Being astute in business: Granddad Bob's secret formula
Many years ago, when visiting my grandparents, I remember asking my grandmother why her house way always so clean and shiny. Grandma replied with a look of mystery in her eye: "B, S, F". Upon questioning further, I discovered that BSF actually stood for “Bob's secret formula”, a homemade, all-purpose cleaning product that my grandfather Bob had painstakingly perfected over time with meticulous experimentation until he got it right.
Over time I came to realise that Granddad Bob had a secret formula for almost everything. The perfect cup of tea, the ultimate Weet-Bix preparation method, the best way to wash your car. He seemed to have this uncanny ability to work things out, then find the most efficient and effective way to go about creating the desired outcome. While I could write a whole book on his various inventions and philosophies (which I may actually do some day) I would like to focus on a recent conversation I had with him about business.
You see, my grandfather has been self-employed for most of his life. Whatever business, now matter how different the industry, he always did well. Success seemed to be the standard. Knowing this, I picked his brain last weekend when I popped in to visit. I knew there must be a BSF for business, a formula he applied each time. Always humble, he hesitated at first to share his opinions. But, with a little coaxing, he produced eight fundamental gems which can be applied to any business. I am sharing them with you here in this article, because:
A. I will probably forget them myself if I don’t write them down or teach them to others.
B. Because I truly believe they can help you, the reader, to take your business and life to another level.
1. Give more than is expected
You need to care. You need to show your customers that you genuinely care, by always going beyond their expectations. Giving 110% and going the extra mile. Not only will this give your customers an experience that will keep them coming back to you, they will truly appreciate it and likely share their story with others.
2. Don't hide behind a screen
In a digital world, face-to-face introductions and business marketing have become far less common. People are hiding behind screens and social media instead of talking to each other. There is nothing wrong with technology, but it shouldn’t replace those very important face-to-face conversations you need to be having with your potential customers. Guilty of being a social media hermit myself at times, Granddad Bob instructed me to “print some bloody flyers and start knocking on people's doors”.
3. Don’t just be on time, be early
Being on time is not enough. You want to have some extra time to allow for delays and to get your head straight before meeting with clients or colleagues. Not only does this show professionalism, it changes the energy of the interaction. If you're even a little rushed, a little flustered, others will sense it. Despite your cheery conversation and big shiny smile, they will sense that something is off. If you're flustered and unorganised, how can they trust you? How can they do business with you?
4. Be presentable
You are a walking, talking billboard for your business. Do yourself a favour and look neat and presentable when working. It shows others that you are organised and professional in all areas of life. Wear clean suitable clothes, be neatly groomed and in good physical shape. No one in their right mind is going to hire a messy slob who’s out of shape and can’t look after themselves, let alone their customer.
5. Do the occasional thing for free
This one is pretty straightforward. It comes down to giving a shit and being a decent human being. If there is something you can do to help another person that won’t cost you much other than a little time, just do it. People appreciate it and they will be sure to share their story with friends.
6. Always answer calls or return them as soon as possible
Hearing this one stung a little. I tend to have my phone on Do Not Disturb mode most of the time, and get back to people when it suits me. In fact, my close friends and family often give me crap about this. Seems Granddad had picked up on it too from trying to contact me several times in the past without success. To pull me into line, he said:
“You must be contactable. How can people do business with you if they can’t even get in contact with you? You should answer your phone whenever possible but at worst contact them back as soon as you can, even if that's at 9:30 at night. Explain to them you were busy serving others. You're calling them back because you appreciate their call and you wanted to return it before the day was over."
This got my attention. Thank you Granddad, I’ll be making a conscious effort to be more professional with my phone habits. Just call me and see!
7. Give your full attention to your customer
Again, this is about giving more than is expected. Take the time to really listen and understand their situation. Be present. Consider if there is anything you can do to help them. If so, apply #5. Honesty and service always matter most.
8. Keep your overheads as low as possible
This point is relative to the nature of your business. Low might be $20,000 per week. Regardless, in a world with economic fluctuation and high living costs, it makes sense to trim the fat and keep things as tight as possible without negatively affecting your quality of service. Of course, this just makes sense mathematically. Fewer overheads will mean more profit. Fewer overhead means you can survive if times get tough. After having this conversation with Granddad, I cancelled several online subscriptions and services I was using. I've investigated and looked for other ways to reduce costs and streamline things.
While I am certain that this article will have nowhere near the impact a face-to-face conversation with my grandfather would, I hope you get a sense of the overall theme here. The little things matter. They matter much more than you think. While nice pictures on Instagram may help, they won’t get you far if you can’t nail the basics when you deal with clients and colleges. I'm certainly not perfect myself. But talking with my grandfather always inspires me to up my game.