Customers. They’re the lifeblood of any successful business. Without them, we’re just standing around, thinking about how great our business ideas are. Without them, we’re soon on the way to the unemployment line. No business can survive without cash flow, and that means customers. Unfortunately, customers can also be the worst part of our 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 us 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 we find ourselves frustrated, stressed, and eventually out of business.
Working with the right customers, however, can easily lead to happiness and business success.
So, that leads us to the million dollar question: Is there a way to identify those people that are going to be the wrong customers? How do we find the ones that will be the right customers? And, as long as we’re asking questions, what does “the right customer” look like?
The truth is that it takes time, dedication, and practice to develop the skills necessary to sharpen our “customer radar.” How quickly we’re able to develop this valuable business skill can mean 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 crosses our path. While we’re trying to grow our revenue and our client base, we’re dependent on anyone and everyone that decides to hire us. Without them, we’ll never be able to survive. Our first customers serve as the foundation for our growing business, providing us with much needed capital and experience.
But it won’t take us too long to discover that the “right customers” are often much more difficult to find.
In the home inspection business, we’re often dependent on other professionals to recommend our services to their clients. The unfortunate reality is that those other professionals are not going to risk their valuable client relationships by introducing an unknown commodity into the equation: they’re not going to recommend a new home inspector who they know nothing about.
Consequently, when we’re just starting out in the inspection business, we’re often working with second tier “professionals,” the ones that established inspectors consider to be the “wrong customers.” It’s quite unfortunate that it works out this way, because the customers we need the most protection from wind up on our radar when we have the least amount of experience.
We need the most protection from the people we’re dealing with when we know the least amount of things we can use to protect ourselves.
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. How we respond to these situations plays a pivotal role in deciding the future of our business.
Success is often determined by our ability to weather these initial storms. Being able to handle problem clients in a professional manner, suppressing our emotions, and making decisions based on sound business practices can go a long way in shaping the future of our business.
Undoubtedly, the way that we 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 we could devise. Other professionals will soon learn of our abilities (or shortfalls) in dealing with our clients, and the appropriate business will soon find us.
If we’re good at dealing with problem clients, our proficiency will become known, and we will soon be garnering referrals from higher quality sources, resulting in the “right customers” finding our business. Demonstrate a lack of self-control in our problem-solving abilities, and the “right customers” will continue to elude our grasp. As a result, a steady stream of problem customers will find their way to our doorstep, leading to a lifetime of stress and disappointment.
We’ve got a lot of control over where we end up in our business. The choice is ours to make. We can struggle through the difficulty of the start-up phase, learning the ropes, developing our skill set, and eventually moving up the food chain towards better clientele. Or we can hit the wall, letting our emotions rule the day, refusing to learn valuable lessons that the business gods are trying to teach us. Choose right and we’re likely to be the owner of a successful business. Choose wrong and we end up with the wrong customers steering us towards business failure and (ultimately) the unemployment line.
If you do good work for good clients, it will lead to other good work for other good clients. If you do bad work for bad clients, it will lead to other bad work for other bad clients.Michael Bierut
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