Just last week I found myself glued to the television when it “somehow” landed on the Food Network Chanel (perhaps I was hungry?). Anyway, Paula’s Home Cooking was airing when I discovered my T.V. was on The Food Network. Honestly, it’s the most wholesome show I’ve watched on T.V. in a long time. It was 30 minutes of her and her family cooking together, sharing personal stories with friends, and visiting customers at her Savannah based restaurant. Now I know she has had her ups and down in the public eye (Diabetes PR nightmare) – but that aside, I think there is a lot a small business can learn from her mentality. I thought to myself – this woman is a celebrity chef worth millions, yet I feel like I could run across the street and ask to borrow a cup of sugar.

Top 3 Lessons A Small Business Can Learn From Paula Deen:

Lesson 1: Treat Your Customers as Friends

“Love love love this place. We even met Paula and her family once!
She was super nice and we even have pics with her.” – Customer Review On Yelp

When people visit Paula’s restaurant, they know they will not only receive immaculate service, but will most likely run into Paula at some point during their meal. If you treat your customers as you would your dearest friend,  they will become your biggest cheerleaders. Customer loyalty is extremely important for a small business. Make sure to listen (and address) suggestions and concerns from customers in a timely manner. Let your customer know how important their opinion is. Make sure to offer special exclusive deals to your biggest fans, and work on building relationships that go beyond a one-time transaction.

Lesson 2: Tell a Business Story Worth Hearing 

People love to hear a story they can relate with that ends on a positive note. One of the most memorable aspects of Paula Deen and her multi millionaire empire is she is just like most of us. She was a single mom struggling to pay bills with Agoraphobia (a fear of leaving the house). She opened a small brown bag lunch business from the comfort of her own home and had her sons sell the lunches downtown. She didn’t inherit instant success or fame; she worked hard for more than 20 years to build her small business, which then expanded to what we know her as today. What stories exist within your business walls? Create a relate-able story to share with others, and people will stick around to watch your happy ending!

Lesson 3: Turn A Negative Situation Into A Positive One

We all remember the diabetes controversy that surrounded Paula within the last year. The media struck out calling her a “killer,” and fans expressed disappointment that she didn’t announce her condition earlier. It was a PR nightmare to say the least. Despite the negative attention surrounding her brand, she used the negativity and turned it into a positive experience. Now you will find Paula cooking with healthier ingredients, promoting portion control, and giving back to the American Diabetes Association. Your small business may stumble upon some of the same unexpected “PR nightmares” – but do not let them overcome you. Make a plan of action, redirect the attention to something positive, and learn from your mistakes. People tend to forgive easily when they detect an effort was made to correct wrong-doings.