Companies are made or broken by how they handle customer service, right? For the most part, perhaps. There are exceptions, however.
Many apps and online services companies today do not provide any customer service at all. There is no help chat option, customer service email address, or problem resolution phone number. There is no obvious way to get a customer problem resolved. But maybe that’s OK. In these cases, the product/service is free, so they figure customers can’t complain. You get what you pay for. Some of those companies offer a paid version that includes customer service, in case customers want more than a shrug.
And then there are the companies that offer service, but with a presumed lag time. They will only hire so many representatives to serve their customers. If you can stand to be in line or on hold for a 15th of your waking hours, and can forgive a dropped call or two along the way, you may get a resolution and this may feel like customer service. You deal with what you get, and try to binge watch “The Wire” while waiting to be served.
Poor service can even plague companies that build empires based on service. One almost monopoly failed miserably recently, scheduling a time-sensitive delivery, no-showing and then cancelling the order much later without explanation. I was charged non-the-less. The only resolution option was an 877 number. The Rep and then her supervisor tried to “contain” my complaints. That means, no real sympathy, no explanation, no taking responsibility, no resolution, no offer to make amends. Much like a stone wall – you reach it and your only recourse is to turn around and retreat. Oh, there is one recourse – GO TO THE COMPETITION!
Which brings me to my real point for small and startup businesses. YOU ARE the competition for all those companies that are service-challenged. Customer service is how you are going to win customers away from them, and earn repeat customers, referrals, likes, engagement, and a higher profit margin! Yes, you read that right - a retention rate of more than 5% will improve your profit margin by more than 25%!
So, while you are dreaming about your new business, your business pivot, or your expanded product line, take time to dream about how your customer service will be remarkable, excellent, awesome! Build it into your plan, and reap the rewards from your amazing customers!
If you need help, join us for the The Profitable Idea online course starting in October 2022. Contact us for more information!
All the best,
The first thing anyone and everyone will tell you about funding a new business is that you have to start with friends and family. This is of course after you’ve depleted your own resources. Depending on the crowd you hang with, this could be easy or hard. But, either way, it must be a business transaction.
Start by making a list of the people who have the ability to invest. Just like an investment in the stock market, these folks should be able to lose their investment and still be okay.
By approaching friends and family as business investors first, they will view you as an entrepreneur, not a relative or friend. And if they turn you down (and many will), try to find out why and continue to hone your business plan and presentation to address those concerns.
If your first list of potential investors does not yield you the necessary amount you need, ask them for introductions to their friends. You cannot be shy about asking for money. If you think this group is tough, wait until your business takes off and you need institutional money. This whole process will seem like a cakewalk.
If you or someone you know is looking to fund a new business, a business purchase, a pivot or an expansion, join us! The Profitable Idea online course and coaching will be offered in October, 2022.
All the Best,
Long ago, my boss was reorganizing the marketing department at a big company and asked me what I wanted to do. Out of the blue, I blurted out, “I want to have my own business.” That was the first time I had ever said those words. He smiled and said, “well, then, you should be a product manager.” Product managers run the business for their specific products, and that provides a great foundation for starting a business. I became a product manager and later went on to have my own businesses. Sage advice!
Very recently, I worked with a young man, getting his MBA, who had gone through a long, unproductive job search. When I asked him what he wanted to do, he blurted out, “I want to have my own business.” Based on his interests, I responded, “think about a plumbing or electrical business.”
While technology changes the job market in almost every industry, every few years or so, plumbing and electrical work is here for the long term. Faucets will leak, freezing temperatures will burst pipes, old electrical wires will need replacing, and new buildings will need new plumbing and electrical work for many, many decades to come. The brands will change, but the plumbers and electricians will be essential, most likely, forever.
Simply put, what the world needs now is more plumbers and electricians! Owners of those businesses are retiring and no one is stepping in to take their places. Companies have been struggling for over a decade to find, hire and train new plumbers and electricians. “The Trades,” have been suffering from lack of trainees, even though plumbers and electricians can make six-figure salaries by the time they are in their 30’s. And even though plumbing and electrical work continued throughout the pandemic.
Why are young people resistant? Perhaps its because trades require physical labor and you have to get your hands dirty. The job may not seen as glamorous as technology or other product and services-based businesses. People have been raised without learning how to use power tools, so these jobs seem over their heads. You can’t work from home all of the time. Hours can be irregular.
On the other hand, many plumbing and electrical businesses provide paid internships, paying $15 or more per hour to learn the trade. Once fully trained, plumbers can earn $75 to $90 an hour. You can’t earn that much as a barista and chances are very high you won’t earn that much as a blogger. Just as importantly, successful owners of plumbing and electrical companies are looking to retire and they want to sell their businesses. That provides an opportunity to own a long term, profitable business, to build that asset, and to sell it for your retirement.
The young man I was speaking with found a plumbing business for sale by an owner who would stay for a year to train the next owner. He would also accept favorable terms. As the young man said, “if this goes through, I won’t ever have to look for a job again!”
If you or someone you know is looking to start a business, buy a business, pivot or expand a business, get some help! Join Cindy and me and our guest speakers for the Profitable Idea Coaching Program and evaluate your business ideas!
All the Best,
I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in the 100 Entrepreneurs Project, a program that provides valuable information from real business owners to wounded veterans, caregivers and spouses who want to start their own businesses. Bank financing is always part of the conversation!
Participants anticipate they'll get a bank loan. When I present funding options, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the reality is that it’s really hard, actually nearly impossible, to get a bank loan for a startup. Here’s what banks like to see:
· 2- 3 years of financial statements. Specifically, they need 2-3 years of operating profits. So the first thing you want to make sure you do is create your monthly profit and loss statement and balance sheet. Don’t know how? Outsource it, but don’t wait until you need the money to pull together invoices and re-create the wheel. You may think, “Who would do that?” I’ve seen it too many times to count. And don’t do this once a year at the end of the year. The bank will want to see any interim statements and accounts receivable agings or inventory reports.
· 2-3 years of tax returns. Again, you might be surprised at how many entrepreneurs fail to file all the appropriate tax returns, filing fees, payroll taxes, etc. The bank will order a certificate of good standing to make sure you have filed everything correctly and on time. Tax returns are especially critical for most new companies, as it’s likely you don’t have accountant prepared statements or you only have compiled statements. Bankers take comfort in the fact that if you told the IRS you made $X, you probably did.
· Personal Financial Statement. You will be required to personally guaranty the loan. Have a listing of all the assets you own by yourself and those you own with a spouse or others. If you have joint liabilities, you have to include all of them. The reality is that if your spouse doesn’t own any of the business, the banks can’t require your spouse to guaranty. BUT, if the assets you claim alone fail to give the bank the comfort they need, they can ask you to provide some enhancement, which is a round about way of adding your spouse.
· Projections. Depending on what you need the money for, the bank may require that you prepare some financial projections. If so, prepare at least two scenarios, most likely and worst case. The bank will be impressed that you are recognizing that things may not go as planned and that you’ve prepared for the possibility of a hiccup.
The list above is very basic and if you’re a start up with venture or angel money, you may not need to guaranty the loan. But I’m often surprised at how many people think they can get a bank loan with a great idea and a purchase order. It just doesn’t work that way.
If you need help making reasonable projections for your business idea, the Profitable Idea Coaching Program will not only show you how, but provide you with a model you can use to project all your business ideas and their impact on your financial outlook. We can also help you understand funding alternatives. Contact us to find out how.
All the best,
Amanda Weathersby, and Cynthia Flanders are Co-Leaders for the Profitable Idea LLC, which is now online!
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