Owning People

Today has not been the most fun day I've had.

It all started a few posts ago when I got on a tangent about disability insurance. It's true, I still don't have it. But I have made up my mind that it is a must-have for the impending new year. So I started doing some mass Googling today in search of companies that offer this elusive insurance.

During this process, I ended up making a call to my own State Farm agent as they had given me a quote two years ago that I could not afford at the time ... but maybe now? I don't know, maybe I'd inflated the quote in my memory over time, maybe I should re-inquire.

An unfamiliar voice answered the phone. Neither of the two agents I have done business with for the last 15+ years are with the office any longer.

Mind you, the agent whose name is actually on the office (and all my paperwork) is a very nice gentleman, but I've maybe talked to him twice in all these years; my relationship was with these two women.

Unfortunately, the woman who answered the phone — though nice — turned out to be maddeningly incompetent. To the extent that it was all I could do to bite my tongue hard enough to prevent myself from actually telling her so out loud. I just wanted to get off the phone with her.

Which is when it struck me that at least one of the former employees of the office might actually have gone out on her own. And sure enough, some simply Googling revealed that she is still with the company and has her own office on the other side of town now.

I know insurance companies are some of the worst for idiot non-compete clauses. So I called the office and spoke with a very nice young woman who gave me the unfortunate low-down: They simply are not allowed to accept current State Farm clients from any other agents. State Farm says I can't choose my own agent

Despite many years of being a happy customer with the company's product, this may very well turn me into another company's client. State Farm may be the boss of their agents, but they are not the boss of me.

And yeah, it's a rant about our business, not insurance agencies. See, salons across the land attempt the same stupid policies all the time. Fortunately, courts often laugh at non-compete policies in many industries, including ours.

I understand why salon owners want to "own" the salon's clients, but you don't. You don't own people and you can't tell them who they want to have their nails done by. If you want your clients to stay with you when your employee leaves your salon — you need to establish a relationship with those clients.

It might matter legally who bought the advertising, who kept the records, who took the money ... but believe me, trying to interfere with the client's free will to choose her own service provider will backfire.

Ethically, the client can't be owned. And by trying to do so, all you do is risk losing that client's loyalty to the hairstylist, massage therapist, and esthetician who still works at your salon — not to mention the crap she is going to talk about you and the way you do business. 

Just let the former employee contact her clients. But you do the same — a simple, "Maggie is no longer with our salon, we understand if you would like to stay with her but we hope you will give Becky an opportunity to fulfill your nail care needs. Meanwhile, we look forward to seeing you for your hair/massage/skin care needs..."

Believe me, I've seen salons that were successful at establishing relationships with the clients, so as techs left the salon, the clients stayed with the salon not the departed tech.

It does work and even if you don't keep the client, at least you keep her respect. Which will pay off better in the long run anyway.

I'll leave you to think on this ... I have to find a new insurance company.

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