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What it takes to succeed in the service industry

Everyone loves to debate how exactly one skins a cat, but the method matters not, it is the result that professionals must focus on.

Having been raised OldSchool to the nth degree, including my business upbringing, I can testify there’s very little debate about what generates success, especially when the business in question is based largely or wholly on providing a service. As a second generation service provider, I’ve been blessed with the privilege of learning both from the dinosaurs and what I’ve come to call the SmartKids.

Getting from the starting blocks to the finish line — first — over the long haul — is about two things.

  • Getting the desired RESULT of the client/customer
  • Producing said result with INTEGRITY 
It’s so easy to say, isn’t it? But we must acknowledge the reality that we can produce results without integrity, and have integrity without the ability to produce results.
Far too many of the so-called healthy debates are currently about the techniques, skill sets, and technology businesses should be developing. Truth is, most of the participants wouldn’t know a skinned cat from an ice cream cone if they had a cheat sheet. I know, because I used to be one of those. Once we’ve assumed integrity as the foundation of our business, we then get down to the one thing that matters: Skinned Cats. 

Most of us love talking about different ways to skin the cat. Our way, their way, some other way, or simply that there are many ways to skin a cat. But the #1 question asked by any business’s ultimate consumer? Did the cat get skinned? With few exceptions, they usually don’t care how, assuming the given of integrity. They just want results. They’re not impressed with our awards or our claims of world domination.

The common denominator for any successful service business is the consistent production of superior results, delivered in a timely fashion.
Ask to see their office walls
In my industry, whether it’s traditional home sales or investment, the use of social media is and has been an ongoing topic of sometimes heated debate. Yet, when we look at the, you know, actual results generated, one truth becomes readily apparent: There are precious few cat skins on the social media wall. Don’t get me wrong, as there are millions of dollars flowing to both social media providers and those claiming expertise in social media marketing. But the result they generally produce is the transfer of cash from their customers’ Levis to their own, and not much else.
Put more succinctly, as service providers we’ve successfully skinned the cat when our clients/customers get the results for which hired us to produce.
If as a business we can’t point to those narrowly defined results, the public will go elsewhere. Those in need of our service are hungering to find a business they can trust implicitly who’ll get them what they want, and in a timely manner.
You’d think that would be too obvious to put in writing, right? Yet look around us. We all use service providers. Some we use relatively regularly, some from time to time, and some only a few occasions in a lifetime. In most cases we have a huge list of firms from which to select.

Take auto maintenance and repair. What’s your experience with that service? Yeah, me to. Furthermore, once we find one who consistently maintains/repairs our vehicles at a fair price, with integrity, we tend to stick with ’em like glue, don’t we? You bet we do.

Over the years I’ve had dozens of service business owners tell me that their best marketing is free. My experience lines up with theirs. It’s ongoing or former customers braggin’ about how the business has been skinnin’ their cats for years.

  • I needed the transmission rebuilt and it’s been runnin’ perfectly ever since.
  • She’s sold two homes for me, and sold me three, all of ’em flawlessly.
  • Yep, due to their marketing, my business doubled in five years.

Nobody cares about how results are obtained until they find out IF results were produced. The public wants results, as THEY define them, produced quickly and with integrity. With rare exceptions they generally don’t care how it’s done.

People just want results, honestly produced. All service providers need to do is skin the right cats. Why is that so hard to understand? Why are there so few in each industry who concentrate on producing real life results? The public is pretty dang smart when it comes to finding those who get the job done.

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To them it’s simple as pie — it’s about skinnin’ cats.

Written By

Jeff Brown specializes in real estate investment for retirement, has practiced real estate for over 40 years and is a veteran of over 200 tax deferred exchanges, many multi-state. Brown is a second generation broker and works daily with the third generation. With CCIM training and decades of hands on experience, Brown's expertise is highly sought after, some of which he shares on his real estate investing blog.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Roland Estrada

    June 3, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. Particularly with this quote, “But the result they generally produce is the transfer of cash from their customers’ Levis to their own”. I’ve ranted about that more than people want to hear I’m sure.
    Providing buyers and sellers with some good old fashioned service and integrity on top of the flash and dazzle goes al long way towards a keeping your business thriving.   

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