Be a Professional!

In my opinion, it is imperative we (in the snow business – as well as all other walks of life) project a professional image.  Customers need to be able to communicate with you.  You must have at least a cell phone – and nowadays maybe an iPhone or smart phone of some sort.  Sounds basic doesn’t it?  It is, however do you have the cell phone number accessible so customers can find you?  Nowadays have a Facebook page (even if you fight it, and get dragged in kicking-and-screaming); it is a cost of doing business.  Have business cards.  If you have a business phone line, put that on the cards. Including your phone number on the business card is optional, although most customers work from an “instant gratification” standpoint, wanting and demanding almost instant access to their suppliers, vendors and snow contractors.  For business cards, you don’t need to go to a print shop given the current technology available for use on any standard PC or laptop.  Pass your business cards out to everyone you see.  This “networking” can garner all kinds of attention, leads, and inevitably more business.  Signs on your truck help tremendously.  Have them professionally made.  It is worth the expense to project professionalism for your business.  

If you think you are a professional, or you think you are not – you’re right.

When meeting potential customers, always view it as an opportunity to show your professionalism off to them.   The old days of handwritten quotes on slips of paper are long gone.  Printed quotation forms are a must.  A positive attitude (there it is again) towards the service you will provide the customer also shows confidence and exudes professionalism.  Be understanding of customers inability to understand what it is we actually do during all-night snowstorms.  Explain what you will do and what the price will be for the services rendered.  Set yourself apart by treating the business like a profit center – and project the professionalism you have within you. It works.

Remember, you cannot alter how people treat you.  But you do have total control over how you react to how you are treated and perceived.  My company secured the snowplowing contract for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah.  For years, people were always saying to me “I don’t see how you could do a contract like that so far away from home”.  My response always was “That’s ok”.  

And this is because I could see it. 

You alone control your attitude and how you react to what happens around you. 

You alone also control your ultimate destiny with regards to profit and cash flow.  Lack of profit is not what usually sinks a company.  It is lack of CASH.  Collecting receivables timely is important to success.  Growth for the sake of growing is not a wise move.  Controlled growth is necessary.  Your accountant can tell you how much your “profits” will allow you to grow without running out of cash. Take if from one who knows – uncontrolled growth can create more problems than lack of profit.  Growth that is uncontrolled can feel good, look good, make others envy you – but some day you’ll run out of cash and say “what happened?”  A true “professional” has a handle on “the numbers” and knows where things stand at all times.  And, most of us entrepreneurs are so hell-bent on growing the business through hard work and long hours, we don’t pay attention to what the numbers guys might be telling us.  Uncontrolled growth can kill a business as fast (if not faster) than lack of profits.  Part of being in business is working at the business as much as it is working in the business.  This too is related to attitude.

If your attitude is such that you only want to be out in the truck pushing snow – then consider being a service provider to someone else.  However, if your attitude and personal makeup is such that you need to be self-employed, realize and understand that selling and servicing is only part of the deal.  Pay attention to the numbers all the time.  Listen to your accountant (or, in some cases – your wife) so that you don’t take on more than you can effectively handle – both from a total size standpoint and from an accounting standpoint.  For those who say they are “making a profit, so all is well”, are not looking at the total picture.  This attitude can be the death of any company.

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