Accident recovery in business

Feelings

Business life is not always perfect. Sometimes things go wrong. A client has a bad experience. It may well not be your fault, but the client may not share that perception. You have to work out what you can do to make things better.

In my tax world, I might get a client coming to me who has made a mess of their financial affairs. Maybe that mess goes back a number of years. They expect help to get out of their mess. I may be able to make things less bad. If they need a deal with the tax authorities I can very likely do better than they could. What I cannot do is make the past go away. I can’t change history. That is not my fault. I have to explain that the client is getting the best outcome I can manage ( and often they can be remarkably good) but it still involves writing a cheque for a lot of money.

Perception

If I want to keep the client, that client has to have a feel-good feeling, and that feeling comes from their perception. I will help them understand that they are in a better place than they might have been. They have been fortunate. That will help their confidence and themselves and it will boost their confidence in me if I want to keep them as a client. They need a full explanation of everything that has happened since they came to me.

Accidents

Sometimes a business can get something really wrong. Complementary therapy practitioners rely very much on giving the feel-good factor to their clients. Imagine if a therapist accidentally physically hurts a client but not so seriously as to be sued, with a little inattention, or the client just has a bad experience. It could happen to any service-providing person in a metaphorical sense, of course.

So the client is unhappy. He is likely to tell his friends, including some who may already see the same complementary practitioner. The business is likely not only to lose the client, but several others as well.

Damage limitation

What should the practitioner do? Well, firstly, be very apologetic and take responsibility. Offer some free less risky sessions. Send some flowers. Limit the damage, because if the client still mentions the incident to friends he well also say that our therapist has been very kind and caring in the aftermath. Business may not be lost. The client may regain the feel-good factor and continue to visit for further sessions.

Save the day

Whether we have an unhappy client because something has really gone wrong, or because they simply do not appreciate our service, if we know about it we must work on our relationship. Provide as much information as we can. Give something extra, something to make them feel special, even flowers or chocolates can do the trick. We must not just stand by and shrug our shoulders. That can cost far more than giving that little bit extra.

Why managers and workers need to respect each other

Respect is our starting point

Respect is one of the most important qualities we can have in business. We need to respect our clients. We need to have their respect by delivering quality service; the very best we can do and strive to be better than the rest in our field. We all know this. I have written about it once or twice.

Great!

Respect is important in the workplace too. I am not talking about forelock touching by employees towards their bosses. I am talking about mutual respect between employees and their bosses. That means communication between them.

All my yesterdays

Going back a while in my working life, I was a manager in a small firm which was taken over by a larger firm. I had two bosses. Neither had any respect for me. In their eyes I was a worker whom they didn’t want. They made assumptions about me. They assumed that because I didn’t have a large firm background I was not a capable manager. Not only that but they assumed that I did not know as much as their “own” staff about the technical issues of a job I had been doing for a long time.

These bosses didn’t give me a good run out with any difficult work so they were not likely to find out how good I was. I began to believe their stories, and when one client I was responsible for had a really difficult issue I had that client taken away. It was humiliating at the time. As I said, I even thought they might have been right, and it was not until I left and got another job which was really challenging that I realised just how good I was. And that was really good, though I say it myself.

I received no respect from my bosses. I was not the only employee who had no respect.

All I heard from my bosses was complaints that I was not making them enough money, but actually that was because they allowed me no decent clients and no decent work. They didn’t listen to me. I tried to speak to them but all I got was sarcasm and abuse from one and total indifference from the other. The only respect I received was from my own team, the people whom I supervised as a manager. And we were a team even though they suffered because I had no respect from above.

Managing is satisfying

I always enjoyed my time as a manager, and it was for the most part very rewarding. Management is about communication, and communication involves listening. To listen to someone we have to respect their opinion, and not to receive a dismissive answer such as “I hear what you are saying”, which, translated, means “I am not listening, I don’t respect your opinion, and you are bound to be wrong”.

Of course no one is perfect; even me, but I have always tried to listen. When I forgot once I was pulled up by a business friend, even if he didn’t realise. He reminded me how to help other business owners listen too.

I don’t think there is any way to manage a business except by:

  • Valuing our workers
  • Listening to what they have to say about their work
  • Having an atmosphere of mutual respect.

Your workers may think of a better way of doing things which can improve your business and make it more efficient. They turn out to be much better than you could have hoped for if you gave them their head. They may make a great contribution to improving profitability if you listen to them.

They will deserve greater reward if they do help your profits go up. It also starts with listening. And respect.

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What information should we share with our customers?

A lot of businesses are very secretive about how they work and how they deliver their product or service to the customer or client. I suppose they like to think they are protecting their expertise or intellectual property by not sharing the process. They must think that somehow the paying customer is going to steal their idea or their knowledge.

This mindset is bad for a couple of reasons. Firstly, sometimes what the customer says they want is not what they actually want, but they have not explained it very well. Secondly, customers, being people, change their minds about what they want and end up unhappy.

I believe that if we are open about what we do, there are many benefits, including:

  • People do get what they want and they understand what they are paying for.
  • They will be more willing to pay for more.
  • They will appreciate your expertise and be more likely to refer you to their friends.
  • They will not worry about delivery and the product during the time it takes for your business to do its work.

Because a customer understands your process doesn’t mean they are going to copy it and do the work for themselves. They probably wouldn’t have the skill. If what you are doing is that simple that they can do it, then it is likely to be of low value and you shouldn’t be doing it because it doesn’t make enough money. Concentrate on the higher value stuff and remember to sell on what it is worth to the customer, not on the cost of doing it to your business.

Having recently mentioned the fish and chip shop, I should now refer to one of our local Chinese takeaways. When you place an order in there, you can see the chefs cook the food. If you go on their slack day, which is Monday, they will immediately spring into action to cook whatever you have ordered. Seeing the food cooked gives you assurance that it is all freshly served, and indeed it provides entertainment far better than the obligatory TV screen. You know everything about the delivery of your product and feel engaged in the process.

I believe that is how we should all work. Our clients and customers are much happier if they know what we are doing for them, when we are doing it, and in certain businesses we should let them watch us in action. Do you appreciate an audience?

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Business start-up planning and taking responsibility

Planning to start a new business is not easy. At the outset we need to have a real plan, and not just for the bank. We should be sure there is a need for our type of business, a niche we can fit in, and know who our clients or customers will be. Whether we realize it or not, we have to establish a team. We need our bank manager, we need a marketing person, we need a web designer, we may need an SEO expert and we need an accountant or tax adviser. There may be other people too in our team. If we are in retail then we need a supplier or several. All those we need even before we think about perhaps taking on employees.

We need to establish dialogues with each member of the team, and we sometimes need them talk to each other. Above all, we must tell them what we need from them and tell them what they need to know in order to help us.

All too often with new businesses I have seen them get into trouble or even fail because their enthusiastic owners simply forgot to communicate. They hate their web design, their website is not found because their SEO expert did not understand their business or they miss an important deadline relating to financial issues. If their advisers don’t know what they want, they have not sent them important letters from Government Departments because “they assume they would know”, and if the new business owners don’t understand the basic principles of running a business and do not ask for help, then they will probably fail, and failure is expensive in financial terms and for morale.

In the end it is all about communication. Tell your advisers everything, even if you think they ought to know. Good professionals generally won’t be insulted. If they roll their eyes it will be in private. At least you will know that they are in the loop. Leave nothing to chance, don’t be too part-time, and you will have a sporting chance of success.

Do you agree?

© Jon Stow 2010

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Why we need to have the right business in the right place

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Flirting with prospects and with clients and customers

I talk to many different business people, whether it is when I am out networking, on-line, or in dealing with my clients and prospects, or indeed when I am someone else’s client. From a consumer point of view generally I get a good service, but that is partly because I seek it out in getting recommendations before I engage a business to do something for me.

Occasionally, though, I hear of stories or experience myself a very disorganized business. It does seem that there are those who take on too much, promise loads and have not worked out when they have time to deliver. Of course if demand is there, it is sensible to take on an employee or two, or if the need is anticipated to be short term then the answer is to take on a recommended contractor for the duration. Some people do not have the courage to grasp the nettle and delegate, or do not know when they do not have the ability or skill to deliver what is required.

There are those in business like moths flying from one light to another. They flutter round one project, and before they have seen it done they fly off to another. They never get anything finished, they never respond to customers’ questions about progress and they never organize themselves to make serious money. In the end they will get a poor reputation and their business will fail.

We all like the bright lights, but instead of spending our time fluttering around them we need to keep our feet on the ground and use our heads rather than our imaginary wings. The wings are great for dreaming but first we need to be successful to realise our dreams.

Have you met a business fluttering aimlessly, trying to please everyone but failing to deliver?

© Jon Stow 2010

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Being in business is not a game

Keeping our clients in the loop

Keeping our clients in the loop

Many of us have several client projects agreed and on the go at the same time. That is the nature of many of our businesses. We all know it is important to give the client an idea of how long an engagement will take to come to fruition. The client needs to be given a realistic expectation of delivery.

Life being what it is, sometimes not everything runs smoothly. Things go wrong. Our contractor fails to deliver their part promptly. Someone is ill. Another client has an emergency and needs to be saved from complete disaster, and we have to make a decision to delay another client’s project slightly in order to save our desperate client’s bacon.

We do need to make sure everyone knows what is going on.

  • With a new project set a sensible time for expected completion bearing in mind what other work our business has and in accordance with the client’s needs.
  • Keep the client up to date on how their project is going.
  • Involve the client in the process to make them feel comfortable in the relationship.
  • If something goes wrong or there is an unforeseen delay, keep the client informed.
  • Do not make promises we can’t keep. Do not promise delivery be the middle of next week without checking we have all the resources, materials, personnel, permissions or whatever we need to make it happen.
  • Apologize if we need to. The client will understand if there really is some problem beyond our control.

If we deliver late without a proper explanation we will not be given the next project our client needs to be carried out. We will not be recommended and referred. We will lose business down the line. We may end up with a fee dispute over the current project.

In the end, keeping our clients informed is part of basic customer service, and there is nothing more important in business than that, is there?

What do you think?

© Jon Stow 2010

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