GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: These services are needed right now

Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

No Job too small.

Even if you are technically now a “skilled laborer” you can offer your services and grow your business right now… Without any special tools, equipment, or skills. You just have to know how to work hard and let people know you are available.

I am talking about the so-called small stuff. The type of work that normally falls through the proverbial cracks of normal provided services.

The true essence of a business is to find a need and fill it.

Customers, home owners, small business owners, even other companies have those needs today. They need you right now if you can offer these services:

  • Small carpentry jobs from putting in a window to hanging shelves to, yes, even hanging things on the wall, to fixing a broken step or a broken window, people are looking for someone who can do this kind of work. The kind of work that the larger companies can’t be bothered to do. General handyman or woman services to do anything a home owner needs, just the small stuff like repairing a fence or a step.
  • Other small jobs of any kind. People need someone to paint their steps, paint their shed, or cut a few branches. All jobs that are too small to even call a larger company.
  • Cleaning out attics and basements and garages and sheds and other storage areas. People need someone who can show up, clean their attic, cart away things that are no longer needed and bring that space back to life. No special skills are required. All that you need is strong hand, back and ambitions. Even just hauling away and properly disposing of anything from old paint cans to old appliances. There are no easy ways to do this right now?
  • Detailing cars: the largest detailing companies are booked out for months. But the demand for this service remains high. People would be delighted if they could call someone to come to their house and detail their vehicles in their own driveway.
  • Taking in and storing window air conditioners in the fall and installing them in the spring.
  • Winterizing homes from taking in a storing outdoor furniture including properly storing that barbecue and grill.
  • Hanging Christmas decorations on the outsides of homes and businesses. And then taking down those decorations.
  • General house cleaning on a regular basis. There is a high demand for someone who can do this.
  • And there are dozens of other things you can do, other services you can provide.

Another thing to consider is that Maine has the largest per-capita senior population and many of these people can no longer do that kind of jobs that we’ve listed above. This particular demographic is looking for someone like you right now.

All you have to do is think about it. Consider what you would like to do and get started, you’ll be surprised how quickly you fill out your work schedule. There has never been a better time or a better way to grow your own business.

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS – 16 simple rules of business: and of life

Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

No matter what anyone tells you, business is not hard, being a good business person is not hard. Being a person who is respected and sometimes even esteemed is not that difficult. Being someone that others turn to in their time of need is easy. Being that person that people respect, even if they don’t always agree with her/him is something that everyone can afford. It does not cost a lot of money to be a good guy.

And to show you how easy it is, here are 16 simple rules for being a good guy and also a good business person.

Are you ready? Don’t worry there is nothing here that you can’t handle:

1. Treat everyone you meet with the respect you feel you deserve. Treat them well.

2. Be polite, be courteous, say please and thank you, make room for others in this world space.

3. Don’t worry so much about who wins and loses, but rather find solutions where everyone wins, at least a little bit.

4. Return phone calls promptly. Or as promptly as you can. Everyone is guilty of messing this one up once in a while but try your best.

5. Try your best, speaking of which always try your best so that at the end of the day you can tell your self that you did the best, the very best you could do. As the athletes like to say, “At the end of the game make sure you left everything out there.”

6. Return emails promptly. I know, I know another one that is not that easy to do…but, yes, you’ve got it, do your best.

7. Listen to people when they are talking to you. Look them in the eye and focus on what they are telling you. This is for your own good as well as the person talking. It is amazing how much you miss when you are not really listening. Ask your spouse or partner.

8. When you decide you hate a certain group of people, whatever that group might be, there’s a lot to go around, think how you will react, be honest, when you meet one person from that group at a time. It is much harder to hate one individual at a time than it is to hate an entire group.

9. Find ways to help people, your customers, your suppliers, your bosses, the people you work with, the people who work for you. Whatever they are doing. Whatever their job is, try to help them do it better.

10. Along those same lines, always leave people better than when you found them. Look for ways to make their lives better for having met you, either for the first time or the first time that day.

11. Be inspirational. No, you don’t have to give them a Knute Rockne, “rah rah” pep talk, But you can inspire them to take that next step in whatever they are doing. To show them that what they are doing is important and they are the better for doing it.

12. Be generous. I like to say, “allow me to be generous” when I work with people. All I mean by that is if we work together and if we are not concerned about who does what because we are confident that together we will succeed, then we will succeed and have a true win/win partnership. Remember that old adage, “It’s amazing what we can do when we don’t care who gets the credit.”

13. Be honest. Always tell the truth no matter how much it hurts. If you are selling something and it is going to be late, then tell them as soon as you know. Remember those words of wisdom, “The Godfather insists on hearing bad news immediately. Deliver both bad news and good news, but deliver the bad news “more quickly”

14. Take the heat if you have done something wrong. Stand up and take it on the chin…and then start fixing it as quickly as possible.

15. Listen to other people’s ideas. Don’t be so stuck in your ways that you are not willing to hear other’s ideas, especially those people who are not from your own generation. It’s amazing how much you can learn when you open your mind up to other’s ideas.

16. And finally and my personal favorite. Always help out those who have done you wrong at one time or another. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s fun, and the best part is that… it freaks them out!

There you have it. I told you they weren’t hard. Follow these 16 simple rules of business and people will love working with you…and, of course, you’ll grow your business.

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: Be a little better

Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

To be successful in business you have to find ways to be better. You have to get creative and find ways for your customers to prefer working with you rather than with your competition.

Finding new ways to delight your customers can be fun. Actually, being better than your competition is fun, not to mention profitable.

As a business owner you should always be thinking about your customers and yes, also about your competitors.

You need to study your customers to see what they like, what puts smiles on their faces? What keeps them coming back?

And you have to study your competitors to see what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong, and how you can be better.

Often, it’s the little things that can make you outstanding in the true sense of the word.

You can be the roofer who leaves the site spotless once the roof is complete. I was once wowed at the site of a member of the company that did my roof a few years ago, going over the driveway with some kind of magnetic rake to make sure no nails were left behind.

I once visited a restaurant, a very busy restaurant in Milwaukee that delighted people who were waiting for over an hour for a table by passing out hot buttered rolls.

Or how about that family-owned hardware store where the woman in the paint department spent a good 15 minutes with my mother talking about just the right paint to redo a lawn chair? Mom talked about that for years after.

None of these things were hard or expensive but they were valuable enough to make customers for life.

Think about your own business. What can you do to be outstanding? What can you do to be special.

Oh, here is an idea, ask your customers themselves. Go ahead ask them for their opinion?

If you own a restaurant, ask them to fill our a simple questionnaire. If you own a service business, sit down and honestly ask your customer what you could do differently and better?

When you finish that landscaping job and are showing the customer what you’ve done, ask her if there is anything else she would like. Ask her if she has any ideas of services you could offer or things you could do better.

Study your industry, always be learning about your job. You can even learn by watching the right TV shows. Just by sitting in a chair in your den with a notebook you get ideas on how to run a better restaurant, bar, diner – you know all those shows. Get ideas from watching HGTV and the Discovery channel. Always be learning and, yes, don’t be afraid to steal those ideas and use them for your own business

In the end it’s all about how dedicated you are to finding new and innovative ways to grow your business.

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: People… and people

Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

If you have not figured this out yet, you’d better get on board and do it fast. If you have been known to treat your people poorly and get away with it, you are about to get a rude awakening, and I mean a really rude awakening.

It’s a new ball game out there. People have choices of whether or not they want to come to work for you like we have not seen probably in our lifetimes.

There are not enough people to fill all the job openings we have. And the good people who are out there. The ones you would love to have come work for your company are being very selective about who they tie their wagon to.

What bothers me is there are still companies in the 20th century, mind you, there are still companies who treat their employees very poorly

The rules are simple, if you treat your employees poorly, they are going to turn around and treat your customers as poorly, if not worse. That has always been the case.
If you want to WOW the customer, first, you must WOW the people who WOW the customer.”

And now with the labor shortages we are experiencing and will continue to experience for the next few years, we are going to have to up our game if we are serious about succeeding. And frankly, it is a game that has needed upping for years now.

And no, it’s not just about Covid, its not just about some people getting extra money: all that might be the latest factor, but in reality, if you choose to remember we were having a hard time manning (and womanning) our shops even before Covid. Except back then we were blaming it on our favorite target “the millennials” (don’t you love it when over the hill 60 and 70 year old starts explaining how millennial think?) Nope, it was more about our work not being that rewarding. It was all about the rest of us being so unexcited about what we were working to make it exciting for young people coming into our industry.

Be honest, how many of you have a full blown orientation package in your company where you talk about our industry from its rich history of building products that have changed the world?

Remember when we hire someone, we are not giving them a job, we are giving them a future. We have to show them they are entering an exciting career, one that we ourselves are excited about showing them.

And then we have to treat both new and current employees with the kind of loyalty and respect that we want them to give to our customers, not to mention, and this is important…to one another.

Here are a few tips for successfully hiring and most importantly keeping good people no matter what business, you are in.

• Show them a future;
• Get them to care about what they are doing;
• Lead by example;
• Build a culture in which individuals have the means to truly thrive, to succeed. To be happy in their work, to be fulfilled and growing.

Employees are our first customers, our most important customers.

Good employees are the most important asset you have. Invest in them and they will invest their time, and passion in your business in turn. And together you will grow your business.

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: Stay in touch with customers

Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

Sure, you see your customers all the time. You see them when you do their landscaping or when they come into your restaurant for a meal, or when they come in for their monthly spa treatment, or when they call you to set up the annual snow removal arrangements. I know that you see that at those times, but what about the rest of the time?

It is always important to stay in touch with your customers even when you are not actually providing them services or products.

Whether you own a hardware store, or a dry cleaning business, or a restaurant, it is important to stay in front of your customers, even when you are not in front of them.

Now, I am not suggesting anything as obnoxious as calling them up once in a while, nobody wants to make that call or especially, to receive that call.

But there are many other ways to stay in touch with your customers. What we call “soft touches”

First of all, there is always advertising in local newspapers like this one. The rates are very economical; and the readership is local enough so that if you are a local small business, you are advertising to your customer base. Advertising locally is a very good way to stay in front of your customers.

The monthly newsletter is one of the best ways to stay in front of your current customers, but even better, it is a way to reach out to new potential customers. By using inexpensive software like Constant Contact, you can easily compile a list of your customers, as well as some target customers.

Create an attractive template and then send one out once a month. It does not have to be long. In fact, it should not be too long. The newsletter can be made up of a message from you, the owner, some tips about your product or service.

If you are a landscaper you can provide some short seasonal tips on what has to be done to your lawn at this time of the year. If you own a restaurant, you can give out some recipes, or better yet, highlight some new tempting dishes you are offering this month.

The newsletter can also provide some special discount coupons to urge your customers to use your services during that month. You can also provide a little humor: a tasteful anecdote or joke and maybe even a quiz or trivia question. The key is to make the newsletter pleasant and attractive enough that people will look forward to receiving and opening in when it shows up in their email box.

One of the keys to s successful newsletter is to have an ever growing list of current and potential customers. With your current customers ask them to sign up for your newsletters. Offer them incentives like “Valuable Special Discounts” just for signing up. Don’t push, be subtle and friendly about it, make it fun and appealing. Put a sign up email address in your advertising if you advertise, put it on your flyers and your invoices.

The more people who consistently open and read your newsletter the more potential customers your will have. And that’s a perfect way to stay in touch and, yes, to grow your business.

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: Great customer service on a budget

Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to deliver great customer service.

Imagine a barber shop on Main street in your town. This shop is in fact the most popular in town. The barber, Fred, seems to know everyone’s name. He knows all about their family, what they do for a living and most importantly, how they like their hair cut, how often they come in and all kinds of other little things about them.

“How does he do it?” I can hear one of you asking. “He must have a very expensive customer service computerized systems?” Another one of you is thinking. Or maybe he just has an incredible memory for minutia? No, it is none of those things. Do you want to know what he has? Do you wonder what kind of customer retention plan he has invested in?

His shop is always busy. No one has ever seen the shop empty. He has never been seen sitting in his own barber chair reading the paper.

His business is successful. He bought that beautiful old Garland house on Birch Street last year, so he has to be doing well.

Fred seems to know everything about his customers. What they want. What they need. He knows when to offer them that special straight razor shave that he gets premium dollars for. He has a deep personal knowledge of all of his customers and what they want.

Okay, here is his big secret. Are you ready for this? He keeps a three by five index card of each of his customers. He has a set of questions that he wants answered on each of them and then he adds to them as he learns more about them.

The whole system cost him about five bucks a year…and the time and effort and passion for his business that it takes to make it a great and successful business.

And do the customers come back? Oh, do they ever. Everybody likes to be known, everybody has a comfort zone for someone who cares enough about them as customers to learn all they can about them and what they want.

This is the very essence of a good CRM (Customer Retention Management) System. That’s all it takes. A little effort and a few index cards and you’ll have the best CRM system money can buy.

In the end all business is people business, and all great businesses care enough about their customers to take the time to learn, not on what they need, but also what they want. These businesses are what is called Customer-centric businesses. And being customer centric is the very best way to grow your business.

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: The book business owners should read

Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

Here is a book all business owners should read:

Leaders Eat Last: Why some teams pull together, and others don’t.
By Simon Sinek
Copyright 2014 Portfolio/Penguin Random House L.L.C.
Price: $18.00 Paperback
Pages: 350 pages with index
A time for leaders

Leaders create culture and culture; the right culture, is what makes great companies and organizations. Leaders lead by example. Leaders allow the key word there being allow their teams to be great.

No matter the size of your organization from three people to 3,000 people, culture is always important. Culture is what makes a great company in the end. And that must come from the top.

The simple example of a company president walking down the hall of his company and bending down to pick up a piece of paper off the floor is powerful. Much more powerful than all the talks about keeping the place clean.

Leaders look out for their people. In fact, author Simon Sinek says that we need to treat employees like our children and look out for them the same way we would our children.

A few years back, in the ‘80s, when Milton Friedman’s economics declared that companies only goal was to make money for the shareholders. Yikes! Look where that got us.

The big heroes at that time were Jack Welch and Al Chainsaw Dunlap whose answer to every problem was to cut heads. And whenever they did that, Wall Street cheered!

As an aside the children and now grandchildren of these headless victims watched this happen. It affected them first hand. No wonder they come to us today with a deep built-in distrust of corporations.

Consider where we are today, now when these ensuing generations are wary of joining companies, They don’t trust companies. They witnessed first hand that lauded leaders like Mr. Welch bragged about laying off ten percent of his management staff every year. What are they supposed to think?

No longer is this style treatment working, nor will it work in the future. The new trend of leader eats last. This means she takes care of here people first…and then they will take care of her.

As an example of the new kind of leader, the kind who is succeeding today, the author relates the story of Bob Chapman and his company Barry-Wehmiller. Bob Chapman is known for buying distressed companies and making them better. When one of these companies ran into trouble, Bob did not want to lay off people, which went against everything that he had been taught. He felt that if his family ran into financial difficulties, he would not send a couple of his kids away. And the same thing applied to his company.

Instead of laying off people he talked to his people, and they found ways to cooperate with one another to make sure everyone took care of everyone else.

This is just one example of how leaders eat last. How they are finding ways to take care of their people which in turn will take care of the company.

Okay, I can hear some of you humming Kumbaya in disgust. Sorry you feel that way, for your own sake. You had better read this book and get religion, or you are going to be one of those companies that goes out of business for lack of a work force. It will certainly help you be a great leader of a growing company.

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: Why are you in business?

Growing your business

by Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.”

This is the ad that Ernest Shackleton placed in the London Times to recruit the crew of the Endurance that was setting out for the South Pole.

He not only got a crew. He got a great crew of men who went through nearly unbearable hardships and yet all came back alive by looking out for each other. If you get a chance, read books about their adventures, it’s a fascinating and inspiring story.

But it’s all about “why” people do things. Why they are in business.

The Why is the reason Apple computer is a great company.

The Why is the reason men and women go to war.

The Why is the reason men and women become clergy.

The Why is the reason we went to the moon. Remember that quote from JFK? “We go to the moon not because it is easy, but because it is hard,”

Why some businesses seem to have everything going for them but “why”, and for some reason, in the end they still fail.

And that reason is that they have no real purpose. Or true understanding of why they are in business. He says that without purpose, without a clear and direct sense of purpose people will not give their all.

As an example, he uses one of my all-time favorite stories of the two stone masons who were both laying stone on a large building. When the first one was asked what he was doing, he looked at the person asking the questions and with great tedium in his voice said, “The same I do every day, laying stone after endless stone.” When the second stone mason was asked what he was doing, he looked up at the building with a great sense of exuberance and said, “I am building a magnificent cathedral!”

I cannot think of a better example of what the difference is between having a cause, a purpose and a mission and not having one.

Think about it, what is the “Why” of your business? Why did you start the business. What was your mission? What did you want to accomplish?

Think back to that time and try to remember what you were feeling back then? Get that feeling back…and then pass it on to your team. Instill it in your company culture. Start building your own magnificent cathedral. And you’ll start seeing your business grow and prosper.

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: What do your customers want?

Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

The best way to know what your customers want is to ask them. One of the biggest disconnects between your company and your customers is not having a comprehensive agreement of what services the customer expects from you.

I have found that a clear understanding of what a customer’s expectations are goes a long way in you being able to meet or even exceed those expectations.

I know it is not always that easy. That customers are not always clear in expressing their needs. And sometimes they are not even sure themselves what they want which might lead you to assume what they want…and that leads to very dangerous ground indeed.

In the end it is so much better to take the right amount of time to have a good discussion with your customer and this way create a clear and concise understanding of what those expectations actually are.

Here are a few tips on guiding that discussion with your customer to make sure you get a complete understanding of what they expect from you:

  • Listen carefully when the customer tells you what they want.
  • If you do not yet get exactly what they want, ask more specific questions.
  • Once they answer you, repeat what they told you so you both know that you both understand.
  • Sometimes a customer says one thing but really means another. Ask again for clarification.
  • Dig in to make sure that what the customer is asking for is really what is going to solve their problem. This is especially true when you are brought in for home repairs like plumbing or electrical work. Find out what the real problem is rather than what the customer wants you to do. What they want you to do might not be the right solution for their problem.
  • And always not only listen but actually hear what your customers are telling you.
  • Once you’ve had your discussion with the customer and you feel that, yes, you have a good understanding of exactly what he or she wants from you, then it is a good idea to document it. Depending on the complexity of the project or the product, write down exactly what you understand the customer wants and give it to them to review, agree with and sign. When working extensive home improvements projects for example, this is a must.

The success of your product and service is based on whether the customer is happy or not. In the end it doesn’t really matter if your product is perfect, if it’s not what the customer wanted then you all lose.

Having a good and clear understanding of what your customers’ expectations are and meeting those expectations is, in the end, the best way to grow your business.

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: Know your competition

Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

We all have competition; we all have people and companies we are competing with vying for the same accounts. The hospitality businesses for example (restaurants, pubs, take-out food places) are all tremendously competitive businesses. As are service companies, construction companies, retail stores and just about every other kind of business.
We live in a capitalist society and capitalism leads to competition…thank goodness! Can you imagine what life would be like if there was only one restaurant in your town? If there was only one hardware store? It would not be good. If you didn’t have variety, a number of companies to choose from, things would not only get very stale the service could become deplorable. This is why at the federal level we have anti-trust, anti- monopoly regulations.

Remember when all we have for phone service was good old Ma Bell? They controlled everything. I remember sneaking an extra extension phone in my house which was illegal! (fortunately, the statute of limitation must be up so I can breathe easier now. Whew! But you get the point, those of us who remember living under the iron rule of the Ma Bell regime know what happens when a company has a monopoly, and it is not a pretty picture.

But now, fortunately, we do have competition and no matter what our business is, competition makes us better. It makes us more well…competitive.

Here are a few ways to deal with the competition in your business: (inspired by the book Amaze Every Customer Every Time, by Shep Hyken)

  • Instead of disrespecting the competition learn from them.
  • Check them out, see what they are doing to get and keep customers and then find a better way.
  • Use what you know about them to better differentiate your business.
  • Consider working with them in partnership. Healthy competition is always more productive than the alternative.
  • When researching your competition figure out what you can do better. It will make your company better.

And finally, ask yourself how your company’s strengths differ from those of your competitors. Do these strengths give you an advantage that generates referrals from competitors.

And one more tip: never, ever, underestimate your competition, always treat them with respect and as a worthy opponent. In the end it will make your company better and will help you grow your company.