I simply find it amazing and annoying to see how many companies make their customers wait on the phone when they call them for customer service. Customers could be calling them with a question on the product or make a suggestion for improvement or even place an order! Yet they have to wait listening to the repetitive message that reminds them how important their phone call is to them. Oh Really!!! Just imagine what is going on in customer’s mind, your mind during this time – “God save me from this misery. Bring some human soul I can talk to.”
Many businesses have sacrificed customer service in the name of efficiency and automation in the last 5 years. The so called advances in voice recognition have made matters even worse. Now it’s not just a matter of punching numbers on the phone keypad. The machine will interact with you as if it understands, or at least pretends to, all your questions – “Hello. I can help you find anything you are looking for today. What can I do for you?” My answer – “how about finding a human being somewhere in your company?”
Companies like Verizon and AT&T have millions of customers who have been with them for many years. These companies spend a lot of money in acquiring new customers. For example, they give new customers subsidized phones in return for them signing a 2-year contract. Many customers continue to remain with the company after the initial 2-year contract term is over. The reason they can spend money to acquire new customers is because they have guaranteed return for at least the initial contract term. This is what Seth Godin is referring to when he talks about embracing this concept of lifetime customer value.
Most small businesses, however, do not have luxury of asking customers to sign up for a contract. They have to do hand-to-hand combat with their competitors one customer at a time every day. For proof, download a report from your POS system showing how many customers have not ordered in the last 90 days. You may be surprised to find that more than 70% of your total customers have not come back to your business in the last 90 days. And you are not alone. Most small businesses have far less repeat customers than what their owners would like to think.
We have discussed in the past how challenging the last 2 years have been for small business owners who want to borrow money to start or expand their business. The Great Recession of the century has made banks jittery about taking on risk and lending money to small businesses. We have also mentioned some creative ways you can use to start business with little money.
Recently we came across a new startup that aims to help small business owners find lenders who are willing to give them money. The startup is called Lendio The goal of this web start up is to “help small business owners find right business loans in a matter of minutes.” According to their web site they can do this with a simple 3-step process – 1) Business owners answer simple questions about themselves and their business. 2) Lendio looks for a match between your loan needs and over 3,000 banks and other lenders. 3) Business owners apply to multiple lenders on the web site and get status updates.
Opportunity favors those who are prepared to take advantage of it. This has been the consistent theme in the last several posts we have written on how to prepare your business for sale. We mentioned that you need to start planning for business at least one year in advance. In addition there are additional items you need to take care of as the time to list your business for sale approaches.
Your primary goal as a seller is to allay potential buyer’s biggest financial fears as well as other FUDs related to the operation of the business. It is only through proper planning and careful preparation that you can dispel buyer FUDs and make your business sale go faster and smoother. After all the longer it takes for the sale to go through the more chances of something going wrong and the sale falling through.
One of the most important aspect of getting prepared for the sale is compiling all the documents related to the business finances and operations.
In the previous post we discussed two biggest fears your potential buyers have when they are considering purchase of your business. We showed how you can help buyers overcome these fears and make the sale of your small business go through quickly and smoothly.
In addition to the two fears related to business finances, there are other operational FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) factors that buyers, particularly those who have not owned small business before, are likely to have. With proper planning you can help alleviate these FUDs and make the selling process go faster. After all, it is in your best interest to shorten the sale process as much as possible. The longer it takes for sale to complete the more chances of something going wrong and the sales falling through.
Based on our experience with both buying and selling business, we have come up with several questions that are likely to surface in buyer’s head when he is going through due diligence. The sections below document those questions along with our advice on how you can deal with them.
We have been discussing what preparations the small business seller needs to make before listing the business for sale. There are items seller needs to start taking care of as much as 1 year in advance As the sale process gears up you need to prepare number of documents for the sale to complete fast and without any major hiccups.
The biggest obstacle to the sale of small business stems from buyer’s FUD (Fear, Doubt and Uncertainty). When the buyer is betting hundreds of thousands of dollars on the business and is committing large part of his future life he is bound to have cold feet and second thoughts at some point in the process – just like in marriage!!! Your job as a seller is to address these FUDs and alleviate buyer’s anxiety.
We mentioned in the previous post that selling a business is a long, arduous process. It is not uncommon to take more than a year to sell the business. In the post we showed items you need to take care of 1 year prior to putting your business for sale.
As the date of putting the business for sale approaches there are additional items you need to start working on. Just like selling your house, you need to get your business ready 3 months prior to listing date. The goal is to spruce up the image, both physical and virtual, of the business so that the buyer will find it attractive and worth paying for. You should also aim to remove the fear and uncertainty in buyers because this is the single most reason why many buyers are reluctant to sign on the dotted line at closing.
So, what actions do you need to take 3 months in advance? Here is a list of items we think are important based on our prior experience.
Selling a business is a lot like selling your house – only lot more difficult and time consuming. It is not uncommon to take more than year to sell the business – from the time it is put on market to the time the closing papers are signed. Anyone who has been through the selling process knows that there are number of aspects you need to take care of long before the business is put for sale. What makes it more challenging is the fact that you need to do it all while running the day-to-day operations of the business and ensuring that it does not suffer during the selling process.
There are steps you can take to make the process of selling the business easier for you. They can also help make the sale go faster; which is very important for any seller. The longer it takes to sell the business, the more chances of something going wrong and the sale falling through.