It’s Business. And, Yes, It’s Personal.
After retiring as a Master Sergeant of the United States Army, my late father went on to start his own one-man appliance repair services company. This was how he earned a living and provided for his wife and kids. It was his sole means of income. To him, his job was both business and personal. But to others, it didn’t seem that they understood that at times.
I know this because he shared with me on a number of occasions how a segment of his clientele would try to negotiate him down from the work order quote he would give them. “With labor and parts,” dad reported, “your total costs will be $_____.” To which they would respond, “Really? I didn’t think it would be that much. Is there any way you can lower that a bit?”
My father was not a hard-nosed guy. He was sensitive to people’s financial plights. And out of compassion he would often make concessions. But some were never satisfied and sought to take advantage of his kindness; regularly expecting a discount on any work that he was to do for them. Although he was gracious, he was not gullible. For those who insisted and persisted, he would either decline to do the work or oblige them but make a mental note to not serve them in the future.
Does that sound harsh? If you think so, consider this. Being the sole proprietor, my father had liberty to set his own fees for work orders. He could charge on the high or low end. It was at his discretion. Generally speaking, he chose to land somewhere in between. Therefore, the cost for his services were already marked down to a reasonable and affordable level. He adopted this business philosophy partly because he had seen unsuspecting people get swindled out of their money by a few competing companies that charged exorbitant rates. He also had a desire to be a blessing to low-income to middle-class families. And yet my father knew that there were only so many “hook-ups” he could afford before both his business and family would begin to take a hit.
I guess the reason I am speaking on this issue is because too many of us take for granted or selfishly seek to take advantage of the generosity of small business owners (SBOs), especially if they are family members or friends of ours. So, here is some advice for you (and all of us) to consider:
1. If an SBO says to you, “I usually charge [fill in the blank]. But for you, just give me [lesser amount than normal],” don’t be greedy and try to negotiate for an even lower price. Be grateful and take what he or she gives you. Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt to say “Thank you.”
2. Just because an SBO gave you a discount or freebie the last time you went to him for a service doesn’t mean you will automatically receive that all the time. Leave that attitude of entitlement at the door.
3. If an SBO generally tends to give you a break on the costs of her services, it would be nice for you to periodically insist on paying the standard fee.
4. If an SBO gives you a discount, don’t advertise it to others. Don’t tell your people to use you as a reference – an unofficial reference, I might add – so that they can receive the same “hook up” from your SBO buddy, making statements like, “Yeah, he is good. Hey, when you go, make sure to let him know I sent you and he will take care of you.” Making presumptuous promises to others on behalf of your SBO guy or gal is one of the surest ways to ruin a relationship.
5. Do your absolute best to honor the SBO’s business and/or client policies. If you have to give a 24hr notice of cancellation, adhere to that. If it is cash on delivery, don’t bring a check. You get the point.
May we never forget that small business owners have to eat and pay bills just like we do, and possibly have families to take care of.
At the end of the day, for them, business is personal.