Posts filed under Customers

Sometimes Important Business Tasks Can Get Overlooked

Many times a small business will overlook something important. With us, one of those extremely important things has been customer retention. Don't get me wrong, our work speaks for itself and many of our customers have been coming back for years. The retention I'm talking about are those fringe individuals or companies we neglected because we were either, too busy or too lazy to take the time and keep up relations. The customer came in for a minor piece of fabrication and we let them get pushed to the bottom of the pile, assuming they would never come back anyway. However, those are the customers who may give your name to a friend or family member, making them a powerful resource to keep communicating with.

Earlier this week I received a call from a company called Intuit Demandforce. We have used Quickbooks for invoicing, so getting a call from a company in the Intuit family is not out of the ordinary. Most of these calls I will greet and pass on because they are just an introduction to get you in the door, nothing more. Yet, this one seemed a little different. I got the sense they really wanted to show me what the service could offer, I wasn't feeling sold to. Could be a testament to the sales person on the end of the line but, I felt the risk was worth it and agreed to a web share about the Demand Force service.

From the Demandforce website:

Keeping up with all of the changes in technology and online services is hard, but you need to communicate and market like the big boys or your business won't survive. Demandforce is here to help.
 
We take an award winning communication portfolio, with easy to use <a>online reputation tools and our broad consumer network, to become the marketing team your business needs.

The web share went well and after seeing what Demandforce had to offer I decided to give them a shot. Our account went live today and I am very excited to see how the service will help business over the next month. I really like the people I have dealt with so far, giving me a personal experience you don't get with many online businesses. Everyone genuinely seemed to care about us succeeding with the program.

Updates to follow :)

originally posted on our Facebook Page 

Posted on July 25, 2014 and filed under Business, Marketing, Micro-Business, Customers, Company News.

Custom Galvanized Sheet Metal Ash Box

The benefit of our fabrication shop is the ability to fabricate small numbers of custom projects for a range of products. Our main focus being HVAC custom ductwork and fittings, but we fabricate a lot of specialty items for many of our customers.

Last week I received a request through our website for a custom 15" x 15" x 15" ash box with a sliding top cover.

 

Know The Tendencies of Your Customers

Many of our customers have done business with us for years and we appreciate every order they place here at the shop. Part of the reason they come back, besides stellar work, is the fact that I do my best to learn there tendencies and little idiosyncrasies. This does not mean I am at everybody's beck and call 24/7, but I do make an effort to give each and every customer the best service possible. 

Small Time Logisitics

My naive assumption is that logistics was just another word for shipping. The actual definition from Merriam-Webster is as follows: 1 : the aspect of military science dealing with the procurement, maintenance, and transportation of military materiel, facilities, and personnel 2 : the handling of the details of an operation

So clearly, not shipping per se, just dealing with handling of details in a military sense.

Who cares! Something you may be telling yourself right about now. The above is a long winded and relatively interesting ( at least for me, because I was unaware ) way of getting to something I have thought about company wise for some time.

The reality, or non-reality of shipping our products around the country, the logistics if you will are completely foreign to me. Obviously, I understand that packages are shipped, but as far as making it viable for business is surely something new.

To date, we have shipped one, count them, one order to somewhere in the lower 50. That place was Kansas and the whole transaction was a great experience. The customer was willing to be patient with our maiden shipment and the headaches which could undermine the whole project.

I had the fabricated fittings strapped flat to be packed at the nearest UPS store, communication was good with the customer and the shipment went off without a hitch. I didn't want to deal with any complications of securing and packing, so I left it to professionals.

A few days later the package arrived to a thankful customer and a giant sigh of relief from the shipper.

Could this be a viable option for our business going forward, especially with new (expensive) equipment about to be up and running? Are the costs of shipping and time needed for packing worth the trouble? Would only advertising local shipping to a mile radius work better for a smaller company like ours? These are just a few of the questions I have been asking myself over the last few weeks.

To be perfectly honest, the shipping costs alone are something that could sink the whole idea. In order to ship a small supply air plenum and two small transitions, flat packed to Kansas, the total shipping cost was roughly $44 for packing, materials and shipping. That's a tough pill to swallow for customers that are used to free shipping from the likes of Amazon. Not to mention the fact that this was a small order of minimal size fabricated fittings. What would that shipping cost ring up on something a bit larger? Would we be looking at freight costs instead?

The UPS and FedEx commercials make the whole process seem so easy with their no nonsense marketing of packages flying all over the world with seemingly minimal problems. However, when you go to the websites of either the process can be very confusing. It's not just as simple as zip code and weight.

We are moving toward a non-localized world which depresses me as a very local business. Nevertheless, these are things we need to take into account as a business that builds items for customers. If we can find an economical way to get our products into the hands of people that need them, why shouldn't we try? The trick is not to inflate your greedy little head and understand the limitations of the business. There is one thing I have learned over the years in our very niche micro business. Getting too far ahead of the game can be disastrous in the long run, bogging you down and making everything seem insurmountable.

This doesn't mean stunt ambition, goals or growth of the company. These are the reasons we invested in our new CNC plasma table and why we have struggled with the possibility of adding shipping to our normal business repertoire.

The last few years have been a challenging time for our company, more positive then negative however in regards to understanding the business from multiple angles. Ideas like the one I have briefly outlined in this post are something that never happened for our company, keeping us stuck in neutral. The goals have changed, the attitude has changed and ideas are bandied about frequently around the shop.

Whether or not we decide shipping is viable for us is still up in the air. However, we have run a successful test and know it's something that can be done.

Logistically speaking.

 

The Invaluable Insight From Customers That Care

One of the best things about having good relationships with customers is the feedback you gather on a daily basis. This can be invaluable when you take big steps that benefit you, your company and your customers.

The last few months, putting everything together for our new investment took a lot of time and effort. Mine and my fathers minds have been fixated on making sure we had t's crossed and i's dotted for the purchase and installation of our new CNC plasma machine. As of today, the battle continues for the next few weeks until the machine is completely setup and calibrated with our perfect settings, ready to use.

During this time we have had many customers in and out of the shop to see the new addition and discuss what has been going on with the company in the fourth quarter of last year and into the new year. All of them have been fantastic. They genuinely care, wanting us to succeed and wish us luck with anything that pertains to our new investment.

The best part of our interactions are the questions about minute details pertaining to the machine. Things I haven't even thought of over the course of the process. Great inquiries which I lock into the mind vault, adding to my growing list of questions for the techs.

It's amazing what you completely overlook when you're focused on other things. Even when you feel like you're totally focused, you're not. My customers have saved me the time of sitting, racking my brain to list questions for the techs when they come to finish the installation process. Questions that seem so obvious when I hear them out loud. I think to myself, "How could that completely obvious and logical question totally escape me?"

They will never know how grateful I am for these insights. Everything going on these days is new and scary (good scary) territory for our company. The process has been exhausting, but beyond enjoyable because it's exciting to know that you are taking steps forward instead of sideways.

The adventure continues...

 

5 Reasons Your Micro-Business Should Have a Linkedin Company Page

Our teeny tiny little company could be the poster child for local, micro, niche business. So why should a company so diminutive in size make it a priority to focus on their Linkedin company page?

Here are five reasons why any micro business should have a presence on Linkedin:

1. Don't Judge a Micro-Business by it's Cover

Nobody really knows the size of your micro-business and most could really care less. The customer wants the job done right, for a good price. That's it, that's the list. They don't care about the number of employees or how colorful your trucks are. Most customers want the project done properly, on time, by good people and priced fairly in accordance with the market.

Your Linkedin company page is a great place to make those connections, to show and promote the products and services that make your company special, no matter how big or small you might be.

Just because Linkedin seems like only a place for big business and financial or law firms, doesn't mean that local, micro-businesses can't flourish and learn from the site. Many business employees on the site and in groups are very gracious with their time and insights about business best practice.

You have knowledge as well, make your voice heard no matter what size company you currently have.

2. Budget Should Not Be an Issue

Anyone running a micro-business knows that sweat equity is the only way to get things done. You have to put in the hours to move the company forward. Yes, budget is a concern, but the internet is a never ending, low cost business tool that every owner should be using. Linkedin company pages should be one place you focus to grow relationships for no dollars.

The page is free.

It's your job to put the time and effort into making it a powerful tool to help grow your micro-business. Believe me, I'm still learning and updating my pages to get our name and what we do out into the world. However, I am the one putting in the time to save the money. No one knows my business better than I do. Don't feel like everything has to be subbed out just because you don't understand it. Not only is the web a powerful business tool, it's also a free education on any subject you choose to learn about.

Learn something new, create these micro-business advantages yourself and save money in the process.

3. Networking is Important for Micro-Business Too

I did not want to believe this a few years ago when our company was struggling to find good partners and contractors who we could trust. My anxieties got in the way, making it difficult to put our company out there, working to find new business connections and innovate at the same time.

Our micro-business is very niche and boring, not on the minds of customers until their furnace quits or a contractor informs them new ductwork is a must. My job is to make sure that not only customers know who we are and what we do, but also business owners who can promote or use our services as well.

Linkedin and Linkedin company pages is 24 hour networking service, finding the business owners in your industry who can help promote your business and find customers, even for micro-business owners. Sometimes the hardest thing is locating good partners and people that can help your business to grow and prosper. Linkedin promotes this process and Linkedin company pages make it easy to inform those connections about what your doing daily.

Good relationships is what keeps our micro-business afloat when times get tough. My father always preached to never burn bridges. I hated the cliche when I started working here 15 years ago, but it's completely true and has worked in our favor more than once over that time period.

4. Keep Your Linkedin Company Page Current

We are still working to update and make our web presence as pleasing to our customers as possible. Again, sweat equity to keep costs down. I do the designing and updating myself of all our pages and the website, making the process slow and tedious, but necessary for our micro-business to flourish in a world moving feverishly toward the web and the cloud.

There is nothing more annoying than searching for a local business and seeing the stock avatar and business name only. We get it, you signed up and have never been back to update, you're too busy. However, this makes any connection via that platform meaningless and worthless for your micro-business or potential networking opportunity. Focus to take any and every business relationship you can get.

Keep those Linkedin company pages current

5. Don't Sell Yourself Short

I struggle with this on a daily basis and it's something a micro-business owner should never do, whether in person or on the web. I'm still working to sell our company properly whether on our Linkedin company page or any other. The thing is, I know we do a great job and it's not egotistical to let our customers and business partners know that.

This doesn't mean telling everybody your company can produce anything under the sun for the cheapest price possible because truth is, that is completely false. You know what your micro-business can do and it's more than likely small scale, but the quality is probably bar none. You know your pricing is good and you do everything you can to make the customer happy. Do what your micro-business does well, to the best of your ability and promote the hell out of it.

Our company makes sheet metal boxes for residential heating and cooling systems. My whole business life that's how I thought of our business. However, those tin boxes have a function and we fabricate each of them custom to the customers needs, locally and at a great price. My job is to make sure people in my community and on the web know this about our company.

My business may be small, but we do fantastic work and care about customers. Our business partners are important to us and making sure we are accessible any way possible and on a budget is key to growing and promoting our micro-business into the future.

This is what you should be focusing on in your business, getting the word out and making connections in your industry and a properly setup Linkedin company page is a great way to start.

 Follow the K & E Sheet Metal Company Page

 

Not Letting Anxiety Dictate How to Expand Our Business

Since the beginning of the year I have dredged my brain for answers to the question, how to expand our business. The process has been rocky at times, my therapist helping with the majority of those situations, distraction taking care of the balance. However, I have found that being positive and stopping my obsession with perfect timing has made the job much easier to deal with. Our company is small. If you have read any of this blog in the past, you know this. I have wrestled, through the years, with ideas of how to expand our business, making our minuscule sheet metal fabrication shop bigger. Able to handle larger residential and light commercial projects, but keeping the integrity and intimacy of the shop my father and I currently run. There are plenty of union commercial shops in this area to take the much larger commercial work that I, as a company owner, never wanted in the first place. However, being able to fabricate a larger and quality capacity for our target market is an advantage I would love to have.

When the housing markets shit the bed I learned more in those few years about myself and our business than ever before. Depression from personal and business issues led me and my anxiety to seeking therapy, understanding what I needed in my life to thrive. Since then I have made a concerted effort to be positive, especially in my home life as a whole. Any issues in your personal life will fracture any motivation you may have to make your business a success. I realized this after 34 years on earth and 15 years in business, but it's never too late. There is plenty of time to create a successful business, on the back of what already exists. Something my father and I can be proud of.

The question of how to expand our business looks different to me now than it did a few short years ago. Things are clearer and I know that I must have goals, making strides to build on the foundation my father and I have already built, no matter how small. Keeping our already solid customer base is key, but technology and organization must be something we focus on to satisfy an old and new, growing customer base.

I have been researching and reaching out to find information on the best way we can accomplish our new found goals. Something I never did when I was struggling with ideas on how to expand our business, finding it easier to stay hidden inside an already comfortable cocoon of anxiety and fear. Not anymore.

Don't let the fear of success drain the opportunities that may await.

When I sat in my office, thoughts circling with ideas of how to expand our business, I left every night frustrated and fearful of the next step. K & E Sheet Metal is not a successful business on paper at this point. We are a good business, working hard everyday to produce quality sheet metal fabrication and customers happy with their new furnace or air conditioning installation. We have a lot to learn, which is tough to say for a functioning business of 23 years and counting.

Finding our niche and focusing on goals is what needs to be thought about before leaving the shop each day. Answering that question of how to expand our business and becoming the company we wanted years ago, but never had the courage to pursue is the road we need to follow. There will be tight bumpy corners along the way, but positive thoughts, hard work and focus will make the trip a little easier to navigate.