Since I was young, my way of dealing with potential bullies was to ignore them.

That’s right. Just like your mother and your grandfather and just about everyone else tried to tell you.

It’s possible that it didn’t work for you. Probably because you didn’t really do it. It’s hard.

I’m an introvert. I already struggle with connecting to other humans. It was really easy for me to disengage and ignore.

What I found was that after trying one or two times to mess with me, they would leave me alone.

This one kid in particular we’ll call T.

T would punch me in the arm every time he walked by my desk. It hurt, but I refused to acknowledge it. I did ask him not to. That didn’t work. So I kept ignoring him. Unlike other times in my life, it kept happening. Then there was the day that T’s ride never showed up at school. I had to stay late and my dad was picking me up. He approached me and asked if we could give him a ride home. My dad, not knowing the situation, said sure at my request.

T and I never became friends, but from that point on he treated me with respect.

I never held it against him. Even then, I knew it was a need for attention. It really had nothing to do with me.

Let me say that again.

It had NOTHING to do with me.

Here’s your rules for dealing with Bullies when it comes to business.

  1. There will be bullies. Probably lots of them.
  2. They will do very little to you besides waste your time if you allow them to.
  3. Ignore them. As much as possible.
  4. It has nothing to do with you. I promise.
  5. So stop worrying about it. No damage will be done to you or your business if you continue to uphold solid business practices, treat customers well, and turn out great products.
  6. Serve them great coffee. It can’t hurt.

I know this is all easier said than done, but have a go at it.

When Lemonjello’s started, I immediately received a lot of push back from the community. It’s hard to start something new that’s a little different than people expect.

Folks targeted us for stances we took or didn’t take. They made assumptions about us based on what they saw, often without ever coming into the store. They made predictions about how long we’d last. Some conservative groups tried to ban people from coming. We had a regular string of graffiti incidents. My past as a singer in an emo band got us the nickname l-EMO-njello’s. People would “forget” to involve us in local events.

Oftentimes, people were downright mean.

Around that time, I was reading the work on bullying by Frank Peretti, one of my favorite authors. I was thinking a lot about my growing up years and decided to apply the technique that had worked for me thus far in life to my new business:  Ignore. Move on.

That allowed me to spend my time and energy on growing a store and a brand. It allowed me to hear criticism without taking it so personally. It allowed me to explore whether or not we needed to revise or change any part of our operation without feeling like we had to fit into someone else’s plan.

There’s so much freedom in that. And years later, we’ve only grown and become a home to more and more people. Even many who didn’t initially believe in us, which is pretty fun.

[Series Description: The Lemonjello’s Way posts are an intricate look at the many things that went right (and a few things that went wrong) in the story of Lemonjello’s Coffee in Holland, MI. It’s hard to build a successful shop with longevity. My initial lack of experience led us to try some out of the box things that worked. My eventual experience allowed me to tweak and refine those things.
Lemonjello’s Coffee was started in 2003 by Matthew Scott and continues to operate as a coffee shop with its own on site bakery. It also operated as a concert venue from 2003-2012. Located in bustling downtown Holland, MI, it is in the heart of a thriving independent business scene. It’s also a block off the campus of Hope College and a tourist attraction for those visiting the shores of Lake Michigan.]