Locked Hubs, Snowy Boots and a New Hat

By Beacon Staff

Last week, we talked about building a laundry list of things for each functional area of your business, so this week, we’re going to add to it (you knew that was coming, right?)

A little advice about last week’s laundry list: Stick to it. Make the business of fine tuning your business into a part of your daily and weekly routine. It should be a lifestyle change for your business.

Look, we all know that this is the time of year for starting new things and never completing them. Ask the folks at the Summit, the Wave and so on. They’ll meet a bunch of new friends over the next few weeks and by March, many of them will be strangers again.

Don’t let that task slip back into the pile of stuff that never gets done because you’re too busy. Your business deserves better and so do you. Enough nagging, let’s move on to adding more stuff to your list (yes, I know, the list is already long enough).

One thing about your list that is easy to forget…the customer. I don’t mean forgetting the customer. I mean forgetting to look at the list from a customer-oriented viewpoint.

Here’s what I mean. Ever walked into a business, noticed something that stunned you and wondered how they could have missed it? I suspect you have.

Those are the kinds of things to take a hard look at for this second attempt to build a laundry list that does more than just create busy work for you.

An email I received this week from someone in Kalispell illustrates this perfectly. The reader was responding to my “buy local” comments from a few weeks ago, noting that they intentionally do their buying at locally owned stores and noted that some local store owners fail to pay attention to little things like the snow on the walk in front of their store, much less that in front of the neighboring stores. After all, your clients have to walk past their stores to get to yours.

It might be a little thing to you, but could be a big thing to your clientele. It could be a really big thing to you if your clientele is older and chooses whose business to walk into based on the perceived safety of the sidewalks in front of your business.

Just as an example, this morning I was at Western Building in Columbia Falls to pick up some marine epoxy. I commented to the lady at the front counter about the plowing going on outside. With snow dumping down, she commented that they were plowing and shoveling every 15 minutes.

Every 15 minutes.

It would be easy to assume that most of WBC’s traffic on this snowy day might be construction guys driving 4WD vehicles and that they’re unconcerned about getting stuck in a retail parking lot. Likewise, it would be easy to assume those folks might not care about getting snow on their boots.

It would also be easy to assume that the only reason WBC is plowing frequently is simply to keep their insurance company happy. I wouldn’t assume those things resulted in 15 minute plowing.

Instead, think of it as a simple, inexpensive way to make a first impression.

On a morning when the sky is dumping so much that U.S. Highway 2 hasn’t yet been plowed, a clean parking lot and sidewalks leaps out at you. It makes an impression because it’s unexpected on a day like today – even in Northwest Montana.

Put that “I’m a new customer” hat on and see what jumps out at you as things that need your attention. Things that make an unexpected first impression. Things that your customers would find a pleasant surprise.

If you have trouble detaching yourself enough to be that new customer, try going into another business with a facility similar to yours, or in a business complementary to yours. Visiting a competitor might work, but tends to alter your focus to “us vs. them” rather than keeping you focused on what the new customer experience is like.

Put that “new customer hat” on, for the good of your list and the good of your business.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him at mriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.

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