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Local as Hell and Other Revelations

All you have to do is talk to your customers.

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Here’s an actual email I just received from one of my vendors:

Dear Valued Customer;

Thank you for your inquiry.

You will receive a response email from one of our Customer Service Representatives within 5-7 business days – Monday through Friday.

Please do not respond to this message.

Vendor XYZ

I don’t know about you, but this email doesn’t make me feel very “valued.” Can you imagine if we responded to our clients in 5-7 business days? What led to the creation of a culture that produced a boilerplate email like this? Just like anything else, it probably happened one choice at a time over days, months, and years. The founders and original core evangelists who started the company are probably long gone. They’ve grown to such a size and scale that it has no sense of self anymore. It’s a sad tale and one worth understanding lest we befall the same fate.

Also by Henry Clifford: Care, Water, and Feed Your Company

What can we learn from others’ bad choices? Plenty. First, let’s assume the email I received isn’t the only one out there of its kind. Let’s assume there are hundreds or thousands of companies out there who’ve lost their way due to selling their souls one bad choice at a time. What does that mean for us, the hyper-local, customer-focused technology professionals? It means we can differentiate just by picking up the phone and talking to our clients.

Every now and again I get a healthy ego check from one of our employees or clients. I remember showing up to a consultation one day dressed a little too nicely for the client’s taste. “You don’t look hungry,” he said. “You’re getting bigger and bigger like a bank. I want my trade partners hungry.” I knew what he meant, and initially took offense at the comment because I didn’t have a way to deliver what he was looking for. How the hell was I supposed to achieve my vision of growing a sizeable technology business while at the same time delivering a scrappy and hungry image to our clients? Fast forward three years later; I went for a jog with a friend who runs a rapidly expanding payroll company. “How do you expand into other markets?” I asked him. “We’re local as hell,” he said. I’ve loved that quote ever since. By hiring local sales people and having them join networking groups, he becomes the friendly neighborhood provider.

Ever since my “local as hell” revelation, we’ve tried to adapt our business accordingly. We understand our clients think of Livewire as Jonathan, Brad, Jim, or Dante. For them, Livewire is embodied in their interactions with our fantastic people. As long as we keep our people front and center, we’re a long way off from promising 5-7-business-day replies to our customers. On top of that, I try my best to keep a personal book of business so I’m forced to experience our workflow firsthand, eating our own proverbial dog food.

How are you “local as hell”?

Stay frosty, and see you in the field.

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