The Woman with the Annoying Backpack

By Sharon Worsley

Recently I was walking along a sidewalk when I heard a sound that became annoying as it continued to get louder. I didn’t realize what the noise was until I was walking behind a woman wearing a backpack. On the right side of the bag, there was a metal water bottle housed in the outside section of the pack. The metal zipper tab was hitting the container as she took each step.

It got louder as I got closer, to the point where I quickly went around her and sped off down the street to avoid the noise. My first thought was, how does she not get frustrated or bothered with that sound every step she takes?

I then thought of this experience from a business perspective. How many business owners are doing things that annoy or frustrate them or perhaps notice something but they never seem to make any changes?

In the case of this woman there were at least two things she could have done immediately. The first was to adjust the zipper so that it didn’t hit the metal water bottle; or second, move the container to the left side of the backpack.

I have spoken to so many business owners who are tolerating things in their business but never seem to take any action, often telling me that they will get around to it someday. But someday never seems to arrive.

They complain about things like: not enough customers, clients or patients (depending on their profession or industry); never enough time to catch up on essential areas of the business such as paperwork, marketing, networking, etc.; stress in worrying about how they will keep the business open and meet payroll deadlines or other bills; no systems in place to make the company run more efficiently with them or without them; and staffing issues that keep from being resolved.

I remember speaking to a chiropractor who ran a practice on the first floor of a building that housed a gym on the next two floors above. The challenge was bringing in more patients. Being September, I asked this doctor what was being done to contact patients from the first quarter as their health benefits would be expiring at the end of the year.

This doctor looked at me like I was crazy and advised that no calls were being made to past patients. In his profession, it wasn’t common to call patients out of the blue.

I even offered to write up a script for staff to call each patient. I would even call the first few patients so that the staff member would feel comfortable continuing. But this idea was shut down very quickly. I sensed that this doctor didn’t want to get uncomfortable to that extent and instead would rather push along hoping that things would change.

However, you can’t keep running a business of any sort like this and expect to be very successful. Instead, you just keep getting by.

If that is what someone wants to do with their business, then I respect that. However, why was I called in to consult if the doctor wasn’t looking to make changes to increase the patient load?

There I was sitting in his office knowing that I wasn’t going to change his mind any time soon. I looked over in the corner and noticed a whiteboard. I asked if he owned the whiteboard to which he responded that he did.

I recommended that moving forward he have his staff member place this whiteboard at the bottom of the stairs of the gym above. Then each day, a count down timer would show how many days were left until the end of the year when health benefits ran out.

Additionally, there would be an invitation to go to the front desk and book an appointment with an arrow pointing in the direction of the desk. The doctor agreed that he would do this, and as a result, saw an increase in past patients booking appointments. He also received new patients that were leaving the gym and noticed the sign, remembering that they had benefits that included chiropractic care.

In the end, there was an increase in business not only for the chiropractor, but also two massage therapists and a physiotherapist who ran their businesses from this location. To this day he still uses the whiteboard with a count down clock to remind people to book their appointments before the end of the year.

And what did this cost him? Nothing, as he already owned the whiteboard. He just needed to see things from another point of view on how he could increase business in a way he had never considered before.

Yes, it is very easy to keep things the way they are but important to realize that nothing ever stays the same. You are either moving forward or moving backwards, even if it doesn’t appear so at the time.

By putting up with something that isn’t working as effectively as it could (or at all) you are probably working harder than you need to, and not receiving the results you could have if you did something different. Also, likely over-complicating something for no valid reason other than it might seem too uncomfortable.

Think back to the woman on the sidewalk. She could have easily fixed the noise; however, either she didn’t notice or couldn’t be bothered to take off her backpack and make the noise go away.

Points to Ponder

• What are you tolerating or accepting in your business that with a tweak here and there might change how you run your business or increase revenue?
• Where do you hold yourself back due to fear of being different than your competition?
• What are you going to do differently, moving forward, even if it is just one small thing to start with?

Sharon Worsley, The Business Development Ninja™ is the creator of the R7 System™ to Flood Your Business With Clients Today, Tomorrow and Beyond, helping businesses to ‘Wake Up, Shake Up, and Show Up.’ She also consults and coaches peak performers to excel as leaders. To learn more, contact Sharon at