A small business owner, Rob Welch of 24/7 Heating and Cooling in Kalamazoo, Michigan, has been involved in home air conditioning and furnace repair and installation over the last twenty years. His motto is “The heating and cooling issues for my customers are my responsibility forever.” He suggest starting a business after getting adult education, job skills and good solid work experience in the trade..
Welch states that small business success comes with honest business ethics and detail to government regulations and insurance codes.
- Give 100% customer service on the first trip.
- Conform to local and state government codes.
- Check work for home inspection regulations.
- Honor Customer Service contract.
- Follow up on customer service phone calls.
- Focus on current client needs and job details.
Owner and Customer Relationship
Make all customers feel validated. All customers are important, however, client priority is regulated by need. Welch has built his small business by putting customers without furnace heat or air conditioning at the top of the service list. There has to be a balance between emergency customers and waiting list customers.
Emergency customers move to the top of the list.
Follow up calls and prompt follow up attention to waiting list.
Explain delay quickly, but don’t whine with excuses.
Give alternative dates and time, and follow through.
Maintain customer privacy. Don’t disclose client details.
Customer Service Dependability
Dependability is key. Successful service businesses require honesty, punctuality and personable owner to client interaction. A customer wants mechanical capability in trustworthy and friendly home service people.
Stay Focused on Expertise Area
Work assignments outside the range of experience and/or certification waste time and money for the client and for technicians. Repeated trips for incomplete or unsatisfactory work loses customer base.
Knowledge and experience should be at 100% before contract.
Repair of heating and cooling equipment is different from refrigerators or kitchen stoves.
Starting and Maintaining Business is Competitive
Service and sales competition is tough in today‘s market. Excellent customer service is achieved by education in trade education, adult training and job experience, as a prerequisite for any small business endeavor.
For example, before starting a local business in air conditioning and furnace services, potential small business owners need to complete the required adult education and acquire heating and cooling (HVAC) certification. After certification, the graduates need to gain entry level air conditioning and furnace technician experience working in the job market.
- Trade and technical schools offer potential small service business training in certificate programs.
- Requirements for coursework can be obtained from community colleges and some online classes offer alternative educational resources.
According to Education Portal.com, “Coursework takes approximately one year to complete and prepares graduates to pass their respective certification exams and gain entry into the job field as HVAC technicians.”
Before starting a business, make customer service satisfaction and business ethics the foundation and continuing goal for the business plan.
Reputation is crucial. Every human knows 200 other potential clients. One unhappy customer can develop gossip disaster, and eventually end in financial bankruptcy.
What Not To Do When Starting a Retail Business
Starting a small retail business is a difficult task. Nearly every potential product and service is dominated by large corporations with a sizable competitive advantage over small businesses. Even if a new business owner works hard and overcomes these disadvantages, there are still many missteps that must be avoided to prevent the failure of that new company.
Small Business Mistakes in Advertising and Promotion
Properly promoting and advertising a small business is one of the keys to success, but many new business owners hurt their bottom line by falling into these traps.
- Do not overspend on advertising – Small businesses in small towns can create great advertising campaigns based on word of mouth and a couple of well-placed flyers or newspaper ads.
- Do not ignore signage – If potential customers don’t see an “open” sign on a business, then that business is not open.
- Do not get cute with the business name – Owners should consider the business name from a customer’s point of view. A salon named “Curl Up and Dye Hair Salon” sounds cute and might have excellent stylists, but customers will think of bugs and exterminators.
Small Business Mistakes With Taxes and Accounting
Cash flow is the lifeblood of a business. Managing this cash flow inadequately will kill a new business faster than anything else.
- Do not forego an accountant – Even a business owner with a degree in statistics can better spend his or her time working on improving the business instead of filing tax forms.
- Do not ignore taxes – The IRS will find delinquent business owners. Pay business taxes and pay them on time!
- Do not keep sloppy records – Accurate records are invaluable in areas from taxes and payroll to analyzing marketing campaigns and inventory.
- Do not be wasteful – Reuse items when possible. Small amounts of money add up.
- Do not spend the cash – Small business owners often purchase items that aren’t absolutely necessary, such as fancy paper napkins when cheaper napkins will suffice.
Mistakes When Running a Small Retail Business
Day to day operations of a business offer numerous opportunities for mistakes. Fortunately, these are some of the easiest errors to avoid or rectify.
- Do not skimp – Furniture, restroom fixtures, and microwaves will break with regularity under heavy customer use. Commercial grade items are worth the extra cost.
- Do not be inconsistent – Repeat customers want products that are equally good each time. Train employees to create products and service customers in a consistent manner.
- Do not be inefficient – As a business grows, small inefficiencies result in huge waste and increased customer wait times.
- Do not provide endless freebies – Customers become accustomed to free offerings, making it difficult to eliminate those freebies when times are tough.
- Do not overstock – Inventory is evil. All retail businesses must have backup stock, but a full storeroom ties up capital.
- Do not be idealistic – The majority of customers are good people, but the occasional bad egg will appear. Small business owners should keep police numbers handy, establish back exits, lock the doors after hours, and try to have at least two employees in the store during the business day.
The decision to start a retail business is an exciting time, but a truly successful business pays just as much attention to what it does not do as it pays to what it does do.