What This Business is Really About
I recently attended a chapter meeting of a carpet cleaner association wherein a local member was celebrating 30 years in business. When asked to reflect and comment on a few of the keys to his success with Country Roads Carpet Cleaning, Dan Joner made some profound observations.
Joner’s success and longevity in the industry stems mainly from his belief that this business is really all about relationships, he said. By forging strong relationships with customers, employees, colleagues and competitors, he builds a strong foundation for his business.
Clients are never viewed only as sources of revenue, Joner said, but as people he is hired to help and to whom he owes a complete, high-quality service. He works very hard to build a trust with his clients that goes beyond the normal customer-business interaction. This trust leads to numerous referrals, not to mention repeat service opportunities.
In short, people deal with people they feel they can trust. This trust is established and maintained through a strong relationship of reliable, high-quality service. When a strong client relationship is in place, the likelihood of losing an account to someone dropping in and simply offering a lower price is greatly reduced.
Relationships with employees are just as important, Joner said. More than just a job for a paycheck, employees are supported and encouraged to embrace the company philosophy of treating clients and fellow employees like valued friends, respecting their property, their rights and providing value for their time and money. A very low turnover rate, very high levels of customer satisfaction and continuing success in an industry where more than 75 percent of businesses never make it past the first five years lend some weight to the concept.
When looking for new members to join his team, Joner looks for qualities like integrity, reliability and good time management, and not for previous cleaning or restoration experience. He finds it is easier to teach cleaning skills to inexperienced employees than to convey people skills and proper attitudes to those who lack them. Joner also points out that much of his company’s continued success is owed to a strong on-going relationship with his supplier/distributor. The supplier is more than just a place to buy machines and chemistry, Joner said. Supply houses are sources of training and seminars, a place to get helpful hints on solving special problems, places to pick up new ideas and product advancements, a place to look at other company’s trucks and get ideas, and much more. In many ways, the supplier is one of your company’s best friends.
Remember, a strong relationship is a two-way street; in return for being more than just a warehouse to pick up your products from, your supplier deserves your loyalty as a continuing client.
You have certainly heard it said that the more you put into something, the more you will get out of it. This is certainly true in the case of a business trying to survive in a highly competitive industry. By being an active participant in trade associations and other industry organizations, and actually sharing the successes and failures you experience with others in the same business, you will always take away more than you put in. Build relationships with your industry colleagues – yes even your strongest competitors – and you will add to that solid business foundation.
It is a bit difficult for some to see the benefits until they actually jump in and get involved. It’s a little like a driving instructor telling the student that when the car starts to skid, steering into the skid, instead of following the natural tendency to steer away from it, will maintain control. Many of us had to experience the skid before we understood the wisdom of the advice.
So what is this business really all about? It’s about providing quality, high-level service at a fair price on a consistent basis. It’s about building strong relationships with clients, fellow team members and employees, suppliers, and with industry colleagues. It’s about working with and for friends. When it’s all said and done, that’s all this business is about: relationships.