Small Business Solutions

2021 Small Business

Sentiment Survey

To get your business ahead, just do what you say you will

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The most successful person in business I personally knew had many axioms. Years of owning and growing business taught him an appropriate saying for just about any situation.

One day he told me, “Robb, if you have a business and you simply do what you say you will do and show up, that’s enough to become successful.”

My mentor, who passed away a couple of years ago, was always growing his business and he was always amazed at how many contractors would miss appointments to give bids, sometimes worth tens of thousands of dollars. He was always amazed and disappointed when a contractor earned the bid and then showed up late or ghosted the work completely.

Over the years, my business mentor weeded out the weak contractors and formed trusting relationships with those he could rely upon. All of those contractors became successful and one became what we would call very wealthy and is still growing his business.

Many business owners are business owners because they are very good at something, be it hanging sheetrock, taking photographs, guiding fishing trips, or repairing a mower. To be good at any of those you don’t necessarily need to be good at communicating.

And therein lies the problem. When you start doing work for people and charging them money, there is a process from the quote to finishing the work and getting paid that requires careful communication. The quote needs to be timely and accurate. The work needs to be explained and the customer needs to know (most of the time in writing) what they are getting and when they will get it and how much it will cost.

If you get the work and there is a delay that causes a change in completion, then you must communicate that. Don’t wait for the customer to contact you and ask why the job is late. If you simply do this, you are ahead of 90 percent of the people out there trying to earn business.

If you are late, explain why without a long story, and reforecast your completion date and hit it. If you are going to be extremely late, you need to offer a discount. Of course, you don’t need to do any of this but the customer doesn’t need to hire you again, either, or refer you.

Not that long ago, I took a chair to be recovered at an upholstery shop. The owner asked me to come after hours and pay cash. That was a red flag but I had done business there before with no issues. He said the chair would be ready in 3-4 weeks.

I got the chair back in three months. He had to give me a discount and along the way I heard all these stories about the health of his family and his run-away daughter, etc. It was a bad experience and I will never go there again and I have discouraged others from going there.

In looking at my own business, there are times when we don’t hit our marks on deadlines. Most of the time we communicate that but we don’t always.

A frequent question on NextDoor is “Do you know of a reliable person who does…” What you don’t want is someone piping up and saying don’t use your company for that work because you are not reliable.

Showing up, keeping your promises, and communicating progress (or a lack of) isn’t easy.

Which brings me to another axiom from my mentor: “If it were easy, Robb, anyone could do it.”


Robb Reeves is the vice president of McElvy Partners. He has owned and operated small businesses for more than 25 years, and most of his career has been focused on helping business owners define the most effective ways to reach more customers. You can tap into Robb’s experience by sending us a note on our CONTACT page.