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Mythbust: "I Don't Need to Care About My Online Reputation"

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I don't give a damn 'bout my bad reputation
You're living in the past, it's a new generation
An' I only feel good, when I got no pain

An' that's how I'm gonna stay

Ah, if we could all only be like Joan Jett, right? To heck with "The Man!"

And in what universe is that actually real?

My old pal Jordana definitely thought she could be like Joan Jett – until she learned the hard way that she couldn’t. It was an expensive lesson, a very expensive lesson.

Jordana had grown up in a cooking family. Her dad was from the old country and made big family dinners every Sunday night. Her mom worked as a short-order cook. Jordana became a serious student of food, learned the family recipes, and opened her own restaurant on her 30th birthday.

The aptly named Jordana’s was a hit from the start. People loved her food and the old-school vibe of the place. A glowing television review led to similar online reviews, and Jordana’s was soon swamped with customers. But, as my own grandfather used to say, too much of a good thing can quickly become a bad thing.

Indeed, Jordana’s restaurant soon proved to be too popular.

Like many entrepreneurs, Jordana started her business on a shoestring. While that allowed her to open the doors, it made keeping the dream alive difficult. She couldn’t really afford to hire enough help, and she skimped on things she shouldn’t have. Quality suffered. Lines formed. People waited. Silverware didn’t get washed. Good news became bad news. And before long, Jordana’s business fell off the deep end – of course, right around the time a Health Department inspector decided to drop in – and many a bad online review started to pile on.

Before she knew it, Jordana was on TV again, but for all the wrong reasons.

So what do she do? Jordana’s was in deep trouble and it, along with Jordana’s good reputation, suffered greatly. In this day and age when online reviews mean so much to businesses and can last a lifetime, Jordana, unable to undo the damage her carelessness had cost her and her beloved namesake restaurant, did the only thing she could do: rename the restaurant.

That was the only way people would not find negative reviews when they searched for her restaurant.

Jordana told me she had no choice. “There were just so many negative ratings and reviews that piled up in such a short amount of time. And I couldn’t get rid of them. I hired a ‘reputation-management’ company that promised it could get rid of the bad reviews. All that did was cost me money I didn’t have. In the end, I decided that my only choice was to learn my lesson, start over, and do things the right way the second time.

As I said, an expensive lesson.

The Jordana’s tale is sad, illustrative, and a warning shot across the bow, all at once. Oh sure, there might have been a time when you didn’t need to worry all that much about your reputation and brand, but (as I am sure you have noticed) those days are long gone. Online ratings and customers reviews are the lifeblood of most small businesses today. People consult social media before trying out a new business. They read reviews before buying a new product. And yes, reviews and ratings live forever online.  

The good news is that the converse is also true: if you take your good name, reputation, and brand seriously – and, above all, do great work – the positive reviews and ratings become a force for good, not evil. As they pile up, you reap the benefits.

The moral of the story is that your reputation is gold. You have to respect and protect it, especially because, while you can rename a business, you can’t rename yourself.


Steve Strauss is the author of The Small Business Bible and a senior columnist for USA TODAY. He also runs the website,, and hates ketchup.

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