While talking to businessmen who have owned their own companies and stayed successfully in business for decades, I found one common thread among them. It did not really matter the type of business, the size of the business, or the condition of the economy. There are common threads of success when it comes to maintaining and/or growing a business. These threads are not limited to the few I am posting here, but the ones that are mentioned are believed to be the most important.
1) Develop relationships. The one-on-one approach is still the best way to foster business relationships. If you are a small business then this means developing a consistent level of communication between yourself and your multiple clients, vendors, and/or associates.
2) Focus on keeping your word. Although trite, the truth really does set you free. When we are completely above-board about what we can or can not do, the client will gain respect for us and will soon discover they prefer to know the truth upon which they can rely, rather than receive a “pretty lie”, as it were, that turns out be unreliable.
3) Know your product/service better than anyone else. Striving for excellence so far exceeds perfectionism that it does not even bear mentioning. In fact, a company that is excellent is never really perfect but their clients really appreciate the degree of professionalism that goes into each and every transaction or service request.
4) Stay Small. Wait, what? That is right, stay small. No matter how large a company becomes the first mistake that many corporations make is that they become bigger than the people they originally sought to serve. Their growth pushes them beyond the “little people” that contributed to their success. If you do not think this is true, try calling an insurance company, or a bank, or a telephone company or an airline. Customer service is not about having some $8-hour person talking from a script to try to solve your concerns. Customer service is about a company that always enables every single employee, associate or manager to speak intelligently about the product or service they are selling and to ensure the client does not have to be transferred many times until the hassle of the call outweighs its benefit.
As real estate appraisers weather the rough seas of this turbulent economy, it is time to focus on customer service, customer contact and customer communication. Know what your customers are thinking, what they are needing, and how they are benefiting from your service. I am painfully aware that this type of communication has been almost completely eliminated by the legislation that was enacted by our current regime, however, remember that this legislation has made it just as hard and cumbersome for your clients as it has been for you. Reach back out to your contacts and ask for referrals. They are now speaking with other managers, other appraisal management companies and the like. Work the network and develop the names. Marketing is the single most important part of keeping an appraisal company alive especially in this day and age.
Of course the social networks that are online are also a great way to reach out; just remember that you as an individual have something to offer that your competition does not. Why is that?, you may wonder. It is simply because you know your specific market area, specific niche that you have carved better than anyone. If you take the time to evaluate your skills and your expertise you will find the reasons that make you better than your competition. Of course if you can’t find these reasons, then it is time to develop your skills and knowledge base so that you can compete in this new world in which we have all found ourselves.
To sum this up – “Never become bigger than the people your serve”. Even the President of the United States of America serves people; in fact, in the case of this highest office in the land, this position should be the most humble because this office serves to protect us all.
See you around the water cooler!