Suhail Fires Two DBC Members Part Deux: Reflections and Apologies

Well it seems I’ve kicked up quite the storm with my recent blog post about the two DBC members I fired.  Lots of opinions on both sides; some supportive and some (really) unsupportive, to put in mildly.  So, now that a few days have past, and the dust has – somewhat – settled, it might be a good time to reflect on what happened.  So, allow me to share some thoughts and clarifications:

On the decision to fire the members:

I stand by the decision 100%.  It’s not worth keeping anyone, regardless how much they pay you and how “loyal” they’ve been, if they cannot respect your Team.  Besides, who wants disdainful loyalty anyway?  I repeat what I said, anyone who bullies, intimidates or shouts at my Team Members and other members (over and over) has no business being a member at the DreamBody Centre, or Zen-Do for that matter.  The decision was made after all other attempts have failed.  As an employer, it’s my responsibility to provide a comfortable, abuse-free environment for my Team, and I take this responsibility very seriously.  I also have to consider the needs of all of my customers, not just two who insist on having it their way.

Were they mistreated?

There were one or two comments on the blog post about how I mistreated these two ladies.  They were not mistreated.  All our members are treated with dignity and respect, and they were ever so politely asked to leave, with two months worth of membership fees in hand.  Should I have kicked sand in their faces by blogging about it?  No, and I’ll come to that in a minute (see my comments in red below).

On customer service

We take customer service extremely seriously.  We probably have some of the highest standards on the island.  We have training manuals and DVD’s, as well as provide internal and external training for our Team Members.  Every Falakonian (Falak Enterprises Team Member) receives weekly training, every single week, week in, week out, forever.  We’re also the only people that provide money back guarantees.

Having said that, I believe good customer service starts with good Team Member service.  You must ensure that your Team Members (we never use the word “employees”) are treated with dignity and respect, and are well provided for.  Only after you’ve provided for your Team can you expect them to treat the customers well, and go out of their way to serve them.  We have thirteen Guiding Principles that our like our bible, we live and breathe them daily.  Our second Guiding Principle says “We are service professionals and treat our members and each other with utmost dignity and respect.  We always treat people like we want to be treated.” So it was with our service culture and Guiding Principles in mind, that the two members were asked to leave.  You can seem more on my views on this here.

Why did I not see them?

Being the public face of my businesses, and writing lots of blog posts, newsletters, emails, and appearing in the press fairly frequently, people have the impression that they know me and can call on me whenever they want.  If I came running every time someone demanded to see me I’d get nothing done.  It’s not uncommon for someone to walk in, claim to know me and demand to see me, and/or demand a discount.  Nine times out of ten, I don’t recognise the name when I’m later told about the incident.  I have some very capable and well-trained people running the daily operations of the businesses, who have clear guidelines on what to do, and whom I trust completely.  Also, we have clear rules, terms and conditions that we expect all members to adhere to.  These two members have had several incidents in the past, and two separate general managers have met with them before, trying to please them.  And most recently my operations manager has met with them.  Rightly or wrongly, as is my right, I decided not to meet with them, as I didn’t think another meeting would add value.

Are they racist?

I re-read my blog post a couple of times to see whether I used the word “racist” to describe them, and I noticed I did not.  I used the following phrases “racial slurs” and “racial prejudices” in describing their behaviour. I was referring to the incident in which they commented negatively about one of my Team Member’s nationality, which made me quite angry.

Having said that, I realise that I might have made them to appear racist in general, which I did not intend.  So, I’d like to apologise for that.  I did not mean to say that you are racists.

Why did I blog about it? And take the story to the press?

It’s in my nature to write about the things that happen in my life.  I share the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I thought it was a good story to share, and would provide valuable business and life lessons for the many entrepreneurs that follow my blog.  I thought by not mentioning names it would be fine.

I emailed my friend Stan, editor of Gulf Weekly, and asked him whether he thought it would make an interesting story to write about.  Almost everyone believes in the “customer is always right” concept, so I thought it would be interesting to publish a completely different take on this.  Stan agreed and went ahead and published the story.

On reflection however, I can imagine how shocked the two ladies must have been.  First the shock of being fired from the DBC, then seeing it on my blog, and then seeing it in the newspaper!  What a tough week it must have been for them.  I can imagine how it must seem like overkill, which it was.

So, once again, to the two ladies, I’d like to offer my sincere apologies to you and your families for the stress I caused you during the past week.

On controversy, criticism and insults

I strongly believe in the notion that “NO CRITICISM = NO SUCCESS”.  As my star started to rise in the last few years I’ve developed quite a few fans, and a not insignificant number of “anti-fans”.  Some people seem to adore me, and others seem to hate my guts, and that’s the way it should be.  You can’t please all the people all the time, and nor should you ever try.  You should have the guts to express your opinion and stick to your principles – and accept the consequences that follow.

If you’re called arrogant -and other nasty things- in the process (like the ex-members’ friends and family members did in the comments) then so be it.  I admit, sometimes I find some of the insulting and demeaning comments people leave hurtful, but by and large I have accepted the hatefulness.  Some of it might be well deserved, some might be due to misunderstandings, and some out of plain jealousy, envy and meanness. But the overwhelming majority of feedback is usually positive.

Generally speaking, I don’t filter comments where people attack me.  I’d say that I approve 99% of comments left on my blog, the only ones I filter are the ones that are very obviously spam, or the odd ones where people leave their contact details and expect me to call them “Hi Suhail, I really like what you said, please call me on …”.

Are they welcome back?

No, the DBC is definitely not for them.  Asking them to leave was the right decision, as their behaviour was inappropriate. But I want to again express my apologies for the overkill that followedit was unnecessarily harsh, and the defensive reaction of their friends and family understandable.

Don’t know if this helped in any way, but I felt like expressing myself.

All that remains is to wish you a very happy new year.

Talk to you soon.

18 Responses to Suhail Fires Two DBC Members Part Deux: Reflections and Apologies

  1. Saqer 30 December 2010 at 3:05 am #

    Well done. I do feel like a blog is a personal thing where people can write and express whatever they’d like. I didn’t notice that the overkill extended to the Gulf Weekly.
    But this should do it. I think we all learned a lot from this incident and I think this is a great ending to it.

  2. alex 30 December 2010 at 6:01 am #

    Dear Sir,
    Interesting blog, you did not fire these two members you revoked their membership,you can only fire people who work for you.
    I agree that these 2 members were asked to leave,being disrespectful in any situation is unacceptable.
    As for this appearing in Gulf Weekly well that is being disrespectful on your part to the friends and families of these two members,what happens in your gym should remain in your gym,maybe you are doing this to draw attention to your business and receive a free plug,i am sure you can write another article about a more interesting subject instead of this case.
    Happy New Year………..

  3. Tanmoy 30 December 2010 at 10:02 am #

    You got to believe in your decisions as you are the best judge of the situation that you’ve seen happening first hand. Once taken…that’s it.

    One side note though, criticising / scolding / firing is best done in private whereas praise / rewards / promotions etc. in public. That’s THE rule. Not anyone’s in particular though.

  4. Tell Me 30 December 2010 at 12:36 pm #

    Fired or revoked membership? pls clarify.

  5. Anita Miller 30 December 2010 at 2:24 pm #

    Hi Suhail,
    I am from the U.S., and we’ve had more than our share of amazing Presidents that did a great job at running the country (okay, just go with me) but regardless of what a great job they did or how intelligent they were, they could not be faithful to their wife nor tell the truth under oath. I know many individuals that are AMAZING people, wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, good business people, and even people who are spiritual and sacrifice their time and money for others, but make absolutely terrible customers!Out of several thousand customers, I have only had to “fire” (just a term coined in many marketing books)a handful. I understand how difficult that decision was for you to make. I don’t think your business will suffer for your decision, on the contrary. I think people look for strong leaders that aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe is right and take action especially when you do it for someone else’s benefit, i.e. your other customers and staff. Not only are you willing to do that, but you are brave enough to allow the naysayers to have their public voice too. Now move on, fellow leader, water on the fire and all that. Kudos!

    • Suhail 30 December 2010 at 11:54 pm #

      Anita, thanks for sharing your insights. Very interesting and helpful.

  6. Ehsan 30 December 2010 at 7:48 pm #

    I don’t think you needed to apologize for anything. Very big of you to do so, but they don’t deserve it.

    As for the really unsupported comments you got on the previous post, just doing some basic writing pattern analysis shows that they are mostly from the same person 🙂

    I’m pretty sure 99% of sane and unbiased people are on your side. All the best.

    • Suhail 30 December 2010 at 11:52 pm #

      Thanks guy 🙂 I thought it might be the same person, who knows. But my point was that it really was not necessary to add insult to injury by writing about it and publishing it. But I think asking them to leave was the right thing to do.

  7. Stephanie Richards 31 December 2010 at 7:16 am #

    So all messages supporting you are unbiased and those questioning your decision are from family and friends of the two ladies. How do you know, or have you made an unsupported statement? You say you are hurt by being called names but what have you done by inferring they were arrogant European expats and claiming you did not call them racist is a matter of semantics. Seems you can say and do anything to cause stress but as long as you apologise it’s OK!

  8. Mai 1 January 2011 at 11:26 pm #

    Hi Suhail
    as this storm is setteled totally now, I think what you did was responsible toward your team and the vision of DBC. I understand that the action which was done by the two ladies was totally wrong toward your (our) team member and we should always show respect to whomever dispy of their nationality and sex, at least this is our nature in this country for the last 500 years. However, I need to encourge in solving some issues away from publicity to avoid hirting not the feeling of whom caused it but their familied because some people and news would love to do.
    Thank you again for being the responsible team leader we know and wish you and your team in DBC all the sucess in 2011.

  9. Jim 2 January 2011 at 12:15 pm #

    Dear Suhail,

    This is a very sad incident for many reasons. As a member if DBC I fully believe the root cause of this problem is poor management of the environment in the gym’s. I have been in the gym several times when another member has turned off the AC without any consideration for others. The same applies to the water coolers which are switched off by members who prefer the water to be tepid rather than cold.

    It is 100% your responsibility to control the environment and this could be done on the basis you mentioned by feedback, outside temperature etc. However this may be your intention at the outset of each day but it only takes one member to do as they please and the chaos commences.

    I urge you to implement a system whereby these adjustments to the environment cannot be done by anybody other than DBC staff.

    I was really disappointed by your publicity strategy in this situation and find it really cheap and agree with others that you have behaved childish in this regard. Irrespective of the circumstances and the rights and wrongs of your decision it should have been a private matter.

    I hope that you have learned an important lesson from this experience.

    Regards
    Jim

  10. Lakshmi 4 January 2011 at 12:10 am #

    Hi Suhail

    I completely agree with you that customers are not always right. It is necessary to do everything possible to give them the best service but if they are being difficult, it is not right to bow your head down and say sorry. Your going public should be an eye opener to others in similar situations to stand up for what is right.This is what I believe in and would like to instill in my daughter’s mind.

    I don’t find this childish at all and I am not sure why people think this is (positive) publicity?! Be assured that there are people out there who appreciate your and Alia’s hard work to make Bahrain and its people fit and healthy by giving them an opportunity to try different methods.

    Just for the record, I have liaised with all your staff and they are all very polite and well mannered people at Zendo and DBC.

    Regards, Lakshmi

  11. maisa 4 January 2011 at 10:49 pm #

    hi Suhail,
    this is not related to the topic but I want to share with you a thought. I called your center yesterday to sign up becasue I have been to the Seef branch and tried it many times. They told me that I have to come and after I explained that I’m coming to finalize and only to register and pay. They were convinced to provide me with the pricing. My thought is, why do you need to lock people for 10 months contract? I was told that the seef branch was locked because of lack of business, now I’m not business savvy but don’t you think that you might be able to bring more business if the enrollment conditions are more flexible? I mean its not cheap to sign up and pay the total amount for 10 months and then you discover that you are interested anymore. Which is better: to welcome people and provide more flexibility in the registration terms or to stick to your rules which result in losing the revenue that may be generated by others who don’t wish to be locked for 10 months period?

    Just a thought!

    p.s. no need to post this to the blog’s thread, just needed to communicate with 🙂
    Thanks,
    Maisa

    • Suhail 5 January 2011 at 3:35 am #

      Thanks for your input Maisa. And thank you for deceiving one of my Team Members.

      A couple of points: Many years ago in Zen-Do we had flexible pricing and membership options. Let me tell you, it was a nightmare! First of all getting consistent payment during a short period of 2 or 3 months was very challenging. Also, we had people join that weren’t serious. They just want to “try” the place for a few months, which is a big waste of time for us. When we switched to fixed membership periods it made our life much easier, we made better money and also had a much better quality of member.

      This philosophy was later transferred to DBC. If we allow people to come and go as they please we’d have a right mess on our hands. Also, by not knowing how much money is coming in we would not be able to provide consistent service, which we pride ourselves on. Falak (DBC and Zen-Do) will never be cheap, because otherwise I’d have to relocate to cheaper locations, pay my Team less, invest less in team training, which would lead to poor customer service, and a horrible downward spiral.

      Remember, we are the ONLY place that offers:

      – A full 7-day FREE trial.
      – A 30-day UNCONDITIONAL money back guarantee.
      – A 12-month DOUBLE your money back guarantee.

      If someone cannot appreciate that, then the DBC is not the right place for them. There are tons of cheaper places out there. The benefits to us (and our members for that matter) of having a 10-month membership far outweigh the negatives of one or two people not joining due to the contract period. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I know what I’m doing, thank you very much.

      As for DBC Seef closing, there were several reasons, the main one being the lack of parking spaces, which prevented people from reaching us consistently.

      Hope this helps.

  12. maisa 5 January 2011 at 3:59 am #

    Suhail,
    First, thanks for reply. I actually intended to join and needed to know the prices before I drive to Hamala, so don’t jump to conclusion and say that I “deceived” your staff. He told me that I should come and try first and I answered that I did try already, which I did.

    Second, I must tell you that you are arrogant and I’m not sure if you know what you are doing. You are very talented at losing customers apparently although I used to think differently when I did kick boxing with you a while ago.

    Very disappointing response from you and I blame myself for even trying to communicate with you.

    Maisa

  13. Sana Kayani 23 February 2011 at 7:53 am #

    hello ,
    Im not a member of DBC nor do i intend to join anytime soon, but i appreciate the way you brought the whole issue to the media. I didnt feel tht it was for publicity cuz if it was was you could have reported an incident where you fire your team members rather than revoking customer memebership. Well even if it was for publicity, so what? After all you are a businessman.
    Also it’s a good example for other organizations to follow that when customers mistreat staff memebers, u shouldn’t be sticking to “the customers always right”.
    I think you gave them ample warning before you revoked the membership, and if they didn’t heed any of them, it was the right thing to do.

  14. S.B 25 February 2011 at 12:06 am #

    Hi Guy’s

    I have been a member of the gym for over a year now and NEVER had anything but help and respect from the staff and or other people using the gym…
    can I suggest that if you want to be in the gym on your own or want to play with the AC’s or water dispenser then you get there at 07.00, it’s empty…..

    I would like to end this by thanking the staff of the gym for the help and support throughout my membership.

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