“And just like that, 60% of our clients were gone.”
That quote is from Troy Hazard in his book Future Proofing Your Business. In it, he describes the day he sent an email to 60% of his clients telling them “our business model has changed, and we can no longer do business with you.” He was determined to replace the insufferable, slow-paying, time-wasting, complaint-making clients he didn’t like with clients who paid on time, appreciated his services, were loyal, and, importantly, whom he liked and enjoyed working with. He had learned to say no to the wrong kind of people.
Are you doing the wrong work?
Sometimes it is not people who drag us down. Sometimes good people offer us the wrong kind of work. Work that doesn’t fit our business model or that we don’t fully understand or simply don’t enjoy doing. I first heard the phrase “grow with no'' from a Canadian client. He manufactures cabinets using an efficient system that moves projects from sales, to design, through production and finishing, to final installation. Highly specialized, custom millwork projects do not fit that flow. Although he is capable of doing the work, it disrupts his operations and his ability to serve his target market. He has learned to say no to the wrong kind of work.
After they learned to say no, Hazard says the morale in his company increased by “1,000 percent” (his sales too). My Canadian client improved his margins from 25% to nearly 50%. Oftentimes, less really is more.
Can you identify with Hazard’s and my client’s sentiments? The well-known 80/20 rule tells us that 80% of our problems come from 20% of our customers. Have you considered saying no to at least the 20% ? If not, why not?
I am convinced the reason we say “yes” to the wrong people and work is that we are terrified at the thought of losing a sale. We overlook the fact that sales are NOT the purpose of business. The purpose of business is to earn profits that quickly convert to cash.
Difficult customers damage your business
Difficult customers and the wrong kind of work damage us for two main reasons:
First, they consume our time. The time we spend placating difficult customers or working outside out our normal processes is not available for planning for the future, or growing our businesses, or better-serving our profitable customers, or becoming more efficient, or building our marketing, brands and reputations. They keep us from getting better at the things we enjoy and do best and that provide the highest return on our investments.
Second, they tie up our limited resources. The wrong customers and work tie up the capacity of our facilities, our skilled employees, and our cash. They add stress to our workload that sucks both the fun and the return on investment out of our businesses.
Both Hazard and my client reached a sophisticated level of understanding (or maybe frustration) at which point they decided to act. They decided to operate from a position of intent rather than fear, and both of them can tell you the date and time of the transformation.
How about you? Are you there yet? When you get “that” phone call today, the call from the annoying customer who still owes you for the last one-off job he threatened you into delivering on his schedule, try it. Tell him NO. Tell him “our business model has changed and we can no longer do business with you.” Use the time and resources you save to delight your best customers, your team, and yourself by doing what you do best.
A weight will lift from your shoulders, you will make more money, and you will grow with no.