- AA –
Charlie looked at me with his penetrating look, he shook his head and said “Liz, it is time to go back to your business basics, growth and busyness is no reason to forget these business basics. What do you do when you sign up a new client? What do you do when you just start a new relationship?”
When I started my business I thought of the many clients who would come to my stores, they would share their stories with me, ask for a friendly advice and buy some of my chocolates. I knew I wanted to change the world but my business was basically a chocolate store serving individuals.
Today my business is very different, yes, I still have my store (and on my way to open 2 more), I still enjoy my many clients who come through my store door (love to hear the bell), however, after many discussions with Charlie, my business not only serve clients who come through the door, my business also sell online selected chocolate boxes delivered to many places on the east coast, and about a year ago, I started to service organizations.
Today my business services quite a few organizations, it may be the little place across the street which run birthday parties every weekend and want my special chocolate cake and the unique dark chocolate little boxes to give to the waiting parents (isn’t that an amazing concept, the parents get a gift, where do you think they will conduct their kids birthday party?) or a company doing a chocolate Friday party and want only the best for their clients.
Charlie and I strategize (I just love that word!) quite a bit about servicing organization before I accepted the first organization as a client. I wrote several processes on how to handle this type of clients, anything from a sample contract, cost calculator, tracking progress, delivery check list and payment process all the way to creating a welcome package (this needs a separate blog post, only few weeks away…). Charlie likes to quote Ben Franklin who said “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” and who wants to fail? So preparing is a key. Charlie and I covered a lot of the business basics behind servicing organization clients. It all went well until…
About a month ago or so, in the middle of our busy valentine’s week, I got an opportunity to start a new relationship with a big out of town organization. Part of the process of starting a relationship with a new organization is a questionnaire which needs to be filled out by the organization. It is a very easy way for me to collect key information about the organization and its expectations (remember, we always want to delight our clients and even as a marketing tool to tell my company’s story. This is the first step in the process.
It was Thursday – a day before Valentine’s day, the store was packed with people who were buying many treasures to delight their loved ones, Jenny and I worked like crazy, but loving crazy, servicing my dear friends, and then a lady which I have never met before came in. She was probably in her 50’s, very well dressed, beautiful eyes, gorgeous black hair. She came to me and asked if we also service organizations, she explained that she is running several book stores geared only for kids and teenagers, she continued and said she had these reading areas where the parents sit while their kids are listening to story readings. She thought it would be a great idea if she sold the waiting parents some hot drinks and chocolates. I was half listening while packing another gift box for Mrs. Lee.
The lady asked if we offered services to organizations, I nodded and said “Yes, we have quite a few organizations that loved our chocolates, and would be happy to work with you”. Mrs. Lee did not like the green wrapper I used to wrap her chocolate box. Mrs. Lee wanted the one with the purple flowers. The lady was patient, she waited for me. I was so busy, Mrs. Lee gave me her famous angry stare, I forgot our entire process and instead of giving the lady my questionnaire and ask for her business card, I just took the old green wrapper and quickly wrote down the lady’s phone number, promised her I would call her in couple of days.
I had a good Valentine’s week, very good one.
2 weeks ago, I was sitting with Charlie talking about the business tax filing, all of a sudden I yelled “Oh no, the lady, with the book stores, the green wrapper, I forgot to call her, oh NO!!!” Charlie looked half puzzled, half amused. I just kept on going “Oh no, oh no, oh no, stupid, stupid Liz”. Charlie asked for explanation. I told him the story.
Charlie said, “Liz, it is time to go back to your business basics, growth and busyness is no reason to forget these business basics. What do you do when you sign up a new client? How can we change our process to support this new situation?”.
In business, there are many times in which it’s easy to forget, to ignore, to skip a well defined process. Sometimes the best way to move forward is by returning to where you started. Charlie and I made minor modifications to the process, the questionnaire is located in an easier place, and there is a little box for business cards drop-off, small changes. I went back to where I started, I went back to review my business basics which were defined before I had my first organization as a client. Going back is not always a bad thing, sometimes it is the only way to move forward.
Question: When was the last time you went back and reviewed your business basics? And maybe even more important question, when will be the next time?