Inside the Mind of a Small Business Owner
thoughts & comments are encouraged
In my opinion, this is the most important topic of discussion to date. Clients & businesses don’t always see eye to eye (& THAT IS OK!”). In my 13 years of business I have met many different personalities & not all of us were on the same page. These things happen from time to time, so from both sides of the fence you need to be ready for this situation. It transcends (what appears to be going on) all over the country today in dealing w/ disagreements. If a situation like this occurs, you do not need to make it personal. If I had to guess, about 6 years in I developed my business mantra: “there is a solution to every problem” & sometimes you need to walk away.
When I started my business, I had limited experience in dealing with these situations. I also NEEDED the work & reputation to build my brand, so at the beginning I would do whatever it takes. I took just about every punch & moved on. This is a very important step to success by the way, because you learn from (failure) & not success. One specific example was in the first year of business & I believe was in the first month of operation. We were doing a window washing job & the client (obviously I have a biased opinion) was being difficult. When I say difficult, I mean they changed the terms of our agreement, which in turn altered the cost of the job not reflected in the original estimate. They were arguing with one of the employees & the employee started arguing back. Was it warranted? I believe it was, but at the same time was VERY UNPROFESSIONAL. To make a long story short, I decided w/ all the variables in front of me, we needed to walk off the job. At the time, it made me nervous, scared & I had an enormous feeling of failure inside. It wasn’t until a handful of years later I realized this was a great learning experience, but some how I made the best decision I could have, given the circumstances. That lone experience planted the seed that would eventually grow into a very clear & calm business motto (as stated above).
Now as I said before, there is always a solution to every situation. The main thought I would hold in my mind is: it’s never personal (at least on my end). You are dealing with a simple business transaction & there are a lot of clients out there as well as many businesses of the same kind & MANY different personalities. The previous sentence will lead into a future discussion topic of MY RULE OF 3 (when getting estimates for jobs), but more on that later. How did I get to this state of mind? I’m glad you asked (haha) … About 6 years in, I had to make another important decision. One that I could have made based on emotion & would have become personal. I remember this one vividly. This is about the time I had hired regular employees & we had our first major growth spurt as a company. As I stated in my 3rd article, these are really good times but also adds a ton of pressure. A client texted me (the text part is very important) based on a referral from one of my clients & my reputation as a business. They stated up front that they were on a budget, but so & so recommended me because they were friends & they trusted me because of them. So we talked about the job they wanted us to do & what their financial limitations were & agreed to terms. Only so much was in the budget, but I explained I could only go so low based on my business expenses before I was personally paying for the job. The terms were as follows: I would lower my hourly rate as much as I could, we would do our best & get done as much as we could, given the time frame. It should have been a very simple process, at least I thought … That day I was out on estimates & the guys had a full schedule (based on the terms & other jobs that also had their time frames). The guys did the work & moved on to the next job. I was eating lunch in my truck when I get a call. The client says they didn’t finish the job. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! I listen for about 2 minutes when I had to cut them off & explain the situation (AGAIN). Their response was “I never would have agreed to that.” I reminded them we texted the terms to each other, read the text aloud & they still wanted us to come back at the end of the day & finish the job. At this point I realized I was in a lose-lose situation financially & reputation wise. So I said I would call them back after talking with the guys, but I never did. This was another situation where I felt terrible about it in every way, but any further discussion would only lead us further down the rabbit hole.
The point of the above story is to give insight on how to NOT take things personally, for the business owner to understand you will have to take losses from time to time, but also for the client to understand that we as business owners are people too & not robots (another future topic). At the same time, these situations can be avoided before you get started on the job. Under the conditions I wish the client would have thought out the terms beforehand & actually read what we had agreed to. As a business owner I used these so called “failures” as learning experiences, but they were tough to swallow at times. Sometimes I wondered if this type of client did this intentionally, but in the end, I realized it didn’t matter the reason for it, it was just better to walk away from the situation (& THAT IT WAS OK).
The moral of both of the above story(s) is: You are not always going to see eye to eye, so don’t make it personal. As consumers & proprietors in this country we are blessed to have options to choose. Together we need to realize that sometimes based on different viewpoints, philosophy & budgets it won’t benefit each other to do business. Because we have a plethora of different options, this theory is ok. As a consumer you do not need to run to Yelp (OR MY FUTURE WEBSITE) to give poor ratings because you made it personal. As a business owner you do not need to trash clients or get all upset because of a situation w/ a client, because it is going to happen eventually. But above all I hope everyone alike realizes ahead of time that you do not have to force a situation just because you received an estimate …
Which leads to next week’s discussion: My Rule of 3! Always get 3 quotes before you decide who to hire!
As always, thanks for “lending your ear” - PRW