Tony Jeary: Grow or Go

I see people every day stumped as to why their efforts are not yielding the same results as they have in the past. More often than not, the effort is not the obstacle. It is the thinking that yesterday’s strategies will yield tomorrow’s results. But past philosophies and processes require some refreshing with today’s tactics—or else your company will cease to expand.

My guest this month is Robert Peterson, co-founder of All My Sons Moving & Storage, formed in 1993 with his wife, Vauna. He knows all too well why a business needs to keep growing or get going.

Tony Jeary: How does selling your services today differ from when you began in 1993?

Robert Peterson: Look at the market in 1993 when we started. It was driven by Yellow Pages ads. We booked 95 percent of our business from these ads with a commitment to answer the phone within three rings. We were one of the only movers at that time that quoted over the phone instead of sending out estimators. We made it easy to buy from us.

As the market changed, the consumer had different buying patterns, so we adjusted. Today, customers are going online. They’re texting, using smartphones and email. So to make it easy, they can request a quote from the Internet or their smartphones, and within seconds we’re speaking with them, understanding their needs and helping them get the quotes they need.

TJ: You grew from one location in Florida to become a national chain. What were some of the innovations you incorporated to grow successfully?

RP: When you have one location, you have a great pulse on what’s going on in your business because you can see everything. You know when there are problems or if a customer is unhappy. When you grow nationally, you start losing that ability to see everything. The only way to effectively manage multiple locations is to make visits, but that becomes challenging when you grow to 44 stores in 29 states as we have—eight of which were added last year.

So, through a digital tool we devised, we “virtually” visit each location and see our operation, observe real-time performance indicators, and monitor and rate our customer experience.

We know, no matter how big we grow, we are always attached to our customer in real time. Whenever there is a failure in a customer experience, we can react immediately before the move is over because we survey at multiple points during that move. In essence, we operate nationally with the same advantages of being in a single location.

TJ: What are some other challenges that arose during your expansion, and how did you successfully deal with them?

RP: Our biggest challenges were filling and training for key positions within our organization. We met the first through a blend of promoting from within and recruiting outside the company. We addressed the second challenge by creating a training program focused on mentoring, encouraging everyone to see the value in new employees and working together as a team.

TJ: How do you go about preparing your team for expansion and the change it brings?

RP: As I recruit new people into my organization, I clearly discuss our culture and look for the right fit. My hires understand our core principles and that with all growth, change must come. While some change has a period of pain, the reward the future brings far outweighs any temporary pressure.

This approach of indoctrinating our team into a culture that promotes constant innovation and change allows us to quickly reinvent ourselves so we may continue to succeed.

TJ: Finally, why do you think you’ve had so much success over the last five years when the economy was in such a downturn?

RP: It boils down to this: We were quick to adapt to the new economy and were aggressive in capturing market share. While everybody else was slashing prices and “hiding” for survival, we spent heavily on marketing and innovation through technology. The result is that we’ve had nothing but growth over the past five years every quarter except for one. We have not laid off one person but have been in a continual state of hiring.

When you instill a sense of fear and survival, that’s what you get. When you instill a sense of growth and innovation, you get people confident and energized to go capture market share. Growing and succeeding during the recent tough economic times gave our team unprecedented confidence and strengthened its commitment to increase productivity and personal results.

One of our recent initiatives that we are very proud of is just about to launch. It is called PledgeToHire.org. Because we’ve seen how hiring people has helped us succeed, we’re making a pledge to continue that practice, and we are asking other small-business owners to follow us on that pledge. We call it a Circle of Productivity. The basis of the program is that small businesses pledge to employ more people, and those employed commit to do business with other companies who are pledging to hire. We should all be promoting those businesses that are committed to growth.

We will continue to build the size of our family business and want to share this formula for success with other businesses and get them to commit to doing the same. This is our way of taking action and not just standing by and watching the economy going sideways. We want people to know they can adapt and thrive.

Thank you, Robert, for those insights.

And I encourage you, the SUCCESS reader, to ask yourself today, Does my business need growth? If yes, does it need a small change or an extreme makeover? How can you change your thinking today to maximize your business opportunities for 2012 and beyond?

 

Tony’s Top VIPs

(Very Important Points)

• Yesterday’s strategies will not necessarily yield tomorrow’s results. Spend time regularly evaluating your “best” practices.

• Growth is not an event; it is a constant. Incorporate that expectation into your culture.

• Instill a sense of innovation in your company messaging to produce confidence and creativity in your team.

• Make it easy for your customers to do business with you by engaging on their terms.

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