Growing a service business

July 30, 2010

No matter your industry you are no doubt constantly focused on serving your existing clients with an eye toward new business. While some say that the day to day of maintaining and growing a business  is a balancing act of duties between the two, I would argue that one is much more important; yet, both are intrinsically linked.

Whether you focus on multi-family and turnaround or Receivership work like Dover Realty Advisors or any service business, I feel strongly that the key to long-term success is, first and foremost, doing an outstanding job for the client and customers that you already have.

It is a simple strategy, really: You worked hard to attract a particular client. You should work even harder to build and maintain a level of trust based on honesty, transparency and superior service. Do that enough times and with enough people and, suddenly, you’ve built not only a strong client and referral base but also a solid reputation.

In turn, that reputation and foundation of satisfied customers, referral sources and business partners builds referrals and new business.  Word always gets around when there is a “good thing” out there.

So, don’t get bogged down or distracted with worrying about where that next big client is going to come from. Fear is always unproductive.  Instead, stay focused on and dedicated to the customers that you have.  Treat them well and others will follow.

I live to eat

July 14, 2010

I love food. Anyone who knows me knows that.

It is a part of my DNA and my heritage, going back to my childhood and growing up in New Haven, Connecticut where my father operated a luncheonette. I also worked there as an adolescent and during my early teenage years. Some of my fondest memories involve shucking clams on my back porch and enjoying authentic Italian food, especially Sally’s Pizza (arguably the best pizza in the U.S.) on Wooster Street in New Haven. Sundays meant neighbors gathering at our home for a special brunch that included (my favorite) sausage and peppers.

Food is important to me to this day. Some “eat to live,” I “live to eat.” In fact, I actually plan my vacations – whether east coast, west coast or overseas – around good food and outstanding restaurants.  When in New York, I still frequent one of my teenage haunts, Grand Central Station, where The Oyster Bar is outstanding and fair game. In San Francisco, I have to stop myself from eating my way entirely through their incredible Farmer’s Market.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. For me, it is all about the entire experience. A good meal with great service shared with outstanding company.  I am fortunate to have family and friends living in different regions of the country.  When making plans to visit we always discuss the pending menu.

I think it all comes down to an appreciation of individuals (in this case: food preparers and servers; wine growers; etc.) who strive to be the best and are passionate about what they do. In turn, it shows in the final product, which stands apart from the everyday. It’s what we strive for at Dover and why, I’m sure such experiences continue to resonate – for me and, in turn, my clients.

Service and Perceived Value

December 14, 2009

The search for a good apartment can be much like the search for a good restaurant. Do you like the area? Is it comfortable? Are the amenities worth the price? And then once you’ve found the perfect one, what keeps you going back for more?

First and foremost, the product has to be good. I’ve been disappointed in the past by restaurants that friends have recommended as being “great” or “delicious.” If I don’t like the food, I’m not going back. A bare apartment needs to be clean and welcoming; it doesn’t need a ton of bells and whistles, it just needs to be hospitable.

Moving on, the price needs to match the goods. If a restaurant charged me $50 for a salad, I’d have a hard time going back—even if the salad were delicious. The same goes for apartments; I’m not going to spend a fortune for a noisy apartment with leaky plumbing and stinky neighbors.

Service, service, service. Inattentive or rude staff members can ruin even the best meal. I once ate at a Chicago restaurant that is rated one of the best in the nation; the servers were flighty, there was too much time between courses, the bill was ridiculously expensive, and I didn’t enjoy the food. I’ve often thought that my substandard experience ruined the taste of my meal. In an apartment, the building’s staff can have much the same affect on a resident. If management is flighty, rude or unresponsive to resident requests, count on having a vacant apartment at the end of a resident’s lease.

Finally, restaurants and apartments need to maintain the standard that initially got people coming in. Too often restaurants and apartments change hands, and the quality begins to suffer. Smaller plates are offered for more money, or buildings begin to deteriorate before your eyes. Customers are smart; they know what they like and what they don’t, and they remember everything.

Pay attention to what you’re serving. It can be the difference between improving or retracting from your bottom line.

– Missy Schwartz