For Thanksgiving we decided to get the whole family together and rent an Airbnb. Since our family has grown significantly over the last few years with marriages and the explosion of grandchildren, we now require a much larger accommodation. 

For the most part, many of the larger places also come with a higher price tag. In keeping with the higher price, such locations typically boast of a higher level of amenities. This is all good and is what it is.

As one would expect, with a higher price tag, there is an expectation that everything should be in working order and that cleanliness should be a priority, especially during this Covid era.

Person lying in bed-complacency

Unfortunately, what we encountered is a case of what I refer to as a “Lazy owner”. This is something I regularly caution all business owners against. No one sets out to be a lazy owner, but it happens to most of us at one time or another. Another term that can be easily substituted for Lazy owner is – complacency.

Complacency doesn’t just happen overnight, at least not for most people. No, it creeps in over time, where little by little we let our standards drop.

Short term vs long term complacency

Short term complacency is easy to understand and why it happens. When you consider that as entrepreneurs, we are always on and even for the best run companies, there are times when we have more issues to deal with than available resources. So, in our haste, we might let our standards drop a little.

However, once the storm has passed, conscientious owners usually up their game and re-establish their standards. Not ideal, but it happens.

Then there is the issue of long term complacency that has the potential to damage your business reputation. This kind of complacency truly reflects the lazy owner and is rooted in arrogance.

I say arrogance because the owners believe that they have a great product or service. It might be because it is popular and in demand now, so they feel they no longer have to try as hard anymore and dismiss any feedback as whining.

It’s been my experience that these owners used to sweat every detail about their business. They did so in order to establish themselves so, hard work is not foreign to them. In addition, their current success, reinforces that they have good instincts. Unfortunately, these good instincts can also lead owner to reject and negative feedback, because they think they are in tune. This combination can easily lull an owner into complacency.

Unfortunately, they fail to realize that they must put forth some effort in order to uphold those original standards. Sadly, many let success go to their heads and over time they lose sight of the finer points of their business and good enough becomes the norm.

Our experience

The Airbnb we selected had very high ratings and came with a price tag of $800/night. Not cheap but considering the size of our gang and the promised level of amenities, it was acceptable.

In general, the property met our expectations, however on closer observation, signs of complacency were everywhere. The following is the list of deficiencies we encountered during our 4 night stay:

1. Numerous burnt out light bulbs.
2. Very weak or no Wi-fi in many parts of the house. The listing stated working wi-fi however, the router was situated in a bedroom in the far corner of the original stone farmhouse which is not conducive for signal travel. Therefore, most of us had to use our cell phone data plans.
3. Satellite TV not functioning.
4. Water dispenser/ice machine on the fridge was non-functioning.
5. Remnants of leftover dry foodstuff from previous guests including empty containers.
6. An instruction manual that included updated data that was placed behind older instructions. The binder was full of with updated handwritten notes that conflicted with printed sheets and chalkboard information i.e., Wi-fi password, security codes, etc.
7. Numerous hairs found in and around master bedroom and bathroom.
8. A severely stained mattress and no mattress cover in one of the rooms. Unfortunately, it was not discovered until we were checking out
9. Unresponsive owner to text messages.

Except for the cleanliness issues, such as the hair and mattress cover, none of the items were a deal breaker, but it goes to show a level of inattention that is not acceptable.

So, what should have been done?

1. This owner should be doing is a quick walk around inspection between guests after the cleaning crew had left. Doing a walk around with a checklist would ensure the property was up to standards and that the cleaning crew was maintaining the property. I call this trust but verify.

2. Check the instruction manual. How hard would it be to check that the instruction book was up to date, without conflicting information? Writing in new information and scratching out the old is not acceptable.

3. If the appliances don’t work as expected, communicate that to the next guests or replace the unit.

4. Look up and around to ensure the lights are functioning.

5. Test the wi-fi and satellite tv and take corrective actions without the client having to discover sub-par performance. In other words, be proactive instead of reactive.

Unfortunately, this property appears to be consistently booked and therefore has effectively lulled the owner into a false sense complacency.

The review

After checkout, Airbnb requests a review of the stay. So, in a very diplomatic way, we mentioned the deficiencies. Unfortunately, the owner responded in what I like to call the “Not my fault syndrome”, suggesting that we were somehow at fault for some of the shortcomings and that we should have notified her, etc. etc. Which, by the way, we had attempted, but got no response.

So, instead of humbly apologizing, this owner goes on the attack. If you dig deep enough into the reviews of this property, you will discover that this a recurring pattern by this owner when faced with critical or negative reviews. Frankly, it’s not a great way to build relationships.

So, what’s the lesson?

I get it. We are all guilty of letting things slip occasionally, but it’s what you do about it that counts. When was the last time you took a fresh look at your office, retail space or warehouse? Is it looking a little tattered or cluttered with stuff? Are there a few more scuff marks on the wall or chipped paint than the last time you noticed?

What about your vehicles, are they clean and safe for your staff to drive? How do your employees look? Are they presentable or have their standards dropped? How do they talk to customers? Are they a little abrupt? How’s their language? Is it professional or a little too casual?

Even after you have asked all these questions, there is still a much bigger question to ask, and that is, how is your attitude? Because as an owner, you set the tone. Have you become little complacent and as result so have your employees?

Yes, these are all little things, but they go a long way to projecting your professionalism and show your customers that you are not a lazy owner.

You may also enjoy BURNOUT


Comments, thoughts or ideas for future topics? Let me know in the comment section below

Get More LIFE Out of Your Business

You shouldn’t be the hardest working person in your company.

Many small business owners find that even after the struggling start-up years, they’re working too many hours and still managing every aspect of their businesses.

Greg Weatherdon has been there, done that. As an entrepreneur, he learned not only how to get a business to the point of running smoothly, but also how to reduce the number of hours he worked, delegate more responsibility to his employees, and take longer vacations while his business chugged along like a well-oiled machine. And now he is providing the secret to success.

Do you suffer from any of the following?

1. Business ownership isn’t living up to the dream.
2. Endless workdays.
3. You can’t find good people.
4. Profits are less than expected.
5. You can never take a vacation.

You’re not alone. But there is a solution. As Greg demonstrates, with some time and effort, you really can Get More Life Out Of Your Business.

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2 comments on “SBM #103 Complacency

  1. Melanie Feb 6, 2022

    Great article, although I don’t understand the last sentence. You may enjoy burnout? That makes no sense to me; burnout is an unhealthy state relating to overwhelm and overwork and is never a good thing. Prevent burnout and be proud of our businesses – that’s the key in my mind. Anyway, the article got me thinking about a couple of things in my space and I really appreciate that! Thx!

    • gregw Feb 7, 2022

      Hi Melanie,

      Thanks for the comment. The “You may also enjoy Burnout” refers to previous post I published that is somewhat related to the ‘Complacency” issue. The word “Burnout” is in blue and is a clickable link. A similar link and has been visible in most of my previous posts.

      Always glad to hear that my thoughts get people thinking.- Greg