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Lessons learned: In selling, credibility means everything

January 7/14, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 16

By Tom Jennings

 

One of the greatest attributes any salesperson can possess is the ability to be believable—regardless of what they are selling. But this is even more critical in our field.

Generally speaking, the public does not stay abreast of changes in the flooring industry. The frequency of the purchase cycle is too long to hold most people’s attention.

Simply stated: If the customer doesn’t have complete confidence that she can make a correct decision on her own, she needs assurance that you, the professional RSA, possess the competency to guide her into making such a decision.

Many of you are likely thinking, “That’s what they pay me to do.” The only problem is she will never be able to believe what you say and show unless you believe it as well.

If you don’t believe this to be true, I challenge you to spend one week observing both the body language and verbal comments of every service provider you come in contact with when you are the customer. Take note of your reactions to each presentation made to you.

For example, when you are in a restaurant, make a special effort to ask questions regarding the food and the chef’s capabilities alike. Ask the waitress if the cook is particularly good at making omelets, then observe the response. My guess is for every bright-eyed “he’s the best” reaction you get, you’ll receive a dozen that are something to the effect of “he’s not too bad” or “no one seems to complain.” How inspiring. It makes you want to order two, doesn’t it?

Ask if the cake is fresh. Do you get a “made fresh in our bakery this morning” response, or an “I checked it this morning, it still looks OK” answer. What was the body language saying when you received each response? It is almost impossible to give an enthusiastic response when you are not enthusiastic about the answer that you are giving.

Do you think a waiter’s or waitress’ tip income will be affected by the enthusiasm and believability which they exhibit? Of course it will. Aren’t tips just the waiter’s equivalent to a retail sales commission? Based on that logic, would it not be reasonable to assume the level of believability you exhibit is affecting your income as well?

To succeed at the highest level possible, you must believe in your company. Tell the customer why you choose to be on this team. You must believe in your products—whatever you are selling. Explain to the customer the ways she will benefit by selecting them. Likewise, you must believe in your service. Show the customer how great craftsmanship can turn a box of tile into a beautiful kitchen floor—just as it is that a great cook can turn a bag of flour into beautiful biscuits. Good products alone are never enough.

More importantly, you must believe in yourself. Tell the customer you have the confidence and ability to make the purchasing experience a pleasant one.

When you believe deeply that you, your fellow staff members and your products are a winning combination, your message will be so enthusiastically presented to your customers that they, too, will buy into your passion. When this occurs, sales are sure to follow.

It’s like the old adage, “It’s not usually what we say but rather how we say it.” It’s true. Believe me.

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Marketing mastery: Make 2019 your best year ever in flooring

January 7/14, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 16

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(First of two parts.)

I’ve spoken with many dealers who are unsatisfied or frustrated with some aspect of their business. They say things like: “Jim, I love flooring, but my business isn’t growing the way I want it to; I’m not making enough money; I’m losing customers to the competition; I can’t find good salespeople or installers; I’m working 60 hours or more each week, and I’m stressed out all the time, etc.”

Any of this sound familiar? I know you work hard as a flooring dealer, you provide a valuable service to your customers, you provide employment and you’re an asset to your community. You deserve to have a growing, thriving business that’s rewarding and fun—a place you look forward to going each day where you work the number of hours you choose. You deserve a business that provides you and your family with a great lifestyle, including vacations and weekends off. In other words, you deserve to have an awesome life in flooring.

I’m here to tell you that, whatever your past experiences have been, it is possible to have a great life in flooring, just like the dealers who sent me the following comments:

“I’m working less than 35 hours per week, revenue is up 50%...business is fun again!” —Earl from Saskatchewan

“October was our busiest month in 20 years, November was our second busiest and this month we are crashing new records!”  —Mark, Ill.

“Costa Rica! Blended drinks on the beach with my bride of 25-plus years. We had a blast! Jim, thanks for the motivation to let our store work for us rather than us working for the store.”  —Dan, Mont.

I’ve discovered that almost without exception, dealers who have achieved a great life in flooring have put into place a two-part success formula. The first half of the formula is making plenty of money. Let’s face it, if you don’t have enough money, it’s hard to grow and hire good people, it’s hard to give back and help others, and you can’t afford a great lifestyle for you and your family.

The second half of the formula is having freedom. This means you control your business, not the other way around. If your business has too much control, and has you running around in 20 different directions each day, then you don’t have the freedom to focus on growing, taking vacations or spending all the time you want with your family. You’ll always be stuck on that hamster wheel, running and running, but never moving ahead the way you want to.

There are several steps that go into implementing the success formula, and the first is having the correct mindset. I have found I can give dealers proven, step-by-step strategies for making more money and having more freedom, but those strategies are useless if the dealer believes it’s impossible to work fewer than 60 hours per week, or that wanting to make a lot of money is selfish.

You’ll notice that I began this installment by listing some of the reasons you deserve to have a great life in flooring and then showing you examples of dealers who have achieved it. I did this because I want to help you have the right mindset. Deep down in your gut I want you to really know and feel two things: No. 1 that you deserve a great life in flooring, and No. 2 that it’s possible for you to achieve. Both statements are not only true but necessary in order to get the success you really want.

In the next installment I’ll outline proven steps to help you get there.

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Lisbiz strategies: Customer testimonials are a virtual gold mine

January 7/14, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 16

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

According to Maria Dean of conversionlifters.com, testimonials and word of mouth are the driving force behind 20%-50% of all purchasing decisions, yet only about one-third of businesses are actively seeking and collecting customer reviews on an ongoing basis.

I recently conducted a workshop on the value of reviews and testimonials. When I asked the group how they used the reviews and testimonials, they said they assumed they received referrals from them. It seems like asking for referrals is something you do. However, no one has a strategy for using them. The reviews sit on the platforms waiting for something to happen.

Statistics tell us that at least 73% of consumers go online and look for reviews before they shop. Therefore, the more reviews you have the better.

Consumers perceive reviews are true, and your platform profiles enhance SEO. Any good feedback will help your business improve. Yes, there are crazy customers out there who can find problems with any situation. Responding to them can repair a bad relationship or help address a bad situation. Reviews can be fake, and some people just love causing trouble. You will still have to respond to them. You should always make sure you have 15 positive reviews that keep changing. Reviews that are five years old really don’t help you.

Let’s talk about testimonials. When you ask for a testimonial, it’s valuable to find out about the customer’s business. Not all customers will have a business but the ones that do can become an important business partner. On my site, I put the logo above their testimonial and then thank them for their testimonial. Think about how great it looks to the next customer reading the testimonial.

You can tell your customer you would like to put her testimonial on twitter and then ask if she would mind liking and retweeting it to her followers.

Where do you get your testimonials? Your installers have the best opportunity to get valuable video testimonials. When the customer tells the installer how beautiful the floor looks, this is an opportunity to ask her if she’d let you video the testimonial. Some customers will decline, which is fine. You can be sure the ones who agree are glad you asked them and love being in front of the camera.

Don’t forget to get a signed release from the customer stating you are allowed to use the testimonial online and as part of your marketing. These testimonials can also go on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. The more places you can share it the better.

Let’s talk about video testimonials and your installers. Installation is the key to our business, so a customer raving about the installer and the product is worth a ton more than you can imagine. It would be great if you could take a photo of the product, the installation, the installer and the customer.

Here is another testimonial that will get you considerable mileage: Have one of your better customers review one of your new products. Let’s say you come back from a product show and find an unusual product. Call up that great customer and give her enough products to test it. She could install a piece or get it dirty and then clean it. After she “test drives” it she can write a review for your website.

Great idea, right? It wasn’t mine. Two years ago I was asked to try out a magnificent area rug and write a review about it. And what did I get? The area rug.

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Al’s column: Getting to the heart of the labor shortage

January 7/14, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 16

By Paul Stuart Jr.

 

At the risk of sounding and being cliché, unless you live under a rock you have certainly heard about our great nation’s skilled labor shortage. However, I think all is not lost. By working together, we can explore some possible solutions.

I’m going to start with a quick story: In early 2000, I was the lead installer for a middle school project in Kansas. Our crew was installing a complicated pattern with VCT down a long classroom corridor. A small portion of the corridor and attached classrooms were still in use—I assume for a summer course or something of the sort. Anyway, the pattern had waves and circles with several different colors. This installation not only took hand skills but also standard mathematics and geometry, blueprint reading and an understanding of the specifications to get it right.

After the layout was complete, we glued it up and took a break while waiting for the adhesive to dry. I went to use the bathroom and while walking by one of the classrooms I overheard the teacher telling her students, “You better apply yourself and pay attention or else you will end up like those guys out there.” All my guys and I cared about was doing a great job and making a living. We took pride in our work and we simply didn’t deserve to be talked about as if our trade was disgraceful.

So, there you have it, the very basis of what is one of the biggest issues: the degrading of the skilled tradesman. This mindset supports the false idea that there is something wrong with being in a trade and getting a little dirty doing your job. I believe this helped create the culture that college is the only path to happiness or career fulfillment, but unfortunately not every high school graduate wants to (nor should) go to college. Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with college so long as it produces knowledge and a degree that will enable one to make an honest living.

Additionally, with high schools nationwide taking shop class and other vocational technology curriculum out of their course offerings, we are in need of training resources. There are great organizations out there like FCICA, NTCA, CFI and others that do a fantastic job, but they are limited to the number of trainings and outreach.

Lastly, there are many flooring installers who have gone into business for themselves as independent installers. The issue again is training. These guys need access to training just as bad as an in-house installer does, and I hope the trade organizations can find a way to reach this demographic of installers because our industry depends on it. If the independent installer does a poor job, it reflects on the entire industry.

While online training is good, we have found that hands-on training is the best. On a monthly basis, we gather our crews (both independent installers and in-house installers) for a training that is performed by our senior installers (typically one of our in-house guys) who are certified and knowledgeable in the particular training. The goal for these trainings is to demonstrate proper installation techniques and provide the hands-on application of these techniques. Each training is focused on a particular technique. For example, we recently had a training on outside corner boots for integral cove resilient sheet goods and how to weld these areas as well as the cove portion—this being the most problem areas on resilient cove projects.

 

Paul Stuart Jr. is the president of Wichita, Kan.-based Stuart & Associates Commercial Flooring, specializing in all applications and products for the commercial flooring industry. He is also the founder of GoCarrera, an app aimed at matching installers and qualifications to the right project.

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Lisbiz strategies: Resolve to do better in the coming year

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

No matter how old I get, I still like the idea of New Year’s Resolutions. There is something about it that makes it fun and gives me something to look forward to. This year I have decided to be very specific. I will spend time learning how to get closer to my customers.

The only way this will happen is if I change the things that make me uncomfortable. I have to change my attitude and outlook. There are certain things I fight—much of it has to do with changing social media. I learn it and then things change and I’m lost.

I admit to having a new desktop computer that I rarely use. The one I like is 10 years old and it is likely to quit any day. (Yes, everything is saved to an external drive.) It turns out I love the keyboard, so why not just change them out?

Another resolution is to learn how to present power point from my iPhone. Unfortunately, neither the Geek Squad nor the Apple store has anyone who knows how to do this. I met a young man at one of the computer stores who said he will teach himself how to do it and then set up a course for me. He said he has had several people ask him how to do it.

My web developer suggested I do short, weekly podcasts and ask for donations. What? He has someone who is doing it and has a huge following. Will I have a huge following? I do not know but it is time to find out if anyone out there is really listening. I will also step up my YouTube and Twitter posts.

I am embarrassed to admit that it took me six months to decide to learn how to enter a customer’s name into my Follow Your Customer account. (Follow Your Customer is a powerful post-sale marketing tool no one should be without.) I just did not want to learn it; it was not easy and I prefer easy. Follow Your Customer has been one of the most valuable investments I have ever made when it comes to connecting with my customers.

Your customers want to hear from you and be part of your life, but it will never happen if you do not stay in touch. Have you ever heard that consistency is the best salesmanship? Consistency is surely the best customer service. It is time to stop and acknowledge that customers have tremendous power over us. Their choices are endless and they have no reason to be loyal. We are only as good as our last blog or Twitter post. We have heard over and over again the value of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Are you maximizing your relationship with these social sites? I know I can do better.

We all say we want more customers, but are you invested in doing what it takes to obtain them? It takes time and effort to build a following. I look at my number of followers and realize ‘they own me.’ It has taken time for us to connect and it’s time I give back.

It is important to understand customers are worth money. They buy my products and have expectations about our relationship. It is exciting to know customers want to hear what you have to say, and they are willing to follow you.

I love my customers—it is time to show them how much. What about you?

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Lessons learned: Empathy is king when handling complaints

December 24/31, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 15

By Tom Jennings

 

My wife and I were recently having breakfast in a very nice local restaurant. While not the Ritz, it was certainly not an all-you-can-eat chow hall. It had very comfortable décor, properly attired staff, handy location and an interesting menu. Most business owners only wish their operations looked this appealing. The store planners and design staff had obviously done their homework. So far, so good. What came next was not. If only management had spent as much effort properly training the staff as they had designing the décor.

I am certainly not a food critic. How we enjoyed our meal is likely of very little interest. What we should all take note of is how the staff reacted to adversity.

My wife ordered a waffle purely due to the well-written descriptive copy on the menu, stating, “This sounds delicious.” What she received was so cold it would not even melt the butter. Disappointing for sure, but no big deal. We have all had it happen. What happened next was a critical point in “saving the customer’s confidence” handled poorly.

When I observed she was not eating much, she commented the staff was busy, and she did not want to bother them nor wait for an appropriately warm replacement. (Remember: it is estimated only one in six customers will advise you of minor disappointments. The problem is they will tell everyone but you.)

Then the waiter asked her if she was hungry since she had not eaten much. Rule No. 1: Never attempt to shift blame or responsibility to the customer. He should have asked what he could do to make her breakfast more enjoyable. Instead, he acted like it was her fault.

I then commented that there was nothing wrong with her appetite—the food was cold. She was just being nice. His response was classic. He stated that should not have happened since “we get these things frozen. You’d think anyone should be able to warm one up.” If this were bowling, he would have gotten a strike with this comment. He managed to knock everyone down with one roll of his tongue.

He threw the kitchen staff under the bus as being incompetent. He undermined the great menu presentation by revealing they basically served overgrown toaster waffles. By doing so, he cast suspicion on all other menu items as well. He then acted like an authority when he proclaimed he could remove the charge from our ticket. All this accomplished was reducing the revenue for all involved. Wrong, wrong and wrong again.

What he failed to do was show the least bit of empathy. Never once did he say he was sorry or disappointed. He was too busy pointing fingers and trying to solve a problem with a discount. I am sure he told his boss that “he took care of it.” Remember, customers are not really interested in how things happen. They just want to know what you are going to do about it.

The restaurant business is not easy, but neither is the flooring business. Always remember it is most important to manage the emotions of the customer first—then worry about the product. My wife did not want a free breakfast. She wanted to pay for a hot and delicious one. When things do not go as planned in your business, make sure you take great care of the customer first. They will be quick to forget a “cold waffle,” but a “cold attitude” will linger much longer.

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Al’s column: Surface prep as easy as 1, 2, 3…4

December 24/31, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 15

By Curtis Colegrove

 

There are many factors that go into a successful flooring installation project. These include selecting the appropriate floor material and applying the proper installation procedure. Equally important—but often overlooked—is careful preparation of the concrete slab. Cutting corners on this critical step can lead to problems down the road that can negatively impact the floor’s performance and shorten its lifespan.

The right floor prep can make the difference between a successful job or a complete failure. Contractors are under pressure to complete projects on ever-shorter schedules with increasingly tighter budgets. The imperative to get the job done quickly and efficiently sometimes outweighs the need to fully prepare and test concrete slabs.

So, what constitutes good concrete slab prep? Refer to ASTM F710 “Standard Practice for Preparing Concrete Floors to Receive Resilient Flooring” for a complete guide and follow these four vital steps:

Clear all dust and residual materials. First and foremost, the concrete floor should be clean, dry and smooth. That means free of any dust, solvent, paint, wax, oil, grease, residual adhesive or other materials that might prevent a strong bond. Due to accelerated project timelines, installers may be tempted to leave adhesive residue from previous installations. The technical impact of any materials left on the concrete may be damaging to a project as it can compromise adhesion of the new floor. Adhesives will not stick to the substrate causing material failure.

Fill in the holes. Cracks, grooves, control joints and other irregularities must be filled or smoothed with latex patching or underlayment compound. Use a cementitious patch primarily made from Portland cement to fill cracks and irregularities. Be sure to use a moisture-resistant patch when it is over ¼ inch in thickness. If not properly filled and the crack extends all the way through the substrate, it can be a source of moisture intrusion. Patching will also correct any uneven surfaces in the substrate to provide a nice, smooth, consistent substrate.

Note: Expansion and other moving joints should not be filled; check with the manufacturer for the recommended joint covering system.

Test for moisture and alkalinity. The standard also calls for moisture and pH (alkalinity) testing of the slab. If using the probe test method for measuring moisture vapor emission rate (MVER) outlined in ASTM 2170 “Standard Test Method for Determining Relative Humidity in Concrete Floor Slabs Using in situ Probes,” the maximum limit specified by ASTM F710 is 75% relative humidity (RH). Although the standard limits RH to 75%, manufacturers often approve installation above 75% RH, if appropriate moisture mitigation steps are taken. While the standard does not define a maximum or minimum pH, it notes that pH levels below 7 and above 10 can affect resilient flooring and/or adhesives. Check the flooring installation instructions for the manufacturer’s specified limits for both RH and pH.

Keep it level. Flatness is another important factor for optimum floor performance and service life. The ASTM F710 standard calls for the slab to vary no more than +/- 3/16 of an inch across 10 lineal feet. High spots should be brought down and low spots should be filled with an appropriate material. This should be done by grinding high spots and filling in low spots with a cementitious patch.

 

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Marketing mastery: Customer appreciation goes a long way

December 10/17, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 14

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

To understand the importance of customer recognition, let’s take a minute and put ourselves in our customer’s shoes. Cathy Consumer is a 35-year-old mother of three, all under the age of 10. She and her husband work full time. Cathy loves her kids and is a devoted mother, but they’re a little weak in the recognition and appreciation department. Maybe they show some appreciation on Mother’s Day and her birthday but the rest of the time her kids rarely appreciate her efforts on their behalf.

Cathy works as an insurance adjuster. Other than her bi-weekly paycheck, her boss doesn’t give her any recognition. The public, whom she deals with during insurance claims, doesn’t give her recognition. Neither do her co-workers.

Her husband, while devoted, is overworked and stressed out. He’s tired all the time and mostly just watches TV in the evenings, so he doesn’t give her as much validation for her efforts as she would like.

Cathy is craving recognition and appreciation, but she’s not getting much of it in her day-to-day life. It’s the same story with many of your customers. Even those who receive sufficient recognition on a day-to-day basis wouldn’t turn down a little more.

If you were the one to give Cathy Consumer and all of your other customers the recognition and appreciation they crave, it would give them great, positive feelings about you and your business. More importantly, it would strengthen their loyalty, so next time they might not be so quick to be seduced by a “free installation” offer by some box store. It would make them more likely to refer you. It would help you create deep connections with your list of past customers.

Let’s look at some customer recognition and appreciation strategies you can put in place immediately.

Beverage menu. After welcoming a walk-in and thanking her for visiting, hand her a beverage menu and ask her what she would like to drink. This will make her feel instantly appreciated, not to mention create total differentiation from competitors.

Handwritten thank-you cards. Send personalized cards to customers after every completed installation. This is something you virtually never see from any business in today’s retail environment.

Customer of the month. In your newsletter and e-newsletters, feature a customer of the month and honor her by sending her out to dinner. People love to see their names in print. Also, people will open your mail to see your next customer of the month.

Acknowledge customers publicly. Thank customers for their business in your newsletter, email and social media. Post photos of their installed floors, along with their comments. Make them into mini celebrities just by buying from you.

Acknowledge referrals. Have a section in your newsletter thanking the people who sent you referrals. Remind everyone of your referral incentive program.

Welcome whiteboard. Put a whiteboard on an easel near your front door. When you know a customer is coming in for an appointment write, “Jimbo’s Floors Welcomes Cathy Consumer” on the board so she sees it when she walks in.

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Al’s column: Do you know the basics of ‘basis?’

December 10/17, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 14

By Roman Basi

 

When buying or selling a business, it’s vital to understand the role “basis” plays—whether it’s asset basis or stock basis—in the purchase price allocation and overall structure. Following are a few pointers on the interplay between an asset basis purchase and stock basis purchase.

Buyers generally favor an asset sale for the stepped-up asset basis, an upward readjustment of value in a fixed asset for tax purposes upon inheritance of such asset. This upward readjustment in basis allows the buyer larger asset depreciation and amortization, which, in turn, lowers the business’s taxable income. However, a seller will seek to allocate a lower value to its assets in an attempt to allocate the rest to company or personal goodwill. Under the seller’s preferred allocation, the buyer loses some of its stepped-up basis, thereby lowering his amount of depreciation and amortization.

Asset basis. Adjusted asset basis plays a vital role in the taxation aspect of a merger/acquisition. An asset’s adjusted basis is calculated using the asset’s original cost, then making adjustments upward based on investment into improving the asset or, more commonly, downward through depreciation, amortization and Section 179 deductions.

For example, let’s you purchase a machine for $50,000 and under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, you use bonus depreciation on the asset to reduce your business’s taxable income. An interested buyer approaches seeking to buy all the assets of your business; in purchasing the assets, the price will be allocated to your assets and likely some goodwill. If the asset price allocation exceeds the adjusted basis of your assets, you’ll be subject to a seller’s worst nightmare in the form of depreciation recapture—the gain received from the sale of depreciable property that must be reported as income. The gain reported as income is then subject to a higher income tax.

Stock basis. It’s important for a seller to be aware of the different stock basis calculations regarding an S-corporation and C-corporation. S-Corp basis calculations are more complex than those for C-Corps. The latter’s stock basis stays the same year to year, while an S-Corp’s basis is an annual moving target based on annual income, distributions and loans. It’s important to calculate and understand an

S-Corp’s stock basis as it is the cash shareholders can pull from the company without penalty.

From a selling standpoint, basis is the cash shareholders can obtain “without realizing income or gain,” which equates to the tax-free amount when the company is sold. An S-Corp’s stock basis will decrease when distributions are made to shareholders, or when deductions or losses take place. The stock basis will increase when capital contributions, ordinary income increases or investment income and gains are made. The value in having high basis when selling your business is paramount to minimizing tax liabilities.

There are times when sellers find themselves with a buyer who wants to purchase the selling company’s stock, but it would be more advantageous, tax-wise, for the seller to sell its assets. In certain situations, a Section 338(h)(10) election may be the answer. This allows the purchaser of the stock of an

S-Corp, or a corporation within a consolidated group, to treat the transaction as an acquisition of the assets for tax purposes.

Contact me for more personalized guidance on this issue.

 

Roman Basi is an attorney and CPA with the firm Basi, Basi & Associates at the Center for Financial, Legal & Tax Planning. He writes frequently on issues facing business owners. For more information, please visit taxplanning.com.

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Lisbiz strategies: Fighting fiery situations with cool temperament

November 26/December 3, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 12

By Lisbeth Calandrino

The other night a friend and I were having dinner at a local restaurant. All of a sudden, I hear a male customer yelling at the top of his lungs: “I’ve been insulted by the waitress; I don‘t have to take this!” He kept at it as the waitress tried to calm him down, but nothing seemed to help. Then the owner came out and the argument continued. The customer’s wife began crying, and the man huffed off to his car. His crying wife got her meal to go.

Apparently, the customer was cleaning his teeth with dental floss right at the table, and the people at a nearby table complained. It seemed everyone was upset, including two waitresses and the owner. The more they tried to calm the customer, the more he yelled. Nothing was working.

I talked with the waitress. She said she told the customer he was upsetting the other people, and he needed to stop cleaning his teeth. This set him into a rage. Maybe he felt wronged and humiliated. Who knows? But wouldn’t it have been easier to move the complaining couple to a different part of the dining room?

Many people feel anger is dangerous, and if they confront it they will also be out of control. One of the conditioned responses is a feeling of fear, which often stems from having been around angry parents or other adults when we were children. This makes us believe confrontation is dangerous. The thinking goes: If I’m angry, I’ll lose control, just like my father and mother. Being exposed to this as a young child produces a conditioned response and feelings of fear when we’re around anger or confrontation.

Anger is tricky. How you feel about it has a lot to do with how you handle it. Do you want to go and hide? Do you start to sweat, get furious or ignore it?

When it comes to conflict resolution, sometimes the best solution is finding a way to de-escalate the problem by letting the aggrieved person have their say and empathize with them. The theory is people just want to be heard and acknowledged.

Situations such as these can be unpredictable, and you never know what will happen once you open your mouth. We live in a society where situations can quickly turn violent. Here’s my advice: Whenever possible, look for differences in opinions rather than who’s wrong and who’s right. If I had been sitting next to Mr. Floss, I think I would have just said I would like to move. My feeling is there was no reason to confront him or take sides. No matter how wrong the person is, taking sides only heats up the argument. The real problem started when the waitress told the man he was upsetting the other patrons. Other than bad manners, what was the man guilty of?

The moral of the story is, whatever happens, don’t take it personally. When you are trying to litigate a situation, taking sides will only exacerbate things. Show empathy to the injured party. This means understanding their feelings, although you might not agree with them. The waitress could have told the annoyed party that she understood this might be upsetting, and she would be happy to move them. Instead, the waitress summoned both the boss and the owner and confronted Mr. Floss.

When dealing with angry customers in your business—and hopefully that’s the exception rather than the rule—it’s best to focus less energy on who’s right and wrong and more attention on putting out the fire to begin with. Remember—there’s always another way.