This morning I didn’t go out to feed the horses at their regular time. I didn’t think that it was important to get out there because they are mostly on pasture now and don’t eat a lot of hay any more. I figured that being late would not be an issue. I learned a lesson, though.
About an hour after the regular time, both horses, most especially Sam, became very agitated. They ran down into the pasture, tore back up, went down again at full speed and then raced back up. They both ran all the way up to their shelter and Sam started calling out as loud as he could. The sound he made was a very urgent call, much louder than I have ever heard. He tossed his head as I quickly put on a jacket and went out. He kept trotting around in circles, breathing heavily and snorting.
It took some time to get them both calmed. I stood and talked to them, opened the barn so that they could see that all was well and finally, they got back to normal. Once I had filled a couple of unnecessary hay bags for them, they seemed to realize that nothing had changed. After that it was the day as usual.
I learned that routine is far more important to them than I realized. For five years, I have gone out every morning at around 8:30 am and either fed them or let them out into the pasture. They get the same treatment at night. When I was late today, it threw their whole schedule off. They were nervous and sensed that something was wrong.
Routine permeates our lives. Even those of us who like to take a different route to work every day or travel to different places every year or even have a different breakfast each day practice a routine of some sort. Time creates them. We still wake up at the same hour, depending on the day of the week. We still pack the same clothes for our trips, and I’d hazard a guess that the different breakfasts are eaten at about the same time each day.
Changing it up, though, is a great teacher. What makes us uncomfortable and what doesn’t matter at all? A certain changed routine can cause all sorts of anxiety and ruin a day or a week. Some don’t matter at all. It makes me wonder if I shouldn’t start doing more observing of my own habitual activities, just to see which ones really don’t matter at all and which ones actually become conscious and necessary.
Long ago I realized that the same holds true with new customers in the embroidery business. I suspect that this is a truth for most businesses. My company does contract B2B work. Years ago, when we made a decision to grow, the first thing that we did was to list as many of the common complaints people made about other decorators. We heard that poor service was the primary complaint, either because of a lack of notification, late delivery or a sense that the company did not really care about the customer. We focused on changing the way that we operated in order to provide the answer to those complaints.
It was a surprise to learn that the world did not come rushing to our doorstep. On reflection, though, I discovered the reason that it did not happen. It was easier to deal with that one memorized phone number even though it led the customer into yet another bad experience. It was just much less complicated to make that call than go through what seemed to be a major headache in order to start all over with someone else.
I quit trying to fight habits at that point. If a potential customer already had an embroiderer (which is most often the case), I would only anticipate a single job from them. My best hope was to give them all of the things that they did not previously have. If it worked out, they might call again. And very slowly, they started to do just that. We began to grow. We actually began to acquire new customers.
Changing habits is very uncomfortable. It doesn’t matter if the habit is bad, unhealthy, or results in constant aggravation. What is important is that a change is really tough to make. Sometimes, the best sales technique is to just be good at what you do. Maybe a new customer will see the difference in service and start the road to changing habits.
Today, I’m going to go practice my routine of keeping my horses company for a bit, just to let them know that I am still around. It makes me comfortable. Apparently it makes them comfortable too.