Adding Value to Your Custom Business
Are you looking for ways to improve and enhance the service you provide to your clients? This is referred to as adding value and it can have a number of beneficial effects for your custom business. Client loyalty can be improved, new clients gained, and profitability increased. This article will discuss several options for adding value to your custom business’s services. Perhaps you’ll choose to integrate one or more into your business.
Having a website for your custom business is an excellent opportunity for adding value to your business. Websites allow you to share information with both current and potential clients without having to spend time on phone calls or emails. A website also allows clients to find the information they’re looking for at times that are convenient for them.
A website can be as simple or sophisticated as you wish. It may only describe the services you offer and provide contact information. Or, you may decide to post photos of your equipment and employees, pricing details, weather information, or a log of your work progress. You may even decide to integrate a customer service area into your website where clients can access personal account information such as a detailed work history or billing information. For more ideas for website content, check out the article “Custom Operators: Thinking of Creating a Website? Features You May Want to Include” on the Penn State Agricultural Entrepreneurship website.
Cash flow is a concern for most producers. Producers want to pay the custom operators that they hire, however when cash flow becomes an issue those payments may not rank high on their list of priorities. If possible, you may want to consider offering two or more payment plans for clients to choose from. There are several types of payment plans available. For instance, you may want clients to pay half up front and the remainder when the work is complete, a percentage when you are hired with the remainder paid on a regular schedule, or you may allow clients to make payments on a regular schedule throughout the year. Producers will appreciate the ability to choose a payment plan that fits their cash flow.
If you’re considering offering different payment plans to your clients, make sure those that you do offer will result in a cash flow that will be good for your business. This is particularly important for seasonal work, such as planting or harvesting. The majority of your expenses will be incurred while performing your services and you need to be able to pay for or cover those expenses at that time. Also, you may want to offer different payment plans to clients based on the length of your working relationship with them. During the first year or two, you may want to test their credit worthiness and protect yourself from performing work, and incurring expenses, that you don’t get paid for. This can be accomplished by requiring new clients to pay the majority of service costs up front and over time allowing them to move to more flexible payment plans as they demonstrate their ability to make payments.
Discounts can be used to your benefit when applied appropriately. Discounts can be employed to reward clients for paying on time, to contract for your services by a certain time of the year, or to reward long-term clients. For example, you may decide to offer a five percent discount to clients who contract for your service by February 1. Or perhaps, after a client has hired you for five years you discount your service fee by five percent and after ten years discount by seven percent. Using discounts can differentiate your business from competitors’. There are many different types of discounts available for use. For more information about discounts, see the publication “What Do I Charge.”
Being a custom operator, by definition, means that you specialize in the services that you perform and offer. However, you can use diversification to your advantage if done correctly. The more client needs you can fulfill, the more likely you are to be hired or re-hired. When adding to the services that you offer, choose those that compliment your core service offering. For example, if your core service is manure hauling and application, you may want to offer to serve on the producer’s advisory committee to offer input on the farm’s nutrient management plan or assist in finding locations where manure can be applied if the producer lacks the acreage needed.
Serving on the advisory committee for one or more of your clients is another service you can offer clients. By serving in this capacity, you may gain greater understanding of your client’s business goals, challenges facing him in other areas of the business, or opportunities available. You will also have the opportunity to provide your input as to how the service(s) you are providing the client can be altered to improve impact in other areas of the business. Since you will likely be unable to serve on advisory committees for all your clients, you may, for instance, consider offering this service to long-term clients, those you feel would benefit from your expertise, or those who show great potential for improving their business in the future.
If you provide services related to crop production, such as planting, pesticide/herbicide application, or harvesting, you may want to consider additional services that you can offer to assist in the improvement of the quality of the forages your client receives. Perhaps you can offer input on the variety of seed used, timing of harvest, or storage methods. If you can assist your clients in improving their feed quality they will surely appreciate it and they are likely to continue hiring your services.
Going the extra mile
Sometimes accidents happen or things out of your control work against you. When this happens you should have back-up plans in place to guarantee that the work is completed. For instance, is there another custom operator that you respect that can complete the work? Perhaps going the extra mile means that you are willing to work overnight or drive to a parts dealer further away than the one you normally deal with to secure a needed part for your equipment. While all these things seem like simply good business management, going the extra mile to ensure that the work gets done and your clients are happy is indeed adding value to your business.
Including services, features, or choices, beyond the basic, that improves the quality or impact of your services for the clients you do work for can be considered value-added. Any additional service that you offer your clients can only be considered value-added if it is something that your clients, or potential clients, want and value. Those described in this article may be only the beginning.
To decide whether to offer additional services and then which ones, ask yourself what would improve the businesses and lives of the producers you work for. Are clients inquiring about particular services? What services does your competition offer? Are there services that complement those you currently offer? Answer these questions and develop a list of the possibilities. When you have that list, review your resources; labor, time, expertise, equipment, etc. From this point first pursue those options that fit with your available resources and the expressed needs and wants of your clientele.
Sometimes you may need to decide whether to discontinue a particular additional service. How do you make this decision? Consider these questions. Has the service been utilized, and if so, how successfully? Have you seen an increase in revenue as a result of offering these additional services? Is offering a particular service negatively impacting your ability to perform your core service(s) successfully? Your answers to these questions should help you to easily identify those services that should be discontinued.
With any luck, this article has given you some ideas on ways to add value to your custom work business. Always be on the lookout for ways to enhance your business by providing services that your clients will value.
TitleAdding Value to Your Custom Business
This publication is available in alternative media on request.