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 followed – it 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.