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And from our cold case files, an article written by Justin Keane a year ago, but one that still resonates today

Much to my wife’s chagrin, I willingly and somewhat credulously engage with some of the more far-flung segments of popular culture—to wit, more often than not I fall asleep listening to a late-night radio host she charitably refers to as “Alien Man.” I won’t bore you with received conspiracy theories or musings from this or that gassy knoll, but I would like to use one of the outer limit’s more interesting fields of endeavor as a jumping point for this article.

Predictive linguistics is, in a nutshell, the belief that within the unknowable magnitude of collected human chatter we might dig out kernels of future events, most often along larger-scale trend lines such as shifts in political climate. The governing logic at work within this study holds that humans both intuit and shape future happenings through language; in other words and on a smaller, cruder scale: get a group of 30 farmers together and give them a few hours to kill in a room miked for sound and by the end of the day, you’ll probably have painted a decent picture of next year’s harvest through careful notation of repeated phrases and tonal patterns.

So, the chicken or the egg? To a predictive linguist, the answer is “both.”

On that note, we’ve all worn our eyes to the quick–and likely lost a few winks as business owners–reading about the economy these last few months. Whether or not the credit crunch leads to further fiscal deterioration, the language concentration centered around ‘downturn’ is unmistakable, and it’s smart business to bet that a relational turn towards ‘value’ will take on a gathering intensity as Wall Street makes its uneasy peace with Main Street.

Indeed, to the savvy business, this fog of uncertainty represents a very real, tangible opportunity for growth: how might a successful painting company watch its billable hours climb out of the ashes of recession?

By adding…value.

Keep in mind that most customers see their residential painting projects as component parts to the greater aim of ‘home improvement’ or ‘beautification,’ and slap a double nickel on that relationship during times of economic hardship. They’re hiring for quality, finish, aesthetic, to be sure; as fingers tighten around purse strings it’s unavoidable that they’re also hiring with an eye on a quantifiable improvement to their initial investment in the residence—in short, they are hiring to add value!

And as surely as your customers will be hiring to add value$, they’ll also be hiring to add value … consider how much proverbial—and sometimes literal!–sleep you save your customer by doing all the little things well, by covering all of their bases where possible. Time is always money, remember, and the surest way to add value across the board is by becoming a ‘go-to’ business, increasing your customer’s bottom line by decreasing his bottom time:

  • Go-to’ businesses hire, train, and employ go-to guys: Encourage your painters to develop and build upon small home repair skills whenever possible. A ‘handy’ painter might well save a customer the trouble of finding and locating an electrician, joint man, plumber, etc.
  • ‘Go-to’ businesses use their network of contacts to provide their customers with solutions: Let’s say that during the walkthrough, your customer mentions they plan on an addition to the west wing at some point over the next six months. A ‘go-to’ business checks its contact list for a general contractor in that area and is happy to save the customer extra legwork by making an introduction at the right time.
  • ‘Go-to’ businesses take the extra step, every step of the way: your painters are onsite to beautify and fortify your customer’s home; to that end, why not ask that your painters bring in empty trashcans or recycling bins on trash day, take in the customer’s mail or the paper as a courtesy, dust a coffee table that needs dusting? A ‘go-to’ business treats its customers’ homes as its own, and it holds its painters to that highest standard, seven days a week.

As the old saying holds, the list might well go on, and on–these are but a few examples of ‘go-to’ business practice. But for the most potent distillation of ‘go-to’ philosophy, take a good, long look at the telephone: a ‘go-to’ business functioning at its highest capacity is constantly challenging itself to be that first call for every one of its customers–at every point of the decision-making process.

Are you a ‘go-to’ business? If not, why not?

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