If you were ill, would your clients stay with you?

When I was a music magazine editor, Michael was the guy who typset specialist musical notation for us. We’d phone him up and tell him, then post him what we needed, and he’d post us back a floppy disk with the files in it, and a handwritten invoice, maybe a week later. We’d never met him, and he always seemed a bit grumpy, but what he did was fine.

Then Michael got ill.

We still had a magazine to produce, so we had to call up someone else. We asked someone at another magazine who they used, which turned out to be a slightly larger company. Let’s call it SuperMusic.

SuperMusic had email. SuperMusic had several staff. SuperMusic could do work for us almost immediately. And SuperMusic were cheaper. We didn’t have one named person to call, but it didn’t seem to matter.

After three or four months, Michael got better, and phoned us up to say so. But we had to make a difficult decision. We’d used Michael for years, and we hadn’t considered replacing him, but we’d realised that we were better off using someone else. We felt bad about it, but we couldn’t justify returning to him.

Why Michael lost us as a client

Michael had failed in two ways. He hadn’t kept up with what technology was available. Maybe he thought he didn’t need it. But he forgot that his competitors would be using it. And that it might offer things that his clients would value.

Michael also failed to plan for a day when he couldn’t work. He didn’t have anyone else who he could ask to do the work for him. He would have needed to pay them, but he would have kept us as a client.

Do you have an emergency plan?

What would happen if you woke up tomorrow and couldn’t work? Could you set in place your emergency plan, so that you could keep working for your clients, or would they have to go somewhere else?

And if they went somewhere else, would they have enough reason to return to you? What might your competitors be doing better, faster or more cheaply that might just prompt your former clients to say, just as we did, feeling guilty but knowing it was right for our business: ‘I’m sorry, but we don’t need you any more’?

If you want to build a support system to allow your business to continue running in an emergency, contact me now, or get started with my free ebook The Small Business Guide to Growing Without Staff. I work only with small business owners to build the systems and the support structures that are right for them. With 18 years of experience running six, seven and eight-figure businesses with remote and virtual teams, I help you achieve greater success with increased stability and less stress.

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