Some time ago I heard this story from one of my supervisors and it has stuck with me through the years. It goes like this:
A long time ago there was an old man, his grandson, and a donkey. It just so happened that the child’s parents had perished when he was just a baby and his grandfather had been raising him since that tragedy. The old man was very poor and they would spend their years together traveling from town to town trying to find work for the old man to feed and clothe the two of them and feed their pet.
One day as they were traveling through the country, they came up on a large town. As they approached the town the old man was walking the donkey with his grandchild atop the mule. Just as they entered the town they could hear the town folk scoffing at them.” Can you believe that kid? He is making that old man walk while he sits comfortably atop the mule. He has no respect for the elderly.”
The young boy jumped off the donkey and told his grandfather to get up on the mule and he would walk through the town guiding the donkey. They got a little further down the street and they could hear the peoples disparaging remarks. “Can you believe that old man sitting atop that mule, while the poor boy is forced to walk? How can he live with himself? That poor boy must be exhausted!”
The grandfather decided to pull the boy up with him and they would ride together. “Now that should take care of everything”, the old man thought. However, just a few more blocks and the contemptuous taunting continued. “Wow, can you believe those two? That poor mule must be ready to keel over with all that weight he is carrying. They should be turned in for animal cruelty. “
At this point the man and the child decided they would both get down and walk. “There”, said the old man, “now we are all walking that should appease everyone.” But alas, the vituperation continued. “Look at those two idiots exclaimed one man. They are walking next to a perfectly good mule, what a waste!”
Completely out of ideas the two stopped and started discussing how to approach this dilemma. The two tried brainstorming and were sure they could come up with a solution to stop these verbal attacks. As the two continued to ponder over a solution the mule wondered off, slipped into a steep sided pond and drowned. What is the moral of this story? If you try to please everyone you will end up losing your…..A$$.
Over the years I have talked with many people whose singular goal is to make everyone happy, one hundred percent of the time. The problem with that is that every one’s perceptions are different. You never know what someone else’s idea of value or quality is, and therefore it is hard to please everyone. While this should be everyone’s goal, you have to understand your business’s limitations. You should never base your internal structure, purpose, or mission on what others think. That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t listen to criticism. However, you need to understand your objectives and your limitations. You should try to offer your customers the best product or service you can provide and have the wisdom to know what doesn’t fit your business. In the end you will be able to make almost everyone happy and you won’t lose your……..A$$.