Which Client Do I Keep?

As I sat in my favourite coffee shop this morning sipping on a decaf I couldn’t hear myself think!

The construction company that had built the multi-story apartment block above the coffee shop were holding a handover meeting with the apartment block owners in the cafe.

Much exuberation and back-slapping was flowing between the remaining tradies and the construction managers. The noisy self-congratulation for a job well done (in their mind) was over-bearing – the representative of the apartment block owner sat quietly in amazement.

Enough, I said to myself – time to go!

As I checked-out, the café owner apologised for the noise – but, a hollow apology.

For nearly two years the tradies had literally taken over my favourite coffee shop. Peace and quiet had gone out the window and cash flow had entered with a vengeance.

Local patronage had dropped off noticeably, but the cash flow from the dozens of construction workers was more than I, or other locals, provided. We were, as they say, expendable!

The café owner had made an expedient and commercial decision – tradies one, locals zero!

With the café patronage noticeably down and tradies gone, where to from here?

This is a classic dilemma for the small business owner.

Do I maximise short-term gain and hope the long-term takes care of itself?

Single dimension thinking is neither strategic nor sustainable in the small enterprise services industry. It is always about managing competing priorities – and more so in the corporate world which can draw upon a much larger capital base.

As I paid-up and was about to leave the café, I asked the owner if his pursuit of short-term cashflow had been worth the loss of long-term patrons. He also looked somewhat worried and uncomfortable with the question. He said it had been, but was worried about the future. His mumbled response as he walked away was ‘Thankfully, that’s all over now!’ I was not sure if he meant the business or the noise-makers!

Needless to say, the locals have many nearby café options, so tomorrow was the start of his real challenge!

How do I get past clients (who he abandoned) to return as loyal long-term clients?

And more importantly:

How do I make up for the loss in revenue from the herd of tradies?

The owner has a double whammy to deal with and the real hit to his business will not resonate until the takings at end of each day in coming weeks are counted. Then, I suspect the pain will be nearly as unbearable as the noise in his café this morning!

So, what is the message for the owner?

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