The 10 Best Local Company Owner Tips of 2011


We’ve interviewed the Bay Area’s top-rated local company owners and compiled a must-read list of their 10 most important management tips for 2011.

1. “By taking a comprehensive approach to project management throughout every phase of our customers’ projects, we can minimize mistakes and make sure we’re providing the best possible work.”—Bill Doughty, Bill Doughty Landscaping, Inc.

2. “Communicating effectively with customers is very important. By consistently staying in touch with them, [you’ll] give them plenty of time to understand exactly what’s wrong with their vehicles and feel comfortable and confident in their decisions.”— Tim Stussi, Diablo Auto Specialists

How to attract new, high-margin customers

Bad News: Promoting discount offers as your main theme tends to attract price shoppers. These are the lowest margin, least loyal new customers you can get. You don’t want these customers because you’ll just spin your wheels for very little value.

Good News: Communicating your unique quality and expertise attracts new customers that may be price sensitive but quality focused. These new customers will produce fair margins and provide referrals of like-minded people. Include offers for “expert reviews, free consultations to answer technical questions, free expert consulting, 10 tips on your industry,” etc. Then prove your quality with third-party ratings like the Diamond Certified Program.

3. “In today’s business environment, you won’t last very long if you’re not taking care of your customers. Customer service is the most important thing. You have to make it personal with each customer and treat them like gold.”—Randy Zechman, Clean Solar, Inc.

4. “Word of mouth is our main source of business, so every client is a walking referral. Ultimately, we strive to give them a little extra so they choose and recommend us over our competition.”—Nick Saab, Site for Sore Eyes – Fremont

3 things you can do to increase referrals without spending money

  • Give each customer three of your custom Diamond Certified brochures, which profile your company and prove your top-rated status. Ask the customer to hand these to their neighbors, family and friends.
  • Train your staff to increase referrals. Meet monthly and brainstorm their suggestions. Chart your progress and hand out prizes to staff members that come up with ideas that work.
  • Publicly acknowledge each referee and make sure they know the status of their referral.

5. Every person has a different idea of the perfect paint job, so we make sure to take our time and understand exactly what each client wants. We listen to what they’re saying and deliver on our promises.”—Soumil Amin, CertaPro Painters of Berkeley

6. “Customers prefer to deal with somebody face-to-face instead of going through different steps with different people. Everyone who works here gets to know our customers and remembers their details when they come back, which makes for a great buying experience.”—Chris Berry, Martin & Harris Appliances

7. “We want our clients to have the knowledge to make informed decisions that benefit their specific situations. Instead of talking at them, we teach them. It makes for a more rewarding experience.”—Jane Brown, Optimum Realty & Financial Services

How to build a brand that attracts affluent families
The keys to building a winning brand with affluent families is quality, customization and prestige. First, your team should both deliver quality and be great at communicating how and why it achieves quality. Second, you should be willing to alter your process for affluent families to accommodate their special situations, either in scheduling or in the manner in which you deliver your services. Third, treat each affluent family with extra respect and gracious formality. Make sure your team’s presentation in appearance and communication style causes families to feel that your team is classy.

8. “Our goal is to impress our customers at every stage of the project, from their first phone call all the way through the final inspection and billing.”—Scott Tamayo, Environmental Remedies, Inc.

9. “I give every customer my cell phone number. That way, if they ever have problems or questions, they can reach me immediately.”—Allen Nelson, Hortus Landscaping

10. “This business is mainly referral-based, so if you satisfy one client, they’re likely to refer you to somebody else. That’s what builds a company.”—Larry Chivers, L S C Cabinetry Inc.

How a 10-minute staff meeting will change your income statement
Get your team talking about how to better deliver on your company’s promises. Write each idea down. Decide as a team what your company’s focus will be. Share financial numbers to show where you are and where you want to be. Each week/month, discuss the performances of these numbers and modify plans to win.