You might be thinking,
“My company has NOTHING to do with irrigation, HOW IS THIS GOING TO HELP ME?”
Trust me. This information will help you – whether you run an irrigation company or you do something entirely different. Often times what matters is the person(s) behind the business. Here is how a local irrigation company owner grew a successful local business by listening and adapting to his customers’ needs.
Scott Hulihan of Hulihan Territory was a recent guest on my radio show, Hard Work-ah with Pete the Job Guy. Scott shared his advice on how to keep moving forward in the small business world. His secret: adapting. On a past show, I used Blockbuster and Netflix as an example on “…adapting to the customer and their evolving needs.”
If you want to listen to this example from the show, click here.
I was talking about innovation, disruption, and lack of adaptation. Even though customers were showing interest in another way to rent/watch movies, Blockbuster essentially said, “This is what we do. This is the way that people like it. We have to give the people what they want.”
However, it was not what the people wanted… anymore. Do you know what people wanted? They wanted to watch movies in the home, without going down the street to the Blockbuster. The customers wanted to watch movies in the comfort of their own home via streaming with the click of a button. And Netflix, well, they heard their customers’ problems, and they adapted.
So you might have a business plan with products and services, but if your customers tell you they want a little something different or you’re not currently serving them, you need to adapt to the customer’s needs in order to continue the business, or you will be obsolete to them.
Now, back to Scott Hulihan — during high school, Scott got a job working for his gym teacher, who taught him how to cut grass and install sprinkler systems. After he graduated high school in 1988, he bought his gym teacher’s equipment and continued to serve the same customer base. He learned a lot as a young entrepreneur, and he continues to learn more about his customers’ evolving needs and adapt his business accordingly. He shared this with us:
Be Patient, Stay Consistent, Stay Focus
“My advice to any entrepreneur that is first starting out, it doesn’t come overnight. You find yourself working very hard and the days are long, and things can be pretty ‘lean’ initially. Then you see your friends put their suits on and go to their office jobs that have a steady salary …and when you’re talking about my type of business, installing irrigation systems, you can easily start to think that ‘the grass is greener on the other side.’ So, there’s going to be times you second guess yourself and your decisions. That is precisely when you have to stay focused. The straighter you stay, the more focused you are, the quicker you’ll get there. Also, have a strong support system. I relied on the advice of my stepdad, and my mom and brother were also an important part of the business.” –Scott Hulihan
Adapt to the Customer’s Needs in Each Season
From the beginning, the company started as purely an irrigation company. Over time, Scott got certified for well-drilling, taught it to his employees, and then added it to his list of services. Scott also decided to add Christmas lights installation to the list after noticing there was a gap in the market for Floridians. Which worked out well, after seeing that irrigation and well-drilling slow down in the colder months.
“This is the 16th year we’ve done Christmas lights. I was looking at a landscape magazine, and out in Utah, areas like that where they get snowed in, the landscape guys can’t do anything else, so they hang Christmas lights. And I said to myself, “Well, you could do that right here in Jacksonville. Even though it’s a warmer climate, people still want Christmas lights.” And so, I started that as a keep-the-guys-busy type of deal and it’s really turned into a super-profitable busy time of year for us. My customers love it.” –Scott Hulihan
Scott found a way to withstand seasonality by adapting. He:
- observed the same market in another location (competitive analysis)
- asked his current customers if they have this need
- learned the new trade and got really good at it
Understanding the Customer’s Needs
To understand the customer’s needs, there needs to be an established relationship. Building a good relationship will not be hard if you already deliver consistent and exceptional service. If you are already delivering a good service, then ask yourself these questions:
- How can I expand this current relationship, or rather, how can you solve more problems that your customers have?
- What will make the current process easier for them?
These tips are the difference between a business owner and a successful business owner. Are you applying this tips to your business or considering to start a business? Let me know at Pete@PeteTheJobGuy.com
To listen to the full conversation, click here.