Customers. They are the lifeblood of any successful business. Without them, you are just standing around, thinking about how great your business ideas are, and soon on your way to the unemployment line. Your business cannot survive without cash flow, and that means customers. Unfortunately, customers can also be the worst part of your business, often causing untold grief and pain. I’m sure that most of us have thought “this would be a great job, if it wasn’t for all of these pain in the butt customers!” But remember, having no customers eventually leads to the unemployment line…
The truth is, while we often find ourselves frustrated by the very customers that we depend on for our livelihood, we fail to realize that these problems are often of our own making. As a business professional, we get to choose (to a certain extent) the people that we have as customers. Choose the wrong customers, and you will find yourself frustrated, stressed and eventually out of business. Working with the right customers, however, can easily lead to happiness and business success.
How can we identify people that may turn out to be the wrong customers? How do we find those that will be the right customers? And what does “the right customer” look like? While it takes time, dedication and practice to develop the skills necessary to sharpen your “customer radar,” your ability to develop this skill set can be the difference between success and failure.
When starting out in business, we find ourselves in the unfortunate situation of having to work with any customer that winds up on our radar. Your business will never grow without them. Your first customers serve as the foundation for growing your business, providing us with much needed capital and experience. However, you will soon learn that the “right customers” are often more difficult to find.
In the home inspection business, we are often dependent on other business professionals to recommend our services to their clients. And the reality is that successful businesses are not going to risk their valuable client relationships with an unknown commodity: they are not going to recommend a new home inspector that they know nothing about. Consequently, when starting out, you will often be working with second tier “business professionals,” the ones that established inspectors consider to be the “wrong customers.”
Working with the wrong customers can lead a new business down two distinctly different paths: failure caused by the resulting problems or success due to the experience gained from dealing with these problems. Your response to these situations will play a pivotal role in deciding your business future.
Success is often determined by your ability to weather these initial storms. Being able to handle problem clients in a professional manner, suppressing your emotions and making decisions based on sound business practices can go a long way in shaping the future of your business.
Undoubtedly, the way that you deal with potential problems will become known in your industry. For better or for worse, this will unwittingly become the most effective marketing tool that you could devise. Other professionals will soon learn of your abilities (or shortfalls) in dealing with their valuable clients, and the appropriate business will soon find you.
If you are good at dealing with problem clients, your proficiency will become known, and you will soon be garnering referrals from higher quality sources, resulting in the “right customers” finding your business. Demonstrate a lack of self-control in your problem-solving abilities, and the “right customers” will continue to elude your grasp, resulting in a continual stream of problem customers to your doorstep, and a lifetime of stress and disappointment.
The choice is yours: struggle through the difficulty of the start-up phase, learning the ropes, developing your skill set and eventually moving up the food chain towards better clientele or hit the wall, letting your emotions rule the day, refusing to learn valuable lessons and ultimately allowing the wrong customers to steer you toward business failure, and (ultimately) the unemployment line.
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