It seems that no matter what type of business we’re in, there are going to be many different points of view on how to run that business. Some people are generous and believe that there’s enough customers out there to sustain everyone that’s willing to put serious effort into their business. Most people, unfortunately, operate under the belief that everything in this world is a zero-sum game; meaning that there’s only so much of a certain thing to go around (in this case, business in their particular industry). They believe that the more someone else gets, the less that remains for them. While this may be true for some industries, the reality is that in most businesses, there are enough customers to go around.
This zero-sum belief permeates many businesses. New students coming into the home inspection industry are often concerned that there may already be too many inspectors in their local market for them to be able to compete. My answer to these students is always the same: unless you are creating a brand-new industry that’s never before existed, then yes, there’s already competition out there, and yes, the market is already saturated.
However, even though there may be a glut of home inspectors in your territory, there is always room for more good home inspectors.
This holds true for whatever business you’re thinking about starting. Yes, the competition is already out there, and yes, they’ve already gotten a head start on you. But regardless of this fact, there are opportunities in every marketplace for a quality business to establish itself as one of the “go-to names” in an industry.
Think about the food scene in your local area. The odds are that you’ve got more than enough restaurants and fast-food joints to choose from. There is likely no sector of the food market that is not currently being served. But this fact doesn’t keep a new restaurant from trying to muscle its way into the local consciousness. Yes, the odds are stacked against them, and yes, they’re likely to go out of business in short order, but they still give it a shot. Nevertheless, there are still new restaurants that give it a go. There are always entrepreneurs that believe that they can make a dent in an already over-crowded marketplace. While a good number of them are out of business before you even get a chance to try their menu, there are always success stories. Someone who does such a good job of operating their business that you find yourself waiting in line for dinner one night, amazed at their success; a restaurant that finds a way to survive, and thrive, in an already over-saturated local food scene.
I’m a firm believer that there are enough customers to go around. A quality business will always be able to survive (and thrive.) If you’re not making it, or your clients seem to be migrating to your competitors, then it’s time for some self-examination.
Are you providing as good a product as your competitors?
Has your level of customer service dropped off?
Are you doing everything in your power to assure your clients are taken care of and appreciated?
In today’s crowded marketplace, clients have choices. And in today’s interconnected, social media driven world, access to information about those choices is easier than ever to obtain. If you’re not offering the public a good value for their money, they will easily find out and just as easily find someone else who will.
Personally, I don’t believe that my business it’s a zero-sum game. I don’t believe that someone who gets their slice of the pie is necessarily stealing pie from my plate. If I’m losing customers to my competitors, that says more about my business methods than theirs. If that’s happening, it’s time to look in the mirror and ask myself some tough questions about my commitment to providing the best product I can for my clients.
I believe that there’s enough business to go around, and I have no problem helping others in my industry for two main reasons. First, I believe that better overall quality in the home inspection sector is good for everyone. It does my business little good to have a competitor out there giving my profession a bad name. If someone is doing a horrible job and making the home inspection industry look bad, ultimately that can have a detrimental effect on my overall business. If there’s a bad review on social media, or a non-flattering story on the local news or an article in the paper about an inspector that did something wrong (or illegal), that’s something that sticks in a consumer’s mind and makes them a bit more hesitant to even consider paying for my services. You have to look no further than the bad reputation that personal injury lawyers have in our current times to see this effect.
Helping my industry get better helps my business.
Secondly, I believe that most people are willing to “return the favor,” and are happy to help out someone who has helped them in the past. When I help other people get better in their businesses, they will be more willing to give me a positive review or lend me a helping hand when the time comes. Paying it forward is always a good move.
This approach to business is often opposed by others in my industry, who think I’m giving away business secrets to my competitors. They believe that this knowledge should be hoarded and not shared with others, lest the new inspectors steal away their clients. There are two main reasons why I dispute this erroneous belief. One is that unless you’re creating something brand new, all the necessary information to be successful is already out there in the public domain. Anyone who wants to learn about my industry has an unlimited number of resources from which to ascertain knowledge. There is nothing that I’m doing that I didn’t learn from someone who’s done it before me. While, I may tweak and modify that knowledge to make it work better for my specific situation, it’s still something that’s already out there. This industry’s been around for a long time; there’s nothing new under the sun.
Secondly, even though I work in a competitive industry, the simple fact is that a business’ success always comes down to the individual business owner’s commitment to be the best. Even though I may be giving a competitor a “peek under the hood,” and sharing with them specific methods and thought processes, the reality is that it takes more than access to that knowledge to be successful.
The fact is that the commitment required to follow through and take all the necessary steps required to be successful in business will end up scaring off half of my competitors before they even try. Forty percent of competitors will give it a try but won’t be able to do it at the same level that I’ve achieved and will pose little to no problem for my business. The remaining ten percent will learn, implement this knowledge and will ultimately achieve success. If this happens (see “return the favor” above), they’re often happy to get in touch with me to 1) thank me for helping them and 2) share with me the lessons that they’ve learned as a result of their success.
Customers are all around us; there’s no shortage of clients for a well-run business. The trick is figuring out how to become that well-run business. But, really, it’s no secret. Provide a quality product at a reasonable price. Take care of each client like they’re your only client. Learn from the successful businesses that have come before you, and be willing to give back to them (and the rest of your industry.)
It’s as easy as pie.
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