The phone rings, the voice on the other end seems surprised, yet apprehensive. Surprised because yes, I do tend to answer my own phone, and apprehensive because I tend to ask some very pointed questions that can cause folks to become very unsettled.
Now, please don’t ever let the fact that I answer my own phone and I ask tough questions dissuade you from picking up the phone and calling me, emailing me, texting me or sending a private message via Facebook to me. I’m not looking to embarrass anyone or intentionally make them uncomfortable, it’s just that sometimes things happen when folks start to realize that the problem their business faces may not be the economy, their competition, their market, but what they have or have not been doing in their business.
I try real hard to be considerate, but as part of MY PROCESS is I need to learn as much as I can about you, your business, your competitors, your market and what you’ve been doing that has brought you to the point in your business and career where you are today. And DURING this process, it’s inevitable that some things come to light. To be frank, it’s my policy not to sugar coat anything. My job and my duty to my clients is to offer solid advice, options and constructive criticism. Aaaaaand right there is where conversations sometimes get uncomfortable.
Recently, a cleaner reached out requesting if I could help him figure out why his sales had not been growing over the past few years. Sales are pretty much the same, week after week. But he hasn’t seen any growth in his sales, not much in losses either. It’s pretty much a flat line, and that is bugging him because he says his competitors seem to be pretty busy, some have even opened up new locations.
I asked him how he operates his business. He began to tell me how he shows up every day, Monday through Saturday, opens the door, sorts loads, cleans, presses, bags orders, writes tickets, cashes them out. He spends all day running his business, showing up and getting the work done. Isn’t that what one is supposed to do?
Well, Yes, and, actually no. Yes, you need to work in your business, but no, that is not all you are supposed to be doing.
I asked about his web site, yes, has one, but hadn’t updated it in years.
I asked if he used social media, and yes, he has a Facebook page, but he rarely updated it. Just didn’t have anything to post that he thought anyone would find interesting.
I asked what had he been doing to find new customers? Again, Nothing.
Ever follow up with customers, like even to ask them, How are we doing for you? Nope.
Well I said, I think I’ve figured out what the problem is…….the owner has become complacent.
Yes. You show up, you do the work, you collect the cash for the work that’s done, and then you go home. Granted, you are doing the work of your business, but that’s all you are doing. You put nominal effort in; you get nominal returns back out of it.
I’m a dry cleaner, this is what dry cleaners do!
Well, that’s another problem. Not only are you a dry cleaner, you are a business owner, a leader. What leadership are you displaying just showing up and doing work?
I’m leading by example!
True, but what kind of example are you setting? You are not setting goals. You are not challenging yourself. You are not making an effort to do more other than that serving the work that comes in throughyour door. You are complacent.
So, what can I do?
Well, you could start by making some Facebook posts on your Facebook page.
Well, I did do that for a while, I made a few posts over six weeks, and I never saw anything come of it.
Have you called a few customers who have gone inactive and asked them what’s wrong? Well, I tried, but I hardly get ahold of anyone.
How about placing an ad, or sending out some postcards to get some prospecting going?
Oh, that’s too expensive; it costs a lot of money!
Okay, I think I found another few problems. The first problem is, you are not patient and persistent. A few tries and a few weeks is not much of an effort. A second problem is: you are really quick with excuses. Excuses are a great way to cop out on yourself. You seem to be settling for an excuse rather than to really try. It seems like you find it pretty easy to quit and move onto something else. And lastly, yes, there are costs involved. If you are not prepared to put up a capital risk, there is little hope for a reward.
Look, it’s starting to sound like you think I’m the problem with my business. The economy in my market has been in the crapper (excuse), my competition opened up a couple new locations (excuse), I can’t raise my prices (excuse), all I need is new customers and my sales will start going up ……..