This post includes excerpts from my October 2013 Snow Business column.
As your business evolves and matures, your growth strategy and business plan likely will, too. When I first started my company in 1979, I took any and all business that I could. My customers would ask if I could do something for them aside from the services I already provided, and if I thought I could fulfill the service and make money at it, then I would do it. Or they would refer me to someone and I would grow my business by adding a new customer. It was truly the “Take what I can get, and get as much as I can” approach for the first couple of years … and it’s how I got into the snow business. My clients asked if I could take care of their snow removal, and I agreed.
Over time my strategy evolved. As my business matured and my customer base expanded, I was able to define whether I wanted to grow by adding customers, adding services or perhaps a combination.
Adding New Clients
SIMA’s 2013 State of the Industry survey results show that snow & ice management providers of all sizes plan to grow by adding new clients. The results also showed that adding clients became less of a growth strategy among respondents as their revenue increased. As long as you’re not exhausting or running low on critical elements (labor force, inventory, etc.), steady growth by adding new clients can give you a tremendous edge … no matter what size company you have. It ensures that your business will remain healthy.
Provided you have the capacity to perform for new clients and your market doesn’t limit you (you can service properties within a reasonable distance to the shop, you have more inventory in the market that could be yours, etc.), there is absolutely no reason you wouldn’t want to take on new customers, no matter how much revenue you’re bringing in.
That said, if you’re able to continue to grow your top line at the margins you’re accustomed to without adding customers, leverage this opportunity to the fullest. If you’re able to grow your top and bottom line by selling more to an existing customer base, rather than adding more customers, it speaks volumes about your strength as a provider. The ability to do this is probably a result of some dominance in the market, whether it’s brand awareness, market share or your reputation as a superior service provider.
Adding Services is Riskier
The survey also shows that some service providers plan to grow by adding services. What’s interesting is that growth strategies for companies in the category of less than $100,000 in revenue and those that earn more than $3 million were the same. In addition to adding clients, both plan to grow by adding site monitoring and anti-icing/proactive service.
Naturally, the question of whether the little guy can compete with the big guy if they offer the same services arises. My answer is absolutely, yes. Provided you have the management and production capacity to make good on your promises, there’s no reason a small provider can’t offer the same services as a large provider.
I would, however, suggest that you add services with discretion. Only add services if you see a need in the market or your customers are seeking these offerings; if you believe your company can effectively make money by providing them; and if the new service offerings help you compete.
If you’re offering these services because other providers do, it may not be a good growth strategy. Understand why you are offering the services, and whether it makes sense for your company. Don’t underestimate the management and production capability needed to perform new services, because failure to perform will be costly.
Whatever you do, do it Well
Adding clients is important for growth, but adding the type of client you seek and the type of offerings you want to deliver is the sweet spot.
The four pillars of good customer service in this industry are good communication, management, production and administration. Diligence and proper execution in each area is a must.
Whether you decide to incorporate new services, new clients or both, when it comes to fulfilling your promises, don’t accept anything less than is necessary to perform at a high level or your business becomes vulnerable.
Don’t Miss This Free, Online Snow & Ice Event
How do you plan to grow this season? Join me on August 6 at 12:00 p.m. EST at the Snow Millionaire Secrets Summit, hosted by Domenic Chiarella to talk about growth strategies, sales strategies and the ONE thing I wish someone told me when I first started out. It’s free to attend and an event you don’t want to miss. For more information and to sign up, click here.