My Grandma took up quilting in her mid-fifties. After deciding to go after her goal of graduating from college and becoming an elementary school teacher, she thought it was time for a new challenge. And so, quilting it was! She gave me one when I took off for college. It served as my bedspread in all my dorm rooms. She made one for the birth of each of my 2 daughters. Over the years, her work has become more intricate and bold. Not only does she choose the colors, prints and sizes of squares for each quilt, she now hand crafts and works in embroidered squares. If you've ever seen a quilter at work, it's always interesting to see how incredibly symmetrical and clean the lines are. What the world sees is nothing short of perfection. But turn an unfinished quilt over and you see all the dirty work. Seam allowances are varied, the thread may have become knotted and gnarled in this or that section. The square that was beautifully embroidered on one side is a lumpy, mangled mess on the back side.
The recipient isn't intended to see that part, however. The batting and finally the backing are sewn on to hide the internal controlled chaos. Once finished, all you can see is beauty and precision.
Bunny's quilt split at the seam recently. It has been used, washed and loved so much in such a short time, we've already started to wear it out. As I was handing it over to my Mom to be repaired (I didn't trust my own needle skills!), I saw a glimpse of that internal chaos of this beautiful work of art and it made me think about how this translates into real life. I do a lot of coaching for the apartment industry, but the concepts apply to any industry.
When a prospect visits an apartment community for the first time, often times all they see is the care and precision of the office and maintenance teams. The market window is colorful and picture perfect. The model is a dream. The staff is so friendly, "Have a freshly baked cookie! Here's some cold bottled water!" They sign the lease, in love with thoughts of their new home.
And then they move in.
In many cases, the quilt is complete. While not as "Wow"-inducing as the model, their new home is sparkling and well-maintained. The landscaping around their building may not be as colorful or full as by the office, but it's well-tended and very tidy. The staff might not offer cookies and cold beverages at every interaction, but they're friendly, helpful and responsive.
Then there are some cases when the quilt is not complete, and the internal chaos is clear. The new home looks as though it hasn't been entered since the last resident walked out the door. Appliances don't work. All the light bulbs are missing. It's difficult to reach anyone at the office. The batting and backing are missing completely.
It is nearly impossible to maintain the honeymoon period of any new resident or customer forever. Reality sets in and it just isn't realistic to hand out cookies and water to everyone you see. We become familiar with each other, and what was once an energetic, "Hello, Mrs. Anderson!" becomes a basic, ""Hey Angie." All of that can be okay as long as we truly take care of the quilt, i.e. the customer relationship. When there is a problem, apologize and work to find a resolution. If it's been awhile since you've seen them, check in. If you made a promise and then the situation changed, be honest and let them know. The prospect-turned-resident doesn't ever need to see the sometimes messy or confusing inner workings of the operations of an apartment community. It's our job to see to those things, to make it better, and create a beautiful and seamless environment for the residents to enjoy.
Sure, there will be a tear here and there. But those can always be mended and even give more character to what was already beautiful.