My company car may look like a NASCAR vehicle decked out with vendor logos, and I admittedly fast-tracked my way through high school and college, but my mantra for business growth and building customer loyalty is “slow, steady, controlled.”
Our reputation has spread based on how well we treat our customers. Now we’re getting calls from small businesses we don’t know, asking us to help them with their IT. If we accept every one of those customers we’re going to need more people, which is the situation we’re in currently. We’re about to open our first office—we’ve been working from home offices—and plan to hire at least two full-time people.
We’re happy to be in this place. We knew we’d get here, but we weren’t in a hurry.
When my partner Paul Arthur and I created Total Care in 2007, we agreed we would never borrow money to make the company bigger than it needs to be. We would do slow, steady, controlled growth. Since being in the SMB space, I’ve seen a lot of companies appear out of nowhere, with a nice office and plenty of geek toys to help their customers, and then implode in a couple of years.
So our approach to growth, coupled with customer loyalty, is what put us where we are today.
When we started Total Care our customers from a previous IT company where we had worked were behind us 100 percent. Some of them were chomping at the bit to be the first to pay us, so they could be on our wall! On our first day, one of our long-time customers wrote a check to hire us, then handed us a dollar bill to put in our office. We still have it, framed, and soon we will finally hang it up. That customer is still with us.
No “Secret Sauce”
There’s no “secret sauce” to customer loyalty. It’s a matter of taking good care of customers, listening to what they have to say, and not throwing around geek terms. It’s about being open and honest, building a professional relationship, and not trying to hide things. For instance, I will train clients in simple things they can do without having to call me. Some of our competitors try to keep everything they do protected, but customers don’t like that.
And while we do sell hardware and software, we don’t force clients to buy them from us. Customers don’t care what the technology is as long as they can do what needs to be done. It’s important to understand how your customer’s business works. I can replace a faulty computer but you have to know how that computer fits into the organizational flow—and could it be more efficient?
I also want to know the customer’s one-, five-, and 10-year goals, so we position them to achieve those goals. It’s about building the correct foundation.
Getting plugged into the local community also helps with building and retaining your customer base, and here is where peer groups are very powerful for anyone who wants to do what we do. I have been involved with a local IT peer group for 14 years as well as speak frequently at conferences. Right now, for example, an IT professional in my peer group is retiring, and he’s been taking us to meet his customers. A lot of IT pros want to turn over their businesses to people they trust.
So far, we’ve gotten customers without doing much advertising, but a conversation with some vendors led to the creation of my “NASCAR-like” business vehicle. They suggested I could use marketing dollars in this unique way. Subsequently, I “wrapped” the car with our company information and logo, and a second layer of wrapping for vendor logos. This second layer enables me to add or replace the logos as sponsorship changes. The only downside? I can’t take it through the car wash. I have to wash it by hand.
The car has gotten us a lot of visibility on the long stretch between northern Kentucky and the Dayton, Ohio, area, which encompasses our customer base. Will we get another car? Probably, as it pays for itself. But again, we’re about slow, steady growth—we don’t throw money around.
There’s no need for speed. It’s all about how you treat customers. It sounds corny, but if you build a relationship and make an effort to understand the customer’s business, and make technology conform to their business and not the other way around, you will win the race.
Total Care Computer Consulting LLC
LOCATIONS Centerville, Ohio; Florence, Ky.
FOUNDED August 1, 2007
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES 2
COMPANY FOCUS We solve technology problems for small businesses, typically with fewer than 100 computers.
FAVORITE PART OF MY JOB The satisfaction I get when a client is happy with what we’ve done and the productivity of their employees improves. It’s what helps solidify that relationship with the client.
LEAST FAVORITE PART When there’s a disaster you have to deal with at an inconvenient time
WHAT PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO KNOW ABOUT ME I graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree at age 20. I have a 29-year-old daughter and three grandchildren.