Stop Being the Roadblock to Your Own Business Success

Sometimes you can be so worried about what the competition is doing that you overlook the things in-house that are holding your company back

Stop Being the Roadblock to Your Own Business Success

Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill

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When you think about your competition, you probably think about the business down the road that has outbid you a time or two. Or the new upstart that poached an employee a few months ago. Or the big franchise that moved to town and has everybody on edge.

These competitors are real, of course, but what if we told you they aren’t your biggest competition? Your real competition is you. Every time.

We all get in our own way now and then. Business is complicated, and it’s always easier to see where we went off the rails after the fact. But there are also some very common places where we tend to compete with ourselves, self-erecting the roadblocks to our own success, over and over, without really considering what we’re doing.

This is a list of the ones we’ve most often seen, but surely you could add a few of your own.

Competing with your customers’ expectations

You may actually be the best septic service company in your market. But if you are delivering a customer experience that doesn’t meet expectations, it doesn’t really matter how good you are at the job. Your customers control the narrative, not you.

Taking the time to explain to a customer what the problem was and how you fixed it goes a long way to helping a customer feel like they were justified in calling an expert instead of trying to fix it themselves.

It may sound funny to someone with countless years of knowledge in the trade, but you aren’t just there to fix a problem; you’re there to deliver a good experience. And if you succeed at the former but fail at the latter, then in the eyes of the customer you haven’t done the job you were hired to do.

Consider some wisdom from Maya Angelou: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Competing with missed opportunities

By our estimate, every year the average onsite company misses between 15% and 20% of the opportunities they paid to get. Missed or unreturned calls and emails. Failure to provide the estimate as promised. Forgetting to follow up. Long wait times. Poor communication. Holes in the internal systems and processes of a business that allow untold potential revenue to just evaporate into thin air.

Too often these inefficiencies are just tolerated as a fact that cannot be changed. We are bending over a dollar to pick up a penny every time we get upset with another business for stealing a job away from us, fretting about how much they cost us. The truth is, the opportunities we lose all on our own far outweigh the loss of a job or two to another company.

As marketers, we have lamented before about the loss of opportunities arising from not reminding customers of all the other services you can perform for them. It’s as simple as adding one line at the bottom of your emails or invoices reminding people that you also do X, Y, and Z, or recording messages to play along with your hold music, or training customer service reps to ask every customer if they’d like to add an additional service to their scheduled appointment. This one tactic usually costs nothing to market but can create hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional revenue every year.

Competing with wasted time

Think for a minute about how a time-consuming office process tends to be avoided. Or how manual customer communication tasks eat up entire days of productivity and leave everyone weary and drained. Wasted time equates to thousands of dollars in lost productivity, soaring labor costs, staff burnout and a poor customer experience. 

Look for ways to thoughtfully automate routine tasks, especially customer communications. If the result is more consistent communication of equal or better quality, and most people would not even know it was automated, or care if it was, then automate it. Systems like CustomerMatic work great right on top of whatever field service software you already use.

Competing with change resistance

The longer you’ve been in business, the more likely you are to become resistant to change. After all, why alter something that’s worked well enough for all these years? The truth is, the pace of business itself is changing, and the tools, systems, ideas, and customer expectations of the modern septic company are changing, too. A year ago, who would have guessed that today’s hot topic of conversation would be business artificial intelligence being readily available in every part of your operations?

Resistance to change is a dangerous stance. Refusing to change can feel like you aren’t really making a choice, but sometimes a non-choice is still a choice, and a costly one. There was a time when a company that was slow to change was able to wear it as a badge of honor of sorts, but these days you can be left behind in the blink of an eye.

U.S. Army General Eric Shinseki said it best: “If you dislike change, you will dislike irrelevance even less.”

Playing to win

A recent study of elite athletes turned up a surprising discovery. Those athletes who had a mindset of dominating and defeating their competitors performed consistently worse than athletes who had a mindset of growth, focusing on their own game and doing progressively better in every match. It turns out that these superstars understood that placing their outcomes in the hands of a rival did nothing but strip them of control, reduce their happiness and even led to paralyzing and downward-spiraling performances. The way to consistently play for the win was to focus on one’s own improvement and achievement while enjoying the growth process. It may sound counterintuitive, but then again most of life’s biggest lessons turn out to be that way, don’t they?

So as competitors “out there” come and go, the real one stares back at you in the mirror every day. Think like those elite athletes who focused on their own improvement and achievements while you build the business of your dreams.

About the author
Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill are the authors of Blue Collar Proud: 10 Principles for Building a Kickass Business You Love and the owners of Spark Marketer, a "no bull" digital marketing company that’s been getting sh*t done for home service businesses across the nation for a decade. They’re trusted thought leaders in the industries they serve, which is why you’ll find them regularly speaking at service industry trade shows and conferences and writing for trade magazines. Tired of empty promises and ready for focused digital marketing and balls-to-the-wall dedication that gets your business seen? Visit


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