PONDER THIS: How first impressions can sink or swell your business

This bit of wisdom has been attributed to Will Rogers, Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain. Regardless of the origins of the quote, it continues to ring true in most facets of life — including your business.

I suspect that most of you who are reading this are the best at what you do in your area. Why do I think that? Because you take the time to read about your industry. That shows you care, and those who care become the best. But do your potential customers know you care? Do they know you’re the best?
I’m in a position where I work with both contractors and homeowners on a daily basis, so I hear about what some of these first impressions are like. Most of the complaints I hear about water feature contractors (note that this does not include lawn companies that built a pond once) are not about the quality of the work done. They are about simple business practices that were not handled as well as they should have been. These are “first impression” issues.

Often it is that very first phone call. The home- owner has gotten a referral from a friend about your company because you built a beautiful waterfall for her. He is excited to get a pond of his own, so he picks up the phone to call. Voicemail. OK, that’s understandable. The homeowner may think you are sought-after, so he thinks, “I’m sure they’re just busy.” He leaves a message and waits for a return phone call.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard of these calls not being returned. Does this potential customer keep calling back? Not usually. He moves on and finds someone else. Then maybe he ends up with someone less than qualified. At that point he may end up with a water feature that gives him problems.

Perhaps the first phone call was answered and an appointment was set up. Great; now he can be shown the pictures or videos of some of your best work and point out a great spot in his yard. So he takes a day off of work to meet you at 10:00. If you roll up at 11:20 without so much as a phone call, do you think he will be comfortable hiring you? I wouldn’t be.

These first points of contact are critical to each job and to business success in general. I know many contractors who will feel that this may hit a little close to home. They are great artisans and do work that is simply amazing. If hired they will rarely, if ever, disappoint their clients. But all too often, they never make it to that point.

In a small business, you have to be more than the talented water feature contractor. You are a professional and must represent professionalism. You must be a good business person. This starts with showing potential clients the respect they deserve. Only then can they be comfortable giving you the job that you deserve.

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