Subscribe: Stay in the know with a digital subscription to RGJ.com, starting at just 33 cents a week!
Business is all about relationships, the cornerstone of which is trust. In the small business world, relationships with our employees, customers and vendors are all predicated on a demonstrated ability to deliver on promises made. When you have your partner’s back, they tend to have yours. However, what happens when a long–standing customer suddenly changes their relationship with your business?
Many small businesses rely on only a handful of customers to keep their business running. While a business may have many hundreds of customers, the bulk of their revenue (particularly their high-margin revenue) often comes from only a handful of customers they have built strong relationships with. One company might become the customer of another when the owners meet outside of the sales and marketing bubble, wherein they become friends through local events or peer groups. A mutual respect evolves into a partnership, which is later maintained by the sales or account-manager-type employees of the company providing services. When a long-standing customer has a change in management, the employee tasked with maintaining the relationship may find themselves at a crossroads with their new point of contact.
Recently, I have noticed an uptick in local small businesses changing hands. A new guard is taking over the local market as baby boomer business owners look to retire. It is no secret that many local businesses are family-operated. As the old guard moves on, their sons and daughters assume responsibility for the business. While the direction and overall goals of the company might not change, the vision for how to achieve them typically has a fresh approach.
More: Here’s what Midtown Reno will look like after RTC’s $87 million Virginia Street Project
The relationships we have worked to foster are only beneficial when the two parties continue in their roles. As new management takes the reins, it’s important to consider your new point of contact may have different ideas for how your companies should work together.
When your contact changes, be quick to set up an open dialogue around past successes, their vision for the future and how you can make adjustments to make their plans a reality. Far too often we rest on our laurels until, seemingly out of nowhere, a relationship ends. It is easy to grow accustomed to dealing with our clients over email or phone calls. However, when a contact changes it’s important to get in front of them and begin fostering a new relationship.
Keep in mind that when a customer appoints a new decision-maker, they often have no allegiance to you. Their focus should be on assessing partnerships and maximizing their output, which could mean looking elsewhere for the same services your business offers.
Quickly reaching out to “onboard” new contacts is a necessity for any small business looking to maintain and grow prior relationships.
Tom Shanley is vice president of operations for IQ Technology Solutions.
More: Succeeding in business by shifting the levers | Shanley