Monday, February 13, 2012

Improve, change or fade away?

Randy's Take — Randy Newhard, owner New Way Landscape and Tree Service

Improve, change or fade away?

“God, Randy what kind of title to an article is this,” I said to myself. Well, it’s an inevitable piece of advice we must do in life, whether its in our business life or personal life. My little dictionary says the word “change” means: to make or become different, to replace with another. And for “improve” it says: to enhance or increase in value or quality, to grow and become better. I wont look up “fade away” because we aren’t going there.... but companies can and do fade away if needed change or improvement doesn’t happen.

Let’s talk about change even though we know most people don’t like change. Why not? Well, it is uncomfortable and we all get comfortable in our own little world. Comfort is nice and secure. It feels good. Change means we have to do something different. Yep, that is in the definition — become different (or those words contractors dread) — to replace with another. Ouch!

How do we change our mindset as an owner or employee to be different when we are comfortable with what we’ve been doing? You might say, “I have worked hard for so many years to get where I am, and I don’t need to change. I have climbed the ladder and I am happy where I am.”

Let’s get to reality quickly. Our clients and their mindset have changed. We must become different in how we strategize and plan our future. Our sole function as vendor, affiliate, partner — whatever you want to call us — is to create value for our clients. What can we do to be different? How do we make ourselves stand out to our clients; how can we improve our relationships?

It all begins with communication. How often are you talking to your clients? Only when there is a problem? Only when they call you? If so, that’s not good. I can guarantee you right now, for most of your clients (especially the large dollar clients) there are two or three other landscapers who have talked to them in the last month. They want their foot in the door and they are communicating with “your” clients. Again I ask, “Are you communicating with them, too?”

So this may be your change part. But this is not that difficult — pick up the phone and call them this coming week. Thank them for their business. Tell them you appreciate them. Ask them how you can improve your service. Hmmm, there's that improve word from the title above. What else can you do for them? How about educate them. Everyone wants to become more knowledgeable, and clients appreciate you taking the time to teach them more about landscaping. I just met with a client the other day, and he told me that an employee of ours and him go way back (not our employee at the time) and the customer credits our employee with teaching him 50% of what he knows about landscape. See how much of an impression this employee made on this client that he brought this up from over 30 years ago!

There’s the value part of the word improve. This employee created value for his company back then and guess what — our company has value now with this client! This client referred us to one of his clients and we have picked up about $50,000 worth of tree work in the last month! Can you say, “nice?”

Take the time to talk to your clients. I know as a business owner you might have the time to talk to all your clients. But does your staff make or take the time to do the same? They need to be trained and they need to be given the tools and techniques in how to communicate. Times have changed, and the means by which we can communicate has changed. There is no reason we can’t communicate now. Communication brings trust! Truth and communication is the subject of another blog. As mentioned in one of my past blogs I am out for now, its time to hit the links!