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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.

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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.

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

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.

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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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Business News

9-to-5 workdays are no longer the norm: Flexibility brings productivity

(BUSINESS) Doing away with 9-to-5 workdays in a cubicle can work wonders for a team’s productivity. This is no longer a dream, but today’s reality.

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productivity outside of the challenging the norm of 9-to-5 workdays

As we’ve seen in recent years, many of the old concepts about work have been turned on their heads. Many offices allow a more casual dress as compared to the suit and tie standard, and more and more teams have the option of working remotely. One of these concepts that have been in flux for a bit is challenging the norm of 9-to-5 workdays. Offices are giving more options of flex hours and remote work, with the understanding that the work must be completed effectively and efficiently with these flexibilities.

Recently, I got sucked into one of those quick-cut Facebook videos about a company that decided to test out the method of a four-day workweek. This gave employees the option of what day they would like to take off, or, it gave employees the option to work all five days of the week, but with flex hours.

Despite the decrease in hours worked, employees were still paid for a 40-hour workweek which continued their incentive to get the same amount of work done in a more flexible manner. With this shift in time use, the results found that employees wasted less time around the office with mindless chit-chat, as they understood there was less time to waste.

The boss in this office had each team explain how they were going to deliver the same level of productivity. The video did not share the explanations, but it could be assumed that the incentive of a day off would encourage employees to continue their level of productivity, if not increase it.

This was done with the goal of working smarter, rather than harder. Finding ways to manage time better (like finishing up a task before starting another one) helps to stay efficient.

During the trial, it was found that productivity, team engagement, and morale all increased, while stress levels decreased. Having time for yourself (an extra day off) and not overworking yourself are important keys to being balanced and engaged.

There is such a stigma about the way you have to operate in order to be successful (e.g. getting up early, using every hour at your disposal, and using free time to meditate).

Let’s get real – we all need a little free time to check back in with ourselves by doing something mindless (like a good old-fashioned Game of Thrones binge). If not, we’ll go bonkers.

Flex hours and remote working are not all about having time to do morning yoga and read best-seller after best-seller. Flex hours give us the time to take our kids to and from school and comfortably wear our parenting caps without fear of getting fired for not showing up to work precisely at 9 AM.

9-to-5 workdays are becoming dated and I’m glad to see that happen. So many people run themselves ragged within this frame and it’s impossible to find that happy work-life balance. Using flex options can help people manage every aspect of their lives in a positive way.

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Business News

Corporate-franchise relationships: How has COVID affected them?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Being a part of a franchise has made sense for a long time for both the corporation and the franchisee, but the long stretch of COVID is adding complications.

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A franchise cup on a wooden table.

Americans love a franchise. We love knowing that every Dunkin Donuts iced coffee will taste the same as it did 3 states away – and every McDonald’s snack wrap will meet our expectations.

Franchises rose in popularity after World War II, and the corporate-franchise relationship since has generally been a happy one – that is, until COVID-19.

What’s their relationship?

Franchises are easier to start than a small business from scratch. You receive a business playbook and brand loyalty from corporate – if the business at large is doing well, chances are your franchise will mirror that. No need for independent advertising!

From the franchises, corporate gets an upfront fee and ongoing royalties. (For a McDonalds franchise, that’s $45k and 4% of monthly gross sales, respectively.)

Basically, it’s win-win. Both parties are happy.

Pandemic strain

The pandemic has shrunk margins across most industries, and the chain hotels, restaurants and services have been hit hard. As a result, corporate is adding more costs for franchisees, such as big cleaning bills and promotional discounts to bring back some revenue during COVID.

However, with corporate still taking the same amount from the franchises every month, these newly instated policies threaten to drive some stores into the ground – and franchisees are fighting back.

“I get that franchising isn’t a democracy,” said a Subway franchisee, who objected to the unprofitable “2-Subs-for-$10” promotion that corporate was pushing for. “But at the same time, it’s not a dictatorship.”

What I see here is corporate greed at work; they need to keep their margins up in a sinking economy, so they’re looking to the pockets of their franchisees to make up for that lost dough.

The pandemic has not been easy on any business (with the exception, of course, of Amazon, Facebook, and Tesla, which is a whole other story). However, that’s the draw of being connected to corporate – you are tied to something bigger than your individual store, and will thus stay afloat as long as they do. It’s a big reason why many opt for starting a franchise as opposed to starting their own, independent small business.

I’m glad to see individuals fighting back against corporate policies that don’t benefit them. They held up their side of the bargain – let’s see if corporate can continue to hold up theirs.

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Business News

What to do if you think you have been wrongfully terminated

(BUSINESS NEWS) Being fired hurts, but especially if you were wrongfully terminated. Here is what you can do if you need to take action.

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Stressed man staring at computer after being wrongfully terminated.

While there are plenty of ways an employer can legally fire an employee, there’s also a long list of unethical and illegal methods. If you suspect you’ve been wrongfully terminated from your job, it’s imperative that you fight back.

Common Signs of Wrongful Termination

Research shows that around 150,000 people are unjustly fired every year in the United States. That’s more than 410 people per day – roughly 17 people per hour. Here are some common signs that you’re a victim:

  • Violation of written rules or promises. The vast majority of employment is known as “at-will” employment. This means you may be fired at any time for any reason (so long as the reason is not illegal). However, if there’s a written statement or contract that implies job security, then you’re probably not an at-will employee. Review all of your employment documents to see what sort of language exists around the topic of termination.
  • Discrimination. It doesn’t matter if you’re an at-will employee or not, employers can never fire someone based on discrimination. It’s illegal – point blank, period. If you suspect you’ve been fired because of your color, race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion, or pregnancy, discrimination could be to blame.
  • Breach of good faith. Employers are known to breach good faith when they do things like mislead employees regarding their chances for promotions; fabricate reasons for firing; transfer or fire an employee to prevent the collection of sales commissions; and other similar situations.

Every situation is different, but these three signs are clear indicators that you have a potential wrongful termination claim. How you proceed will determine what happens next.

How to Respond to a Wrongful Termination

Emotions tend to run high when you’re fired from a job. Whether you loved the job or not, it’s totally normal to run a little hot under the collar upon being wrongfully terminated. But how you handle the first several hours and days will determine a lot about how this situation unfolds. Now is not the time to fly off the handle and say or do something you’ll regret. Instead, take a diplomatic response that includes steps like:

1. Gather Evidence

Wrongful termination cases are usually more complicated than they first appear on the surface. It’s important that you focus on gathering as much evidence as you possibly can. Any information or documentation you collect will increase your chances for a successful outcome. This may include emails, screenshots, written contracts and documentation, voicemails, text messages, and/or statements from coworkers.

On a related note, remember that your former employer will be doing the same thing (if a claim is brought). Be on your best behavior and don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Avoid venting to coworkers or firing off short, snappy emails to your former boss. As the saying goes, anything you say or do can and will be used against you.

2. Hire an Attorney

Don’t try to handle your wrongful termination case on your own. Hire an experienced lawyer who specializes in situations like yours. This will give you a much better chance of obtaining a successful outcome.

3. Get Legal Funding

If you’re like most victims of wrongful termination, you find yourself with no immediate source of income. This can make it difficult to pay your bills and stay financially solvent in the short term. An employment lawsuit loan could help bridge the gap.

As Upfit Legal Funding explains, “Wrongful termination lawsuit loans provide the necessary financial assistance they need to reach a settlement. This funding helps cover basic living costs until the plaintiff is able to get assistance from their settlement.”

The best thing about these loans is that you only have to repay them if there’s a successful outcome. In other words, if the claim gets thrown out or denied, you owe nothing.

4. File the Proper Paperwork

Work closely with your attorney to make sure that your complaints and claims are filed with the appropriate regulatory agencies (and that you meet the required deadlines). Depending on the type of claim, there are different groups that oversee the complaint and can help you move in the proper direction.

Adding it All Up

Getting fired is serious business. And while there are plenty of legal reasons for being terminated from a job, it’s worth exploring what’s actually going on behind the scenes. If it’s found that your employer stepped out of line, you’ll be compensated in an appropriate manner. This won’t typically help you get your job back, but it can provide some financial rectification.

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