Too Many Rules Can Kill Your Business

many signs

My wife received an email this weekend from an indoor trampoline park. It was titled:

Please Accept Our Sincere Apology!

The email was sent to all of their patrons from their inaugural year. They had implemented so many rules in order to keep everyone safe that it made what should be a fun family experience a burden. The business became so rigid in their rules that families left upset, discouraged, and vowing not to come back. As a result they received a great deal of criticism and eventually lost business as the year went on.

Rules and regulations are a necessary part of running an organization. Without certain parameters companies and their customers can be exposed to unsafe conditions, unclear direction and unfair practices. But when your own rules overburden your business, you can be in danger of closing up shop.

When customers, and employees, feel there are too many rules, the following fallout can occur:

  • The advantage of doing business evaporates
  • The customer experience diminishes
  • The mission and vision of the company gets obscured
  • The enjoyment of working becomes more duty-oriented
  • Revenue dries up as customers find more user-friendly business

How can you prevent your rules from overtaking your company? These 3 steps give you guidelines to consider:

  • The spirit of the rule. Is a rule fair? Is it only for your benefit for profit maximizing and/or loss mitigation? Are you trying to avoid lawsuits and covering all of your bases? Do your rules protect leadership from lifting fingers and place burdens on both staff and customers? Consider what the spirit is of each rule, and your rules overall, and examine whether they align with your core values and brand.
  • The customer’s view of the rule. The silver rule of customer service is – your customers don’t care about your rules. They want unencumbered service and products, plain and simple. Customers get that return policies minimize theft. But if the return process involves too many hoops and make your customers feel untrusted, they will leave. If you have rules for operating, make sure they are seemless and make sense to your clientele.
  • The employee’s execution of the rule. When your people must abide of enforce a rule, is the line they say along the lines of “It’s our policy.”? If a rule is unclear to all, or unfair, or puts your people in “police mode” rather than service mode, then your rule may need to be changed or forsaken. Employees should be an extension of your company’s brand, not an extension of “the rules”.

The company that emailed my wife acknowledged their overreach and that it made going there a bore. Then, rule by rule, they laid out what they were changing in allowing for a more pleasant and fun experience, and asked for their customers to give them another try. I admire this company for identifying these issues, taking steps to change them, and reaching out to their customer base in hopes to win them back. For a company to do that is rare and no small feat. I wish them the best of success in their new business approach.

Make your rules work for everyone, and not against them. Your brand should jump out for your product, people, and service, and not for policies and rules. 

(image: flickr)

About Paul LaRue

My goal - To encourage you to lead & influence others with positive impact.

Posted on March.14.2016, in Leadership. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. This is great Paul! Awesome story and simple but powerful examples.

    …And I read it all smiling. Thinking about how our expat lives have caused me to reconsider the purpose of rules and rule makers, rule fakers and rule breakers…

    Rule MAKERS – “We’ll make this rule because it will make MY job easier!”

    Rule BREAKERS – “I follow ALL the rules… EXCEPT”

    Rule FAKERS – “Make rules so that organizations will appear to be compliant with local laws.

    Some rules here are real and made with the expectation that you follow them.

    (So after some time here people begin to assume that they have it figured out, but no one really knows for sure…!) And that leads to inconsistency, confusion, frustration, even arrest…


  2. Appreciate the reference to my book! And more so, thanks for applying the lesson you referenced!


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