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Expert Answers to Biz Questions

Listen in! Pick up some expert advice to a reader's question that we selected from CyberSchmooz.

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The Biz Question

I recently purchased a business from a person who played the sweet granny. (The business is a can & bottle redemption center.) All income tax records were given to my accountant; everything jived. At the closing, all customer and financial records were to be turned over. I received selected records and no daily balance sheets.

SURPRISE!!!! Former owner never paid customers for the last two years!

Company has been blacklisted by most patrons of my business. I now have no customer base and most walk-ins have gone elsewhere. I give away cash, so I still have a chance for success! Can anyone give me a jump start!?

Answer from our Guest Expert Mark Bower of Aberdeen Mobile Home Repair

Wow! What a mess you walked into! You tried to do the right thing in the beginning by involving your accountant, but that didn't work either. Probably the biggest mistake you made was not hiring an attorney to complete the transaction. Attorneys may have given their profession a bad rap, but they're still a very important and necessary tool in today's business world.

However, that's all spilt milk, right!? You know your mistakes, so let's just concentrate on how to fix them and get your business back in customers' good graces.

Give Your Business a Face Lift!

Most definitely, work on creating a new image for your business. And you'll have to do this in a big way if you're going to get the message out and succeed in regaining those lost customers and recruiting new ones.

Obviously, the first step is to let people know you're a new owner and you intend to run a tight ship and do things right. Tell this to any customers who walk-in, and continue to give them cash, as well as some sort of incentive to return. What types of incentives could you offer the customers who are giving you a second chance? (Positive reinforcement!)

Other strategies for giving your biz a fresh look is to:

  • Advertise via big banners or radio ads that your biz is under new ownership.
  • Post fliers around town promoting your new ownership.
  • Print up new brochures touting your new customer service policies and mail them to those on the previous owner's customer list.
  • Think about changing the business's name.
  • Repaint or remodel your business. Spruce up the front desk area. Give the impression of "newness" wherever you can (and what your pocketbook will allow.)
  • Personally call on past customer accounts letting them know you're a new biz owner and still want their business. To make up for their past losses, perhaps you could offer them a "good deal" for a time.
  • Advertise a customer service satisfaction guarantee or their money back.

Going One Step Further

While all this advertising and word-of-mouth may work, you may want to consider an even bigger step to creating a new image -- closing down your business.

Yep! Shut the doors.

Businesses that close get people's attention. Then, relocate the business to a new location, and in about a week reopen under another name. Market yourself as a new business, and let everyone know that you're a new business and have no connections to the previous business. No, you won't fool everyone. But people will then realize you mean business. Eventually, previous customers will start to come back and word-of-mouth on your new and improved way of running the biz will take care of the rest.

Once you reopen your new business, come up with some good grand opening marketing gimics. If you can afford it, offer to pay double the going rate for the first 5 pounds of cans during your grand-opening week. Have a policy of paying cash on the spot, and customers will quickly be lining up at your door. When money talks, people listen!

Go for Community Service Promotions

Whether or not you close and reopen the biz, or simply try to give your existing business a face lift, you can still build goodwill towards your business by getting involved in the community. Here are a few community service ideas to chew over.

  • Support a worthy charity or local fundraiser. For instance, for every pound of cans you receive during a certain time period, donate one cent to a local charity or organization. Pick a different charity every month or so. And when you write that charity or organization a check, take a picture and submit it to the local newspaper for some great free public relations.
  • Work with a local elementary school and become their business partner. Encourage recycling efforts among your young audience along with an environmentally-friendly agenda. Offer field trips of your facility explaining how the business operates and why it's important to recycle. Encourage children to let their parents know about this unique recycling business and save stuff from home. Sponsor a class competition for seeing who can bring in the most cans; and whoever wins gets a pizza party on you! Or whatever you wish to dream up for them!
  • Sponsor a local litter pick up drive at some location. How about a popular park, downtown greenway, or local lake? Offer to pay for the trash to go to the dump, and recycle any bottles and cans that are found. You probably won't make any money on this, but you'll make a great impression on the local area with your motivation for improving the surroundings.

What goes around, comes around. I truly believe that if your intentions are good and you're an honest, giving person, your business will turn around. Just keep a positive attitude and do what's right. Keep smiling!

Best of Biz,

Mark Bower

Aberdeen Home Repair

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