It’s an interesting experience for me whenever someone finds out I’m a business coach. Some will ask for feedback, while some feel the need to go into “show off” mode. I understand both of these responses, although neither are particularly useful in the moment.
But last week I encountered a business owner who honestly baffled me. I needed some repair work done at my home. My husband had contacted a few people who failed to show up to make an estimate. Sensing his frustration, I checked my local chamber of commerce to find a trustworthy person to do the job. The first one that I spoke to told me that he did not have expertise to do the project (I really liked him and appreciated his honesty and will likely call him for different kind of work). The second one responded to a voicemail I left within half an hour of my call, and said he would come by that afternoon.
Later that day, he showed up at the promised time, reviewed the job thoroughly, made a list of materials, provided an estimate, and said he could start the next day (a Thursday) and he would finish by Sunday if we didn’t mind work being done on the weekend. We said we didn’t mind and he told us he’d send someone the next day.
My husband and I were thrilled. After weeks of looking for someone to do the work, we found someone who was responsive, organized and timely.
The contractor also mentioned that since he and I were both were members of the chamber, he knew how important the project was, and specifically said, “The thing is when you work for a chamber member, you have to do the job right because you know that they will tell everyone else at the chamber if there are any problems”. We laughed, and my confidence in him soared because he realized how important it was to make the best possible impression in that valuable network.
He told us that his guy would be there the next morning at 8:00 am.
The first day, the assistant didn’t arrive at 8:00 but rather at 10:00. He worked for a few hours and was gone by 3:00 (after taking an hour and a half lunch break). We were a little bit nervous because reality had not met our expectations on day one. The worker told us he would see us the next day at 8:00, and once again arrived after 10:00 am. The contractor came by that afternoon to review the project with us and confirmed that he would be back the next morning (Saturday) at 8 am to continue the work.
By Saturday at 11:30, no one had come to work on the project and I now had a gaping wall in front of my house. When I called the contractor, he asked me “How’s it going?” I told him that it wasn’t “going” at all since no one was working on the project. He responded with, “Oh….yeah…we’re not going to make it there today.” When I asked him when I could expect him, he said he would be there between 8:00 and 8:30 on Sunday morning. Guess what? He never showed up on Sunday either. Far from finished, our house was left in horrific condition for days.
Monday morning, I left on a business trip. My husband told me that the contractor left a message on our voicemail apologizing for the trouble and said he would be there on Tuesday morning. Some work was done on Tuesday, but he took a five hour break to “get some tools” and left after 7 pm. No one showed up on Wednesday…or Thursday.
A week ago we were doing the happy dance about this guy. Now we wish we’d never called him.
I’m baffled how people like this stay in business. As frustrating as this experience has been, there are three business lessons to be learned here:
Show Up – it’s a shame to me that the bar is so very low on this one but showing up has to be the most very basic of all business rules. Whether you work in an office, in the field, or at home, you must show up. Be available. Be accessible. Be engaged when your customers expect you to be there.
Communicate – Life happens. I understand. There are events that occur that cause us to be late or to even need to cancel or reschedule events. The basic rule is to communicate with those who are impacted by these events. If you can’t make it to my house on Saturday, CALL me. Just leave me a message and let me know that you won’t be there! I may not like it but at least I know what’s going on.
Create Referral Sources – Although I have discussed this before, making an impression about who you are and what you do is core to the success of every business. Everyone you encounter is a potential referral source. Research has shown that when you are happy with a business, you tell two people. But when you are unhappy, you tell ten people. Anyone that you are talking to about someone else’s business is a referral source. They are either telling people, “I like him. Use this company next time you have a similar project.” Or “This guy was awful. Avoid doing business with this company!” It’s a fatal mistake for businesses to think that no one is talking about them. They are; it’s up to you to influence what they are saying.
Note that I will make certain that the 1600 members of my chamber of commerce know how unreliable this contractor is. It’s a bizarre situation, because he acknowledged that I would share his story – good or bad – with other chamber members before the project started. Well, unfortunately, the story is a bad one.
Don’t let this happen to you! Follow the 3 rules: Show Up, Communicate, and Create Referral Sources. Pursuing these objectives will keep your business on track. The rules may be fundamental, but mastering fundamentals is the mark of a champion.