Coaching,  Communication,  Entrepreneurs

What Mark Twain, Cats, and Bad Dining Experiences Can Teach Us About Our Business

Part of growing up in the south (I grew up in New Orleans) is many people spout quotes from great southern writers like Mark Twain.  My recent travels and experiences have led me to share with you one of my favorite quotes from him (cat lovers will appreciate this) – “If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.” I love this quote because it sums up a very important fact of life: Education and training is important, but experience can be the best teacher you’ll ever have!

In one of my earlier blogs, I talk about how seeing rain beating against my windshield gave me a great insight about getting customers to notice your advertising. Education and training is important, but sometimes you don’t really learn how that cat will react unless you’ve made the mistake of holding it by the tail!

So what does this have to do with running a business? Everything!

Have you ever been disappointed by your first dining experience in a new restaurant? Maybe the service was slow, or the food didn’t taste very good. When that happens, it’s not very likely that you’ll go back.

What if the manager stopped you as you were leaving and asked you if you enjoyed your dinner? Many people will just say “fine”, then leave and still not return. That restaurant will have lost a customer without ever knowing it. Simply asking the question isn’t enough.

However, if this manager asked you the right questions about your dining experience, it could change everything. If he asked you questions that genuinely showed his concern for building a better restaurant, you’d be more likely to answer those questions honestly. And if he showed you that he was genuinely appreciative of your answers, complete with a promise that he would do everything in his power to make sure your next dining experience would be better, you would be much more likely to give him another chance.

My point here isn’t only about surveys (although they are very important!). My point is about learning. Always be open to learning, and always be willing to accept the lessons life gives you. If you go to a restaurant and don’t like the food, don’t just write that off as a wasted dinner! See what you can learn from that experience. Ask yourself what that restaurant could have done to change your opinion, and then apply those answers to your own life and business.

Life is your teacher and the world is your classroom. If you hold a cat by the tail, the experience won’t be pleasant, but it will definitely teach you a very important life lesson about what not to do!

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One Comment

  • Kai

    LOL Shannon, I can’t wait to retweet this. My title will definitely have something to do with ‘holding a cat by its tail.’

    In the meantime, you are so right – knowing how to ask the right question at the right time can make or break our businesses. And the ‘best’ methods will change from company to company, industry to industry and customer to customer.

    Here are a couple of tools I really like, that your readers might want to try (they are both free): allows us to get focused, anonymous, actionable feedback from a targeted list. you choose 4 targeted questions to ask your website visitors. It is an optional survey, with lots of smart questions that can help you gather business intelligence.

    I hope those are helpful.


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