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Category >> Case Studies
Sep 10
2012

When is it Time to Move a Business?

Posted by Steve Marr in Untagged 

Several years ago I met with a dentist who was taking over a practice in a small town of 20,000 residents. He was struggling to build a client base and had two presenting questions. First, what could he do to build his customer base?  Second, should he stay in the current shopping mall location with high visibility along with high cost?

My advice at the time was to stay in the mall.  Even though the rent was high, the visibility would help build walk-in traffic.  Second, I advised that he work several evenings a week to offer extended hour appointments to folks with day jobs. Both steps worked. I asked if he wanted to expand his business by hiring a part time dentist to help manage the growing business.  He did not.
 
Now, he needs to decide if he should renew his office lease. This time my advice is different. He now has a short waiting list for new patients and has built a solid reputation for competence and integrity.  Renewing the lease in the mall will cost around $2,500 a month more than renting an office suite in another location. Given the build-up of his business, paying a premium price for location when you can’t take more patients is a waste of money. At this time, the better choice is to save money by moving.
 
Time and circumstances will alter a decision about when to move a business.  The prophet Joel wrote “Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears.” (Joel 3:10, NIV) However, a hundred years later Isaiah wrote: “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” (Isaiah 2:4, NIV) As scripture demonstrates, it requires different action at different times to make the right decision.
 
When you face major decisions, take the time to evaluate the situation. Determine what has changed and if those changes dictate a different choice. Then, make the decision that will grow your business.

Steve Marr, Your Christian Business Coach 





Sep 07
2012

Advice to a New Sales Manager

Posted by Steve Marr in Untagged 

Mike (not his real name) just accepted a new position as a sales manager supervising 22 salespeople. While he is new to the company, he understands the industry. My advice to Mike applies to most businesses.  Senior management wants improvement; otherwise they would not have brought in an outsider. He must prove himself quickly.

Aug 13
2012

A Land Contract Gone Bad

Posted by Steve Marr in Untagged 

A businessperson sold a building five years ago for $850,000 with $80,000 cash down.  Interest payments were at 6% with the balance due after five years with a balloon payment. The interest was paid each month on time and the balance is now $770,000.

However, the property value has dropped from $850, 000 to around $275,000.  When the buyer saw the value plummet, he notified the original seller that he was defaulting on the contract and would sign the deed back to the seller.

The seller was outraged, claiming that the buyer had an ethical responsibility to pay the balance, and asked me for guidance about the best way to collect.  I read the contract, and while I am not an attorney, I explained that the seller had a problem. The land contract called for payment in full, but the only collateral was the property.  There was no personal guarantee nor were any other assets pleaded as security. In essence, the contract called for paying the note in full or returning the property. The buyer had maintained the property and made all interest payments. He just decided not to follow through on the final payment amount of $770,000, given the decreased property value. The buyer had two ways of fulfilling the agreement:  pay the money or return the property.

The seller wanted to believe that there was a personal guarantee, either legally or ethically; but there was none.  The seller assumed that his security was that the property would hold value or increase over the next five years. Unfortunately commercial property values dropped.

The seller believed that this scripture applied: “The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously.  (Psalm 37:21, NIV)  However, I explained that he was getting paid.  He would get the property back rather than cash. If the agreement had been written differently, specifying that cash was due and providing a personal or other guarantee; then, the buyer would be required to pay.

Every business investment has some risk, and someone assumes that risk.  In this case, the seller believed the property value protected him, that if the buyer failed to pay he would take the property back and resell. In this case, the seller assumed a risk he did not fully grasp. James points out, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. “  (James 4:14, NIV)  Since the future is not predictable, any investment places us at some risk.

Digging a bit deeper with the seller, I learned that he had received another offer for the property of $750,000 cash, an offer he declined to accept the higher $850,000 land contract. Every day we make business judgments, some better than others. In retrospect, the seller should have taken the $750,000 cash offer.  Without knowledge about the declining land values in the future, he did not.

I told the seller that he was stuck with his agreement and needed to accept the property back as full payment with a good spirit. The buyer was using the property for his business and offered a reasonable rental agreement, an agreement I advised the seller to accept.

 











Aug 06
2012

A Swamp Experience

Posted by Steve Marr in Untagged 

I received a request for help from a drywall subcontractor. He made a reasonable living over the past several years, but business has fallen off.  For the past three years, he has been walking into a swamp, getting in deeper every day.  He does not know what made him profitable and what changed.  He has key issues to face, especially because he is in an extremely price competitive business. While he has a good skill level and delivers quality work on schedule, so do other competitors. 

He believes he needs a marketing effort, and he is correct. Currently he has none. He has no web site, a poor Yellow Pages® advertisement and no other advertising.  He has no idea of his unique sales proposition (USP).  Fortunately for him, most of his competition is ignorant of basic marketing, too.

His goal was to get me, in a few hours, to transform his business into a profitable one.  He also wanted to grow his business from two part-time helpers to developing three full-time crews he would manage. I explained the necessary process.

First, I needed to work with him to develop his USP (my earlier article is here: www.bit.ly/kCQ1N7 ). He wanted to know why he couldn’t write a few ads to get more business. I explained that he didn’t understand why customers called him.  He thought it was because he did good work.  I reminded him that two dozen others do good work as well.

Until a business owner is clear about their USP, the owner cannot develop a good marketing plan. Your USP shows you what customers to target and how to get those customers to buy. There is no shortcut to this process. The USP must come first before you can develop any marketing approach.  He needed to differentiate himself from other drywall contractors.

The initial step he needed to take to improve marketing was to go back to past customers for testimonies and referrals.  I told him to ask his customers, “Why did you hire me?” Ideally, their answers would give him a picture of his competitive advantage.  He has a bigger problem if no pattern surfaces.

Second, there was the issue of pricing.  He asked if dropping his prices 5% would help. He was already in a very competitively priced business in which others were charging much less. A small cut in price would not gain more customers.

Third, I explained what was next after he had his USP focus and an increased market brought more customers.  He would need three crews and that would require him to change everything about the way he managed his business. He could no longer be a one-man show.  He would need to become a manager with employees. This change would affect everything: his advertising, bid system, hiring process, billing system, and how bills were processed and paid.

He still had unrealistic expectations.  He hoped that I could set up his entire marketing plan, implement that plan, write advertising copy, and reset his business model to include a three crew organization—all in a few hours.

I reminded him of Proverbs 21, 5:  “Steady plodding brings prosperity, hasty speculation brings poverty.” (TLB)  There are no short cuts. He faced a choice.  He could embrace the changes that would lead to his dream of developing a multi crew drywall business, or continue on his current path that was leading him deeper into the swamp every week.

Again, I reminded him of scripture: "But don't begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first getting estimates and then checking to see if there is enough money to pay the bills? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of funds. And then how everyone would laugh at you! They would say, 'There's the person who started that building and ran out of money before it was finished!'”  (Luke 14:28-31, TLB)

All of us in business need to count the cost. No matter what we build, money and manpower are only part of the equation. The builder needs to make sure that the desired materials are available, that he can hire skilled workers, and that he can manage the team effectively.  Having money without the ability to manage the crew who would do the work would mean failure.

Unfortunately, the drywall subcontractor wanted a quick fix for too many problems, something I could not do. I wished him well and stepped back.

 





















Sep 28
2011

Wrong Sized Windows- A case study

Posted by Steve Marr in Untagged 

I was working with a client that made replacement windows. During our first meeting, I noticed $140,000.00 in inventory carried on the balance sheet. Knowing most windows were made to order and installed shortly after manufacturing, I asked how could they be carrying this much inventory.