Archives for October 2013

Don’t be afraid to ask for help in your business

iStock_000005618867XSmallWe have all seen how having too many customers coming in at once can ruin the reputation we have built. We have to take tough decisions to turn away business and if we handle ourselves well then we may even encourage those we have had to turn away to come back to us. After all we are so popular, doing business with us must be a really great experience.

Sometimes it is difficult to cope with unforeseen events. We all hope that many customers might turn up at once, in which case we need to have a policy to handle this. That might be to turn them away very politely or it might be to call on staff or subcontractors if we can.

How would you deal with the unexpected?

If you were ill it might be difficult to cope with the business you already have. Do you have people you can rely on? Do you have a deputy or manager who could carry the load? If you are a sole trader, do you have a trusted business friend who could take care of your clients while you could not? Do you have insurance to pay someone qualified by experience to look after your customers?

I have had health issues this year. I have been fortunate that I have had personal great support from family and friends, but it was not good fortune that I knew I had people who I could rely on to keep my businesses in good shape. That was down to pre-planning.

Have you organised a safety net for yourself? Have you enlisted support from a trusted friend or colleague to take care of business for you? You should.

Are you really giving your customers what they want?

26 Feb 12 upload 024 (2)If you have had clients or customers for a long time, do you still know what they expect of you? Have you asked asked them recently?

The trouble is that it is easy to assume we know what they want. It is rather like those relatives who give you those ghastly socks or that awful tie at Christmas, or that CD by a band you really cannot stand which someone thinks is “your era”.

You really wish Auntie had asked you what you would like.

It is similar in business. Just because we think we are familiar with our customers we may forget to ask them what they need right now. Their requirements might have changed, just as you might have liked those silly slippers twenty years ago, but would never wear them now.

Call all your loyal customers. Ask them how they are, how they feel about your service, and what they want right now. Then deliver. Otherwise they may go away.

Over-reaching in your business

Over-stretching

One of the easiest mistakes to make in a small business, and especially in start-ups, is to take on every new prospective customer or client who walks in the door.

The other day a small group of us (actually my parents and my wife and I) went out for Sunday lunch in a country pub. We had booked in advance.

When we arrived my father spotted the lady who turned out to be the manager standing behind the bar. My Dad gave our name and said we had booked a table for four. This drew the response “Can you wait, please? We have a table for nineteen just arrived.” Despite the “please” this response sounded rather terse; in fact rude.

Feed us!

After about ten minutes wait, and ten minutes after our booking, we were seated. We then sat there for fifteen minutes or so waiting to give our orders, and then waited getting on for an hour for our starters. OK, we could have left, but we would have been hard pressed after the time that had elapsed to find anywhere else to serve us.

When the starters arrived, there were only three. They had forgotten about the fourth, but when bringing the three the waitress did not notice we were one short, or did not think it odd. We thought she just could not carry the fourth rather than it had been forgotten, so we had to call her back when it was apparent it would not come on its own.

So the lunch went on as did our frustration. By the time the entrées, well, roasts had been eaten we had been in the place for over two hours. We did not have the stamina to wait for any further orders, so we skipped dessert, asked for the bill and left.

Too little, too late

When we were at the door the manager came and apologised for our poor service, said they had two very large tables, and had a lot of “walk-ins”. I suggested they should have turned away the “walk-ins” they could not cope with. At least they would know to book next time.

The food when it came had been really quite good, but the service was so chaotic that it is unlikely we will return to the pub-restaurant as they say “any time soon”.

Promises, promises

Our family has not been having much luck in this area. Recently we consulted a professional firm (not accountants or tax advisers) about an issue. Despite assuring us on our initial visit to their office that they would accept our instructions, following which we furnished a lot of information, they did nothing for weeks. They were thoroughly unresponsive, ignoring emails and did not get back to us in response to three telephone calls in five days asking for an update. I suspect they were out of their depth.

We have the impression that they did absolutely nothing, either because of lack of organization or because they lack the resources. Even though we have now informed them in writing that we will go to another firm, we have not even had the courtesy of an apology for their failure.

Yielding to temptation can cost reputation

Of course it is exciting when there are lots of people walking through our doors asking us to work for them. We do all need to think whether we have the resources to service the new business, or can get that support so that we deliver on time and efficiently so much so that we build our reputation.

The pub and the professional firm are ruining their reputations by failing to deliver quickly and efficiently It is such an easy mistake to make. Have you experienced this problem when doing business with others?

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