I’m right … I think?
By Dick Olenych, Inside Business - Hampton Roads - 1/20/2008
I own a small business and I root for the under dog in most events. I guess that’s just part of my nature.
As a small business owner I believe in relationships. They are the main reason that keep customers coming back, right? Isn’t it all about the people? It’s what I have and the big boys don’t have.
I personally feel that it’s me against the Goliaths at times. Please remember for years I used to get my pay checks from a giant. It was wonderful to have a resource rich environment with more information and tools than an astronaut for NASA. Even today after two and a half years of self imposed miniaturizing (yes I do feel like the incredible shrinking man) I envy the stuff that the big companies have.
But I’ll probably never go back. You see at a small company you live or die by the relationships. My professional and sometimes my personal reputation can be effect by my company’s interaction with customers. How people see my company is a direct refection of me. I’ve built an organization that has a direct line of sight in how I want to be seen.
I have customers that are my friends. Some of these friendships started twenty-five years ago. And I have friends that are now customers. To me it is a complete circle. I am who I am, at work and at home. Relationships are everything to a small business.
But let me be very clear, a relationship should never, ever be the deciding factor if a company wins the business. Yes, it should give you an opportunity to earn the right to ask for business, but it’s not an exclusive or divine right.
Recently, I called my insurance company that covers my personal line. My wife used to work for this company twenty or so years ago and we have been faithful clients ever since. I don’t believe we have had a claim even with some teenagers on the policies.
This office manager recognized the name and asked about my bride. Obliviously this person had been employed at this agency when my wife was there because she pronounced my name correctly. We chatted briefly and then I explained the reason for the call, “I now own a small business and wanted a shot at becoming one of their vendors!”
She went into a theatrical production of stammering and mumbling. Excuse after excuse rolled of her lips and then an apology ended the back pedaling. I wasn’t impressed. After twenty-two years of paying premiums, I had EARNED the right to ask for the business and she brushed me off like I was unwanted lint.
Her actions drove me to make decision right then and there. Like hundreds of others decisions that a small business owner makes every day, I made a simple decision. I set my company’s standard. We will give an opportunity to our vendors that support us, if possible. Am I right?
Within a week I had several quotes on our personal insurance from our customers and I chose the best value.
After twenty-two years I had EARNED the right to ask for the business. I wonder if that agency knows I didn’t renew with them. The lost revenue will be noticed, but they probably have no clue what it relates to.
Am I right? I think I am.
Dick Olenych is the author of “Joe Sails,” a business-behavior novel and an owner of Spectrum Printing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.