolutely no headaches leaves me with a great feeling, one that says, "This is a company to do business with whenever I need."

A few years back, I made a similar affair, with a similar arrangement. The only difference was that those caterers - who did a phenomenal job on the food and presentation - did not put away the tables and chairs or take out the trash. I did know, up front, that their contract explicitly stated that, for they did not have the staff to do so, but they are in the catering business, not me! Even though I had agreed, I didn't think it would be that big a deal to put away a few tables and take out some bags of trash. I don't make affairs every week, or every day, and didn't know better. I sure did afterwards.

Yet, as nice a time as I had a few years ago, the evening ended on a slightly sour note, as I spent nearly an hour, late at night, after an affair that cost me thousands, dragging tables and chairs and hauling 30-40-lb trash bags, along with my sons and some of their friends.

A savvy businessperson recognizes that it is all about tying it up "in a bow." Leave your customers with at least as good a feeling as when you bring them in, and they will come back for more.

What should my caterer 2 years ago have done? Simple, they should have raised the price by $100-200, without even listing it as a separate item, and hired 4 local teenagers for an hour to clean up. The teenagers would have made good money, I would have finished on a high note, and the caterer would even have made a little more profit.

In the end, you always want to leave your customer with a clean floor and a good feeling. Always clean up.