Don't worry about growth, it will follow by itself,
when you keep your customers happy every time
Predictability: I have a client who owns a car mechanics business in Sydney, let’s call him Garry the Grease Monkey (not his real name, in case you were wondering). Gary is around 30, and he took over the garage from his mum and dad some years ago. For the past few years, it’s been him and his dad doing the work and mum doing the books. Gary and his dad make ends meet, just, but dad is ready to retire, and Gary wants to build a business that gives him the opportunity to work a bit less than 60 hrs per week and afford him the income to start a family and more of that good stuff.
So Gary found me and asked me: How can I grow my business? You need to know, that Gary is a great mechanic and that Gary and his dad do great work, significantly cheaper than the major mechanic’s workshops and dealerships, and that they do everything in their power to make your life as easy as possible. Gary and his mum and dad are nice people, they’re the kind of people you’d love to give your precious car to for a service or repair, because you know they’ll look after it as if it was their own.
Keeping your clients happy; Predictability is the key
So the first thing I did was that I told Gary to stop worrying about where the extra clients were going to come from. Getting new clients was going to be the easy part. The hard part is ensuring you can continue to deliver even when you double and triple the turnover of the workshop, and that his clients would continue to be as happy as they are now while maintaining and improving his profit margin on jobs.
How do you keep delivering consistent quality and reliability, day in day out when your business doubles and triples?
A year later, that’s exactly how it played out: the easy part was getting the clients. Gary joined a local business referral group, launched a new website, improved his local SEO, developed strong referral relationships with a few chosen businesses in the local area and the phone has started to run hot with new clients, the kind of clients who ring up to book in their car without even asking about price.
What’s been much more complicated for Gary is managing the extra work, predictably. There have been three big challenges for Gary in the past year, and these are the three things that challenge all Small Business owners in Gary’s position:
- Finding, hiring, training, motivating and keeping the right staff.
- Developing and implementing systems and processes that create regularity and predictability in the business.
- Finding and implementing business management software and applications.
Bad experiences with small business
In a city such as Sydney, most people have had bad experiences with Small Business of all kinds. Tradesmen turn up late or not at all, work is shoddy, they leave a mess when they leave and charge unexpected fees for all kinds of spurious reasons. If you do what you say you’re going to do, for the price you say you’ll charge at the time you say you’ll do it, consistently and with a smile, the customers will break down your door. We as consumers are desperate for people who offer such simple dependability and trustworthiness, and when we find someone like that, word travels fast.
But that’s exactly where the problem lies. Most Small Business owners start their business with great intentions and when they do most of the work themselves they offer exactly that kind of dependability, but when the business starts flooding in they lose the ability to manage the extra workload, they have to rely on employees that they haven’t trained and mentored properly, they have little or no established systems in place, and they don’t know what goes on between their employees end their customers.
Keeping your fingers crossed
I call it management by keeping your fingers crossed… It doesn’t work and it leads to unhappy customers and customers that go off looking for the next small business to put their faith into.
Gary and I spent most of our year together on the three challenges above. It’s what I call the work of the business owner, as opposed to the work of the business. Gary has made major strides, and he’s found a couple of great employees already and is giving them every opportunity to stay great; he’s started writing down a lot of the systems in the business, and he’s found and started implementing a big piece of software that is designed specifically for the management of mechanic’s workshops.
The clients are starting to flood in and they tell their friends about the cleanliness and efficiency of the workshop and at how easy Gary makes it for them to have their car serviced at their convenience, and those friends can’t wait to have their car serviced by Gary’s business, and they tell their friends, and so on.
Getting clients is easy, how you deal with what comes after is what differentiates the business owners from the hobbyists… Just ask Gary the Grease Monkey.
Your next steps:
If you’re interested to find out more about how I support my clients to do things I’ve written about here and make business fun again. Have a look at my 5 Step Discovery program. The 5 Step Discovery program is designed to answer the question: Is it a good idea for the two of us to work together? The first steps in the Discovery process are entirely free, and the remaining steps are nearly free or low cost. Find out more about the 5 Step Discovery process here.
Quality, Systems and the 7 Big Questions of Small Business
Business owners frequently ask 7 Big Questions about how to Build a Beautiful Business and Life.
The first of these Big Questions is: How do I grow my business?
To answer that question I have identified the 11 most important strategies to create Business Growth.
The eighth of those strategies is Grow your business with Systems. This article and others on this site, explains how Quality, Systems and Growth hang together, in some depth.