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Your reputation is in the details.

May 30, 2017
by Chris Ward


It’s a Saturday morning in January, and you’ve just returned home from a trip to the market. The phone’s ringing as you walk in the door. It’s one of your best friends wondering if you’re free for dinner that night. As it happens, you are. So the conversation turns to where you might go. If you live in a large urban area, there are literally dozens of possibilities. The world is your oyster, so to speak. So how do you decide? 

There are some obvious criteria that can help narrow the field. You’ve heard great things about a new restaurant that’s opened not far from where you live. But you’ve also heard that it’s expensive, which doesn't sit too well with your much-depleted, post-holiday pocketbook. Your friend is salivating over some particularly cheesy Italian food. Unfortunately your main New Year’s resolution is all about dropping 15 pounds. So that’s a non-starter. 

Building your reputation the ‘no problem’ way!

You continue on down the list until one of you says something like, “Hey. I’ve heard good things about that new restaurant on Main Street.” You’ve heard something about it as well, so you ask your friend what he’s heard. As it turns out, another friend had been there for lunch and was really impressed with the wait staff and the general attitude. This friend had ordered something that wasn’t on the menu, half expecting to find the kitchen unwilling to accommodate her request. So when the very pleasant server said, “No problem!” the restaurant’s evolving reputation got a real boost. 

And that’s the point – reputations really are in the details. 

There are plenty of good restaurants in a city like Toronto, New York or Boston. Many have nice decor, savvy service, good food, and a decent wine list. Assume these are the chips any restaurant has to ante up to make it onto the ‘under consideration’ list. What makes one restaurant stand out from others are the little things – not being charged for a dish that wasn’t to your liking, a fancy dessert compliments of the chef, or a resounding ”no problem.” 

The lesson for any business is simple.

Certain attributes – in the case of a restaurant, quality, service, decor – are taken for granted. But small, often unexpected, experiences are the stuff of which great reputations are made. And which, over time, mean the difference between a good reputation and a great one

Chris Ward is a Principal with StrategicRetreats and founder of Riverhorse Strategic Advisors. Over the past 20 years he has facilitated dozens of meetings, workshops and retreats and conducted more than 1,000 key informant interviews for organizations of all types and sizes. An expert in strategic planning and branding, he helps clients develop very specific plans to achieve corporate goals and own their space. 

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