How would you feel, as a business owner, to have repeat clients for more than a decade? What makes a business sustainable? What makes you buy the same service over and over again, from the same provider? Not month after month, but year after year after year?
Let me tell you a story…
15 Years Ago…
…I bought my first apartment. It was a one room apartment somewhere downtown Bucharest. At that time, the concept of integrated services was still unknown in the real estate business, so what you were really buying were just the walls. And nothing else. The plumbing and wiring were more or less disastrous, if existing.
So, you had to call people to do stuff. Plumbers. Electricians. Painters. After you were buying an apartment the average time period after which you could move in was somewhere between 3 and 5 weeks. Of course, you could move in right away, but you would have to cope with the very real risk of flooding or spending the night at a candle light, forcibly trying to enjoy a romantic atmosphere.
Knowing a good plumber or a good electrician was crucial. It was even better than knowing a good real estate agent. Or banker. Or top manager at whatever corporation you may imagine. Because, you know, it doesn’t matter how many diplomas you have on your resume, how many successful teams you coordinated in the past, if you’re in the dark. Not much can be done in the dark, if you really think about it. Or while you’re in deep shit. Pardon my French.
So, I started to look after a good plumber. And after a good electrician. In a few weeks, after a few trials (and many errors) I found two persons: a plumber and an electrician. Reliable. Good at what they were doing. Easy to talk to. A bit expensive, but with the good habit of delivering. In a few weeks I was in my new apartment.
A few years later I moved my company offices in a new house. It was a bigger place with a nicer neighborhood. But it had the same vital problems that we had to cope with: plumbing and wiring. This time it was easier. I already knew the people. I called them, they came, they delivered. I could feel a bit of a reality grip, if you know what I mean. A bit of predictability.
Even more years later I bought a new house for myself, in the suburbs (it’s owned by the bank now, but that’s another story). A big one. Again, I had to talk to the plumber and the electrician again. This time, I realized it’s been a few years since we know each other. 5, or maybe 8 years.
And 3 months ago I started Connect Hub. By far the biggest real estate project I ever took, with 550 square meters to be set up. I had only 3 weeks to finish the works until the big launch party. After 3 weeks of working day in and day out, the evening of the party, I was “almost” ready. The only missing thing was a sink, in the kitchen. I had only 3 hours until the party. I called my plumber, he answered, he came, he delivered. This time I realized we knew each other for more than 10 years.
The Missing Link: The Plumber. And The Electrician.
A few days ago I realized that my relationship with my plumber and my electrician was longer than my two marriages combined. I know these guys for more than 15 years. And we’re still having a balanced relationship: when I need them, they come and they deliver.
The missing link between all the places I lived in is in those two persons: the plumber and the electrician. They were still available long after I moved from any of these places and ready to answer my call when I moved in the new ones.
This is the longest business relationship I had with someone. And as I trying to cope with the realization of this fact (and the accompanying dizziness) I tried to understand how and why this sustainable business was created. And I think the answer lies in these 3 simple points:
1. They Were Solving A Real Problem
Dark and cold are real problems. You can’t really survive in the dark and in the cold. An electrician is a vital person in these situations. Not to mention the shit situations. Those two people are solving real problems. They business is based on something very, very real.
2. They Were There When I Needed Them
Every time I called them, they answered. They were available. They didn’t turn their back on me. Occasionally, they postponed the intervention with a day or two, but every time I had an emergency, they at least answered.
3. They Delivered
If you really want to build a business, forget about diagrams, master degrees, trends, markets and opportunities.
Just focus on these 3 points.
- solve a real problem.
- be there for your clients.
- and deliver.
Don’t be that talkative, know-it-all-but-superficial, self-centered and blind CEO. You’ll never build a business that way.
Be the plumber. Or the electrician.