Have you stopped to think about it? Any time recently? Seriously? Many businesses have struggled to survive, let alone thrive, in the ongoing saga descripted as our ‘economic recovery.’ Yet, even as we all face the same challenges, there remain opportunities to stand out from our peers.
One opportunity, all too easily overlooked, is how we choose to present ourselves daily. Either by active choice, or by default, the material condition of our business sends a very direct message to would-be clients and customers.
Consider two auto repair businesses. One is run down, carpets worn and filthy, dingy interior, and orange vinyl furniture dating back to the late 60s, early 70s. The counter, if clean, has had its Formica worn through, leaving you to wonder how many people before you rested their arms upon it.
The second business, is brightly lit, carpets not only clean, but perhaps new. Everything is shiny or, it not meant to shine, clean and bright, like it should be. The counter, leaves you with the impression you’re among the first to use it. And, the service staff are all dressed in clean attire, well-groomed, and smile when the greet you.
Are your windows clean? Have they been clean anytime this decade?
This week, I had the opportunity to work with some business owners looking to sell. I was part of the new, follow-on team, brought in to help get the business sold. Up for sale for an extended period already, the prior team had not found success.
My initial visit started with a tour of their facility which, as you can imagine, triggers today’s post. And, no, it was not an auto repair business:). However the analogy is comparable. Asking a going-market price, the business (including the facility) suffered from years of wear. It was clean enough. But it was also very tired. Broken trim, dirty windows, burned out light bulbs throughout, dirty brickwork…the list goes on. The defects were the sort of little things that, day-by-day, seem inconsequential. Yet, viewed collectively, add up in big ways.
It was a direct reflection upon the owners. The simple answer to their dilemma is either lower the price, or spend the money required to get the business (and it’s facility) up to snuff. Regardless of who we are, we all have certain expectations. Our expectations immediately dial-in to match the specified price; even sight unseen. If on our first visit our expectations do not match up, three things happen. (1) We are pleasantly surprised; (2) We are non-plussed; we got what was expected. (3) We are let down; reality didn’t meet expectation.
You do not ever want to be Option (3).
The biggest enemy of our own success is often complacency. Day-by-day we go to work, business proceeds as normal, and we go home. Tomorrow, we repeat. The day after, we repeat. Doing what is required but not the ‘extra’ little bit. For some, that may be taking continuing education; getting out to actively practice our trade; or, simply cleaning the windows. We tend to ignore the fact that every little bit counts. Why? Because it builds up over time.
Every. Little. Bit. Counts. Why? Because it builds up over time.
No one is immune to the problem. Big or small, incredibly successful or less so. Proof in point: I live between two different Starbucks. A good coffee shop typically has a decent amount of glass, windows to gaze out of. Some more, some less. Oddly enough, from what store managers have told me, Starbucks does not provide much of a budget for having windows cleaned. So, it’s largely up to the store manager to make sure windows are (not) cleaned.
The Starbucks to my west, in Milford, does not look like its windows have been cleaned in at least a year (as of my last visit). I have asked them, staff agrees they need cleaning, yet nothing happens.
People notice these things whether they say anything or not. Which Starbucks do you want to be?