I had a great conversation with a trusted colleague this morning. We talked about the transitions owners make when they are first starting out and what happens when their business begins to grow and generate sustainable revenues. While it is not always wise to generalize, the one thing we noted was that owners have a tendency to become internally focused on the operational side of the business as it gets to a certain size and scale. As a young start-up, most owners are in front of clients, are the “feet on the street,” and are making new connections. Then, the business becomes successful and they work in the safety of the “nest.” At some point, most owners start to lose some of the key connections with their newer clients, are less involved with the sales process, and spend much more time managing the daily operations of the business. This is a very risky proposition.
A critical component in any sustainable business is the customer relationship. It is the customer that generates the revenues in your business. Every time they place an order, request service, buy a part, or sign an agreement they are bringing revenue into your business. If you are an owner, the most important connection you can have to sustain your business is with your clients. Your relationship with your clients enables you to connect, to say “thanks,” to obtain feedback, to solve problems, and to help your sales team get more business. While it is very important to know what is going on in the “nest,” remember your clients are paying the bills. Make sure they know how much you appreciate their business.
The other aspect of this activity is that the strength of your relationship with your client minimizes the threat an exiting sales professional puts on your business. It is important that your salespeople have great client relationships. You want your clients to trust in your salespeople to provide the greatest of account management and service. However, the harsh reality is that salespeople do leave. When they do, the strength of the ownership relationship and the business relationship with that client will define the impact of that departure. The best time to protect your client base is when you have a stable sales situation. Build and nurture that relationship often and your revenue stream is much safer and steadier.