Lean Business Techniques My Father Taught Me

Lean Business Techniques My Father Taught Me

My father always tried to instill life lessons in me.  Some of these I understood right away, but others took a long time to .  In the past few months, a lot of his lessons have really hit home for me and I want to share them with you.

Unlike me, my father is a man of few words. You could call him the “accountant type”…but he’s actually an accountant, and a very modest one at that. He’s one of those guys who has achieved a great deal, but doesn’t want to be recognized for any of it. He’ll always say something like, “I had a great team of supporters”, “I’m just the ideas guy…I didn’t lift a finger”, or “If it wasn’t for…”.  He doesn’t like being in the spotlight, but his lessons are too good not to share.

The following lessons are little things I have picked up from my father. I believe these lessons fit the spirit of this blog very well.  Let me know what you think.

“Give ‘til It Hurts”

My father’s most effective marketing technique is giving. Not money, but time. For him, time is his greatest asset and most precious currency.

Most of us don’t give enough. I sure don’t.  At least not in the traditional sense, like donations to cancer research or time at the soup kitchen. That’s not what my father gives either. Giving for him isn’t a matter of charity. To him and his family’s detriment (and I’m certain against an accountants better natural judgment), he gives ‘til it hurts.

He has never admitted it to be a marketing effort. Who knows, maybe he is just that noble? I however, am a great observer, and can testify to how effective this effort is.

Action: For a moment, put aside “time is money” and spend some time helping the next person who asks for it.

“Hire Your Clients”

The first client I remember my father ever hiring set up a real-life heist resulting in the theft of my ’68 MGB. Imagine a 14 foot U-Haul truck, with a winch at the front of the box stealing your precious car.

My father maintains that you should invest in your clients if you want them to continue to invest in you. No matter how good you are, your relationship tends to be a bit one sided if you are only the service/product provider.

I have found that even if you only buy one thing from you client, the dynamic changes. I’m not an expert at this, but both of my attempts at it were very successful. Not only did our relationship grow, but I received a ton of referring business from them—Business they had never thought to send me before I became their client. Coincidence? Perhaps. Inexpensive marketing? You bet.

Action: Pick a client or two, and buy something from them. Very simple.

“Don’t Forget the Little Guy”

My mother has always barked at my father for wasting his time on the little clients that don’t pay him any money. Before I got into business, my mother’s objections seemed to make sense. After all, if he spent his time focusing on attracting and managing bigger clients, he would have a lot more money to speak of by the days end.

While this MAY be true, he occasionally argues back, “But what if that little guy knows a big guy? You mistreat him, and you’ll never get that big guy. You do right by him, and you just may get a referral JUST for being a nice guy.”

Your little clients may not be your biggest paychecks on paper, but if you treat them with equal care, they can be your greatest brand activists. Over their lifetime those “little guys” can generate more new business and good will than any marketing effort. Likewise, if you ignore or mistreat them (like David and Goliath) they can bring you crashing to the ground.

We’ve heard the saying, “It’s the little guy you have to watch out for”, well if you have spent even a little time on Twitter, you have seen the trouble a little guy can create for a brand. The brands paying attention will try and extinguish the problem as quickly as possible – because they know.

Action: Pick up the phone, and call a bunch of your smaller clients. Review their account with them, and make some suggestions that may improve matters.

“Do the Work”

If you are a car salesman, you should be able to fix cars. Sell websites? Build them.

I don’t necessarily mean you should be doing these things day to day, but if you want to save some money here and there, you can’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves.

My father’s generation may not be able to rank a website, but the man can build a house. From an early age, his father taught him this stuff, and today you will find him renovating his office from time to time. I think this is one of the biggest things my generation missed out on.

No matter what it is you do, I would argue that your first reaction should not be to hire someone. There is a plethora of information available online that will walk you through everything from installing a toilet to a hard drive.

Roll up your sleeves and do the work.

Action: The next time something at your office breaks, try and fix it yourself first.

“Invest in Your People”

My father doesn’t pay the most, nor does he charge the most. He doesn’t have the fanciest new tech, nor the most luxurious office. However, his staff adores him. They work their tails off year round, and are happy to do it.

You’ve heard it a million times: your people are your greatest asset. It’s true. Invest in your team, and they will invest in you. I’m not talking about material investment here – it doesn’t have to be new computers and team-training programs.

It wasn’t until I starting paying attention to Hootsuite and their team that this lesson really sunk in.  Hootsuite is a very successful company, so I’m sure their founders invest in good equipment, but that doesn’t appear to be what motivates employees. I mean, have you seen these people? Their sole mission in life is to represent Hootsuite. They LOVE the owl. Why?

1. They actually think they are at Hogwarts.

2. They are respected, encouraged, and supported.

If you want to build your business, invest in your people and they will do all the heavy lifting.

Action: Schedule a monthly meeting, and spend 30 minutes chatting with each your employees 1 on 1.


Agree? Disagree? Let me know : ) 

About Adam Steele

A SEO & Local SEO by trade, Adam spends the majority of his time creating new efficiencies through smart processes and the leveraging of technology. He is ruthlessly passionate about building smart, lean businesses, and exploring new, lean, internet marketing techniques. Find him on Twitter @AdamGSteele.

  • http://communityseo.com Anand

    This is similar to Gary Vaynerchuk’s “Thank You Economy”. I am a big advocate of this approach. Anyone who has dealt with me knows I will try to make time to help, whenever I can.

    Unless you need help moving your furniture, in which case I prefer to buy the pizza. :)

    • http://www.leanmarketing.ca Adam Steele

      I haven’t read it, but just watched a couple vids of him speak about it. I totally agree. The world is going back to the basics.

  • http://www.thinkconceive.com Justin Garza

    “Clients work for you” is an AMAZING tip. Honestly giving your clients a small % for new business and focus on providing an awesome service usually you land a happy client willing to be a reference or refer more business to you for just doing what you say you will.

    I landed a HUGE DWI attorney just because I was doing such a good job on his personal friend that owned a bar I helped with some viral marketing with. Crazy small world. But good tips none the less Adam :)

    • http://www.leanmarketing.ca Adam Steele

      Thanks Justin! People helping people – it’s powerful stuff : )

  • http://twitter.com/mitchellbwright Mitchell

    It’s amazing what some people that have been around for a while can share with you huh? I enjoy speaking with people older and more experience than me for this reason.

    Love the tips!

    • http://www.leanmarketing.ca Adam Steele

      Absolutely. I wish I could upvote your comment.

  • http://www.alexfusman.com/ Alex

    Investing in clients is great advice. I know many companies who have kept around a mediocre consultant/contractor/employee because of their personal relationships, while he would have been fired long ago if their relationship was purely based on merit or quality of work. Not that you should use investing in clients as an excuse to do lower quality work. Just saying, it’s a powerful notion.

    So you didn’t finish that story – why did he steal your car?

    • http://www.leanmarketing.ca Adam Steele

      Thanks Alex. And if they have a service/product you simply cannot use, refer as much as you possibly can to them. “I heard you have a baby daughter – my optometrist client is specializes in paediatric eye care…” You get the idea.

      I should be clear, nothing was ever proven. My guess is he had a opportunity to make some quick cash, and just sold it.

  • @Burchems

    Thankfully, I grew up in a family where I was taught to “Do the Work”.
    Does anybody realize how money they spend by having the repairman over?
    I actually grew up not knowing that repairmen existed. My dad fixed and continues to fix everything. I have always enjoyed watching and learning how thing work.
    I try to apply this concept to my job; if I don’t know how something works, figure it out (with Google’s direction or course)

    • http://www.leanmarketing.ca Adam Steele

      Couldn’t agree with you more Burchems. I missed the boat on home repair, but the lesson has been applied many times over in other endeavours. Appreciate you stopping by : )

  • http://shoutoutstudio.com Nathaniel Seevers

    Adam, great write here and, as someone often stricken with nostalgia, it really hits home. I’m sure many of us have been part of a company that started off with these practices in mind but fell short maintaining them at the cusp of monetary success. We often forget that success comes in many forms.

    Thanks for sharing pal. Really nice stuff.

    • http://www.leanmarketing.ca Adam Steele

      So glad you enjoyed it. I think we all are guilty of straying from the basics, which is why I felt it was important I get them down on paper. Thanks Nathaniel.

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