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Edition 137 – Out and About

I’ve worked with family businesses for 30 years. I’ve seen a lot of what works and a lot of what doesn’t.

In my observations, there is a stark difference between the businesses that succeed, grow, build wealth and endure into the future and the ones that potter along at best – and fail at worst.

The stark difference is a single element of business. It’s very simple, yet surprisingly, most family business owners and managers shy away from it. Here it is – the difference between the businesses that win and the ones that don’t is all about getting out and about. It’s all about seeing your clients, building relationships, staying in touch when you haven’t heard from them for a while and finding new avenues into having new discussions with new people.

That’s it. Simple really. Yet, so many owners of family businesses don’t do it. And, here’s why – they’re technicians. They love building widgets or digging trenches and are at their happiest driving a machine or sitting behind a desk. Now, whilst each of those gets the job done and keeps that particular client happy, if you do that five days per week (or for some, even longer), you’re not doing enough to create potential for next week, next month or next year.

I’ve heard every excuse under the sun as to why people don’t deliberately get out and about including:

  1. I’ve got too much work to do now.
  2. I’m not good at networking.
  3. I don’t like people (yes, that one has actually come up!).
  4. That’s what salespeople are for.
  5. It’s hard to pin people down (apparently in the age of mobile phones, email and social media, it’s difficult to make contact with a potential or existing client!).
  6. I’m not good at selling.

All of that is rubbish! It’s rubbish because the real reason is that the individual simply can’t be bothered and would rather retreat to the comfort of their technical workspace (inside the digger or sitting at the desk) than make the effort to have a conversation. The funny thing is, when things start to slow down in a family business, the owners and managers only look at the last week or month to endeavour to find out what has happened. Instead, they should be looking at the past two to three years to see what they have and haven’t been doing to analyse why business has slowed.

For the businesses that succeed, here’s some examples of the types of “out and about” they are doing:

  1. Maintaining contact with key individuals when they’ve left a client’s employment – on the basis there is the potential to create two clients out of the exit, not lose one.
  2. Sending an email indicating the client has been thought of. When you attach something that may be of value (e.g. an article), that amplifies the connection.
  3. Meeting up with a client and sharing a coffee. Chewing the fat opens up many potential opportunities for business.
  4. Engaging with community causes they believe in, which builds profile for the individual and the business.
  5. Making the effort to visit a client site, rather than them coming to see you – particularly relevant for professional service businesses.
  6. Phoning the client, even when nothing is going on between you both, just to see how life is treating them.
  7. Being on site when your team are already there – on the premise that you’re checking on the progress, which shows you care about the client and the product or service they are already receiving from you.

Almost every “out and about” is around physical presence. None of it is about Linked In or your social media presence. And, in spite of those numerous email requests you receive weekly from people with poor grammar, it has nothing to do with your website.

This week, I challenge every family business owner and manager to get out of their comfort zone and get into the contact zone.

This Week’s Tip

“As to how often – it should be at least twice per week. The best at building family businesses are doing something at least daily. What about you? How often are you preparing the field for the next harvest?”