Don't start from scratch Featured

10:47am EDT October 23, 2001

We've all heard this golden rule of business: The customer always comes first.

But with the economy gone awry and businesses right and left being forced to lay off employees, we could be chasing our tails. Sales are down, people get laid off and lose money, consumer spending decreases, sales go down ....

Maybe it's time to get back to the basics. Now that you'll see my column on these pages each month, you'll quickly learn one of my firm beliefs: There's no reason to reinvent the wheel.

Ask around when you need management ideas. We did. Business leaders in Central Ohio have found plenty of ways to handle client relations, and we've compiled them throughout this edition. Learn from their mistakes and successes.

Dave Bianconi of Progressive Medical Inc. shares his reasoning behind putting all his risk in one client -- and how he reacted when he learned he'd lose a large portion of that client's business. He was facing the possibility of annual sales decreasing by 45 percent. Instead, he found a way to recover and continue to grow his company -- 58 percent and 40 percent, respectively, in the two years following the startling announcement from that major client.

Kelly Borth of GREENCREST shares the secret of how she uses a formula for balance that protects her from a predicament such as Bianconi's. Tom McAuliffe at Commerce National Bank and Kevin Johnson, who owns two Music Go Round franchises, have found ways to build a more loyal customer base and increase sales.

And the stories of two local companies, Norman, Jones, Enlow & Co. and National Century Financial Enterprises Inc., might surprise you. Andy Coen of Norman, Jones Enlow and Dean Haberkamp of NCFE say you might want to consider turning away potential clients or weeding out your current customer list.

I hope these business owners' experiences keep you from starting at the drawing board and let you find better uses for your time.

Meanwhile, since you are our customers, let me know about any other areas in which you'd like us to provide smart ideas to help you grow your companies. Joan Slattery Wall (jwall@sbnnet.com) is senior editor of SBN Magazine in Columbus.