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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe, and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, brought to you by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design services.

One of the things that is most important in business is to have an accurate sense of who you are and what your company does. Sure, it is important to have dreams and aspirations, but it is equally important to know where the flaws are. Somebody once said to Michael Sansolo and me that as people grow their various businesses, “it is important not to breathe your own exhaust.”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because of a retailer that I know that isn’t as good as he thinks he is. He’s very good, but he and his stores don't walk on water…and sometimes I get the feeling that he’s forgotten that simple truth. Sometimes the produce isn’t as fresh as advertised, sometimes the employees are surly and uninformed, and sometimes the prepared meals are mediocre. Not always, but sometimes. And enough so that there ought to be some warning bells going off somewhere.

Which makes me think about breathing one’s own exhaust.

The hard truth is that it is the criticisms that you get from shoppers – even the irate complaints that seem to make no rational sense – that help you learn. Do you have a way of accumulating complaints, whether through a suggestion box at your front end or via email? How much attention do you pay to notes and emails? Do you answer every one? (The retailer I have in mind does not. I know, because I’ve tested it numerous times, signing my wife’s maiden name.) And there ought to be a firm rule about how long it takes to answer every question or comment. No exceptions.

The thing is, even the best of us sometimes lose touch with reality. I became aware of this recently when Mrs. Content Guy and I were was chatting with someone, and that person, for a reason that I cannot remember, asked me how tall I am.

Now, I’m five-eight-and-three-quarters. But at some point, many years ago, probably because of a girl somewhere, I rounded that up to five-nine. Over time, I sort of forgot how tall I was, and started telling people that I was five-nine-and-three-quarters. And then I rounded that up to five-ten.

During that recent conversation, asked how tall I was, I rounded it up again…and suddenly I was “almost five-eleven.”

I said it, and Mrs. Content Guy gave me one of those looks that only a wife can give a husband after 25 years of marriage, and said, ‘You are such a moron. You’re not five-eleven.” At which point I realized what I’d done over the years.

Needless to say, this became an immediate source of amusement for my wife and kids. The joke around my house is that if I live long enough, I’ll be six-three.

I was breathing my own exhaust, and I choked on it.

Memo to retailers, even to the best of you, the ones who may be reading and believing your own press clippings. Take a deep breath, and get real.

You’ll only be better for the experience.

For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.

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