Turning away work kills me.
However, I have learned over the years that being honest with customers up front saves both parties immense problems in the end. This concept took me a long time to realize, and making a habit of it is something I have only recently seen the benefits of.
K & E Sheet Metal LLC is a custom HVAC fabrication company. The shop is set up to build custom ductwork for HVAC contractors. Yes, we can fabricate many items here, and we are happy to do so. However, the time frames for those particular builds are extended and have to be pushed down the list sometimes.
In the past I took on everything that came through the door and it started, over time, to bite me in the ass. I was always behind and customers were pissed! I was starting to give things away because I felt so bad about it.
I would tell them, “just take, it’s fine, I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”
Not really the best way to run a profitable business.
I brought on a new General Manager/Mentor last year and he’s helped me realize that taking on ALL of those projects was the problem. The issues arose because I wasn’t being honest with myself or the customer when they brought me these projects. I needed to tell them what the actual price would be and that we couldn’t expedite these kind of orders. Just taking everything, telling them you could have it ASAP and giving it away, basically for free, when I knew I couldn’t keep up, just wasn’t going to cut it.
I needed to change.
Most of these projects were high priced builds and I was not costing them correctly because I felt bad. I didn’t want to charge too much. I started telling the customers with these items what the actual cost would be. Just by doing that I have weeded out 70% of the frustrations because most of them just wanted something cheap anyway. Next, I would be upfront with the real lead times for these fabrications. I never wanted to upset anyone, and I just thought that’s how you do business. Get it done ASAP! Unfortunately, I didn’t realize I was being dishonest with the most important people in our business, the customers. I was unintentionally making it worse for us both.
The changes and honesty are helping to make me and my customers happier. Yes, some get upset, but we can only do what we can do. I have started recommending others that may be able to help and most people are very happy with me being as honest as possible.
By concentrating on our core product and moving on from these projects, the shop is doing better. Plus, the ones that do take the cost and lead time bring in profitable, less stressful work.
The changes have been hard for me. I hate turning away any kind of work, but the reduced stress level and core concentration on what the shop is set up to do has been amazingly positive.
Always be learning.