The Basics


Since opening Prairie Girl I have been asked to speak a few times and usually the requested topic is some version of the “secret to success”. I really think  that a big part of any success I’ve had is luck and timing so I am always flattered, and a little embarrassed, to be asked to weigh in as if I have something magical that others don’t. I can tell you that I definitely do not have special skills. But I can also say that I am AMAZED at the people I encounter who don’t seem to understand the most basic of what I consider important business skills. (By business I mean anything connected to how we pay the rent.)

It is frustrating at times to deal with people who seem really good at the taking part (billing; asking for time and attention; wanting something..) and not very good at the giving/thanking/reciprocity part.

If I sound extremely catty, it’s been a super busy week, the power went out for the third time today in two weeks at the Yorkville store, and maybe I just need a couple days off…good thing July 1st is coming up!

Like A Bank Account

I am not sure where or when I heard about the bank account analogy for relationships but the gist of it is that any relationship- personal or business – is like a bank account over time. You put in deposits, you take out deposits. None of us are Mother Theresa, we all need to ask the people we live and work with for help and favours and sometimes to give us a pass when we screw up…but there are two caveats to this. The first caveat is that withdrawals from the bank account, so to speak, can’t come too early in a relationship. And the second caveat is that – over time – the withdrawals need to balance roughly out with the deposits. 


– If I approach a possible new supplier about, say, a new line of uniforms and they don’t return my first or second call or email, I’m going to move on. In the past I might I have tried and tried again to get their attention, now I just move on. On the other hand, if Dorel, our long term box supplier rep, doesn’t return an email, Carly knows there’s a good reason because of the 15,000 other emails and calls they’ve had over the past three years and the overall wonderful service he gives us. Dorel has made lots of deposits- a new supplier prospect has made zero.

– If I have set up a first meeting with someone and they send an email at the exact time of the meeting that they need to cancel because they are “super busy today”, I will respond with a “delete”. It goes without saying that this is not how I’d respond to someone I know.

– When a new person starts on the team and within a month is asking for this shift off and needs to leave early for that event and can’t come to work because of this reason…in the early days of PGB I would have tried to make it work but now I don’t….a long term team member who is reliable, asks early for time off and is there for us when we need help warrants a very different reaction than a person who has been on the payroll two weeks.

Going back to the start of this post, the points I am making seem really basic and I am sure there will be people reading who think, “well, duh, those are pretty obvious ‘tips'”. But the thing is, prospective suppliers who don’t reply, people who cancel meetings at the last minute, new employees who ask for several favours before a month on the job, people who ask for time and assistance and then for a donation of cupcakes…I see these things all the time…every week.  In business it is definitely not a matter of keep tally or figuring out who is  nice or not – it’s about getting things done and that depends on solid, reciprocal relationships. If that doesn’t sound like your work or business relationships, either because of your behaviour or the other parties’ behaviour, you might want to think about that.

And don’t be alarmed…I am taking the weekend off and will be in a better mood next week! (Going to New York so will do some cupcake intel in the cupcake mecca!).


About the author

Jean Blacklock

Jean opened the popular Prairie Girl Bakery in the financial district of Toronto in 2011. She owned and operated the business until it closed in 2021 as a result of the pandemic’s impact on downtown Toronto. Read more about her background in commerce, law, and entrepreneurship here.

By Jean Blacklock


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