Management

Staying "Open"

October 17, 2011


“The weak shall perish and only the fit survive.”
– Robert William Service

    Startling epiphanies can arrive from the strangest places. For example, I recently came across this consulting firm’s headline: “We Help with Accounting, Marketing, Management, Hiring and Staying Open.” And then it hit me: much of success in business is just “staying open”!

In other words, sometimes you just need to outlast the other guy!

Our recent (some would say current) Great Recession has proved that hunkering down and just getting through the next week/month/year can be success in itself. After all, long before thinking about explosive growth, you must first focus on survival! So here are some keys to finding success just by “staying open”:

Force Yourself to do What You Dislike

The things you don’t want to do inevitably are the weak links in your company. Small-business failures can almost always be traced back to the owner’s failure to confront and conquer these problem areas. I call this very common problem “hiding out.” So quit living in denial and…

Identify Your "Displacement Activities"

Sure, I know you are busy, busy, busy. But doing what? Very likely you’ve “cherry picked” your daily tasks and are doing the things you enjoy and are comfortable with! Even worse, you are putting off and/or ignoring the stuff you don’t like. If you do not have the luxury of delegating unpleasant jobs to someone else then you personally must step up to the plate! Avoid these very dangerous Displacement Activities by asking yourself every day…

What is My Highest and Best Use Today in My Business?

You probably won’t like the answer and if so refer to the first key above! Remember too that your entire life course/career can become a giant Displacement Activity! For example, do you want to eventually “get off the wand”? If so, that means your business will need to grow dramatically so you can add employees.

Yet if you stubbornly insist on staying on the truck physically cleaning carpets full time, you have probably fallen into the Displacement Activity Trap! Another common area most small-business owners hide out from is…

Serious Financial Analysis

That’s right: serious analysis, not just glancing at the bottom number on your monthly P & L and either sighing or cheering! Sure, when things were booming you could slide by with this slap-dash approach to your finances.

But now? Chuck Violand says “More than ever, every number tells a story.” Are you listening, focusing and obsessing over your financial statements? You should be and especially with the goal to…

Cut Your Overhead

Ben Franklin was wrong. Sometimes a penny saved can be more, much more, than a penny earned. For example, let’s say you slice $150 monthly out of an under-performing marketing contract. (I can think of one with the initials “YP”!)  Now granted, $150 is not a huge deal for most of us. But now think of your savings over the next year- $1,800! Even better, that $1,800 saving will continue for years without any initiative on your part. And finally, think how many jobs you would have needed to book and clean to clear as profit that $1,800!

Of course, cutting overhead won’t pay your remaining bills so you must also…

Get Regular Cash Flow

Since carpet cleaning is an emotional event driven by the seasons, weather and events it can be a feast or famine business. Meanwhile all the overhead you couldn’t prune away will continue to haunt you every single month. So search for a base of regular funds coming in you can count on.

This consistent cash flow can come from regular commercial or residential Stay Beautiful accounts or just be work from offsetting seasons such as water or fire damage restoration. Some carpet cleaners have even gone back into the lower profit margin janitorial industry solely for the regular cash flow it provides. Now of course, these plum commercial accounts are not going to fall into your lap. So you must make a solemn vow to develop …

A Consistent Face-to-Face Sales Campaign

Sadly, most carpet cleaners engage in selling their services the way I diet. I complacently eat everything without a care in the world until I can’t fit into my favorite pair of pants. Uh-oh! Then I go into crash diet mode until I’ve lost my weight. Wonderful! Except I then thoughtlessly return to my bad old way of eating and… well, you know the rest of the story!

Too often the same routine holds true for small carpet cleaning companies. The owner gets way too involved in the Displacement Activity of actually doing the physical work. So he or she doesn’t look down the road for future jobs and then catastrophe strikes: the phone stops ringing! So now a desperate entrepreneur must engage in “Binge Selling,” which will eventually produce a few jobs, so then the owner stops selling and starts cleaning! So now all sales efforts stop until the next crisis and this destructive cycle gets repeated again and again!

Listen carefully here: all marketing (and especially your commercial sales efforts) should be a process, not an event! (For a free download of the commercial carpet cleaning sales process I used for 20 years go here: http://tiny.cc/SFSsell)

Treasure Each and Every Customer

When times are good and customers are clamoring for your services it is easy to fall into complacency, even arrogance. So the great customer experience you should be delivering at every transaction can become a little “frayed around the edges.” The subtle danger of this sloppy service is these “passively dissatisfied” customers seldom complain – they just don’t come back! You of course are too busy to even notice this silent customer erosion till times get slow and you start asking, “Where is everyone?” So starting today focus on making a Customer Cheerleader out of each and every client.  

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