Biz Tips: What More Can We Do?

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by Jim Hinshaw

Just spent some time with a client over in California.  Would tell you their name, but they might not want you to know, cause they are doing things different.  Not everything, but lots.  So my son Jon developed a website for them years ago, and it rocks.  He has done the typical SEO stuff (which I have no clue how that works, but he is a certified SEO guy, so he does), FaceBook, Linkedin, Twitter, doing it all.  Their website is updated and enhanced for search engines, they have secured their Google map locations, they are on Google +, it all works together.  They are spending some money on those applications, but they are getting lots of business from that investment.  It’s all about the payback.

Recently they were talking to Jon about the next steps.  You know, what can we do that is new, exciting, and profitable.  Jon said they needed to add a live chat feature.  You have seen that in many big business websites, United Airlines has a live chat feature.  Well, it is not exactly a live chat as it’s automated.  Not the same at all.  But Chevrolet has a live chat.  So Jon proceeded to add a live chat plugin.  The live chat works like this.  First of all, it rings up several phones in a sequence, so if one person is busy it rolls over to number two.   They also rotate names for the live chat person.  When someone rings in, they answer and ask how they can help, what questions the customer has.  You have choices, do you want to do live phone or message, either is possible.

So the first day, in fact in just a little over an hour, they got the first customer using the live chat feature.  And they had questions, and they got answers, and they sold them a new system after sending out a representative.  That fast.  So Jon had an answer to that question, what more can we do?  Even better, it had immediate results.

Now, I got a call as well last month from this same company.  Asking if I would help them walk through the company financial data.  They actually sent me over their financial statements, had me go through them on a conference call.  So we looked at the numbers, compared them to some benchmarks.  There were some questions, and they had answers up to the last number we looked at, the net profit.  I won’t say exactly, but the first digit was a 2.  And there was another digit on the left side of the decimal point.  Yes, they are running a multi-million dollar company with a 20% net profit.  Very nice.

Now, go with me to the Midwest this last week.  Met with several dealers, all sizes, all types.  At breakfast, the distributor rep and I had a meeting with a dealer who was involved in a large group that he pays substantial money to for business and marketing help.  He has also hired a consultant to help him with upper level business concerns: marketing, HR, compensation for all employees, succession plan, all kinds of things.

Hear me out, there is a parallel here.  Both of these companies have been in business for years, they are not new starts.  Both owners worked for someone else before hanging out their own shingle.  Both are putting together a foundation that will pay dividends, systems in place to succeed even if they are not there 60 hours a week.  In fact, both admitted they would like to work smarter, not harder.  And the most telling fact, both have retained outside council (OK, so that is a big word for consultant) to help them with this new work environment, new economy.  One other item of interest, both were successful and profitable the last few years, they just want to do better.

One element that runs through our industry all across the nation is this: if they have been in business for a while, they believe they know the business.  This is a new market, and it is not taking any prisoners.   Old ways of doing business will not work in this economy.  It is hard to get them to sit down for a two hour presentation, and many will not do that even if they have the time.  You absolutely have to be on your game today, the consumer is sharper than ever, has less time, and wants value in everything they purchase.

So do what these dealers did, question everything.  This life is not a dress rehearsal, this is live, and we only get one take.  Look at every part of your business, see what you can improve.  Make sure you are as efficient as possible, yet do what needs to be done and what you said you were going to do each and every time.  Trust me, it will not be easier next year, this is the new normal.  Thanks for listening, we’ll talk later.

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