I’ve read a lot of books on how to build your business and I’ve got a ton of formulas in my head and some I use as I struggle along the mean streets of entrepreneurship. Some are great and so easy to employ but the ones I always throw out are the cut throat schemes that are mean spirited against the competition. Call me crazy but I don’t have to say company xyz sucks to get a sale. Something I don’t read a whole lot but really need to utilize more is not about how to get potential customers to fire the competition and hire me but actually how I should fire some of my customers.
Whoa Whoa Whoa, crazy talk alert! Yes that’s right, I said fire some of my clients. I know what the life blood of my company is but there are also diseases any company can get and it’s up to you, the owner to rid yourself of the energy draining things that can kill you and that includes some customers. Let me just get a couple things out in the open and if you’re not so mad that you hit the delete button maybe I’ll wrap this up in a good way and hopefully we’ll all have learned something.
#1 My license is NOT A RIGHT, I can’t walk up and down the streets spraying whatever I please (or that you tell me) without one of two results. Rewards–Consequences. I can lose this great little gig in a heartbeat and go back to being a prep cook faster than you can spell diazonon. If I abuse it or don’t take the time and courage to guard it than it won’t be mine for long.
#2 My business IS MY RIGHT, I created it, my sweat equity built it and I can run the dang thing anyway I choose. I can set up monthly service for certain problems, annual visits, use green chemicals or the most hideous sounding products I can find. Now as long as I’m not breaking rule #1, number 2 is up to me and not you.
#3 I don’t know any other way to say this; I’m so tired of hearing on forums and at meetings that nobody else in town has any such customer problems, they never get complaints, cash just comes in everyday and life’s just a bowl of cherries. Hogwash! I’ve been around awhile and worked for companies of all sizes. I’ve even bought a couple of these pristine lilly white firms and it took me over a year to straighten things out with them on average.
The truth is that there are customers, people, that will rob you of precious time and resources and never be satisfied. Every company in the world has clients like this bar none. It seems especially true as your customer base get bigger. We’ve all had cancelation calls and you got to admit that with some the secretaries are slapping five, the route technician breathes a huge sigh of relief and while it does subtract from your monthly bottom line even the owner or branch manager secretly cracks a smile. Getting a load off your shoulders is liberating no matter how it comes about.
I have a friend who has taken this approach to a whole other level and while I may never go quite as far I dang sure wish I could copy him at least moderately. He only services one county and concentrates almost all of his business in one area. He predominantly does exterior service and lawns and calls only a few select people to let them know when he’s coming and he expects payment (and gets it) within 30 days no excuse. What’s more he will flat out cancel any chronic complainers or unruly clients and makes no bones about it. Now, does he get complaints? Yes and he honors his work and will spend any amount of time or effort to get it right. More than once he’s gone above and beyond even what I would do because he decided it was the right thing to do and he wants his customers happy. What he won’t put up with is anyone playing games or complaining for the sake of complaining thinking they’ll get some free service or have unrealistic expectations.
Me? I run 5 counties and cater way to much to people just like this and end up running out at 5pm just to find a dead roach in an open carport. I’d say I need a little of my friends approach because while I’m chasing shadows for a customer who’ll most likely cancel my service in less than a year anyway, he’s off to Daytona on his motorcycle and his techs days are filled with people who are happy to have his service.
Even in my friends example it is not the easiest thing in the world to run and grow a pest control business. We all have challenges even on a good day so to add to that a life sucking customer is just counter productive. When you find that more energy and time is going to satisfy the unsatisfiable, then I think it’s time you cut the chaff and let that one go. It may hurt while you’re a smaller company and even the big guys know they won’t look so good on the quarterly get together with the suits. It is however going to free you up to run your company the way you intended it and help you achieve one of the goals you had when you started it. Happiness.