One of the most stressful things you’ve have to do as a business owner is close your business. Whether it’s for a good reason (Ex: Getting married and moving to Tahiti) or a bad reason (Ex: bankruptcy), every business ends in some way. My mom very recently sold her business, which is another ending. I have seen first hand what it’s like to go through closing a business, whether it’s turning it over to someone else to run or closing it for good.
Sure we do internet-related marketing, maintenance, and training for people… but sometimes working with clients means operating in a bit of gray area.
Problem: Some of our clients have had to close businesses. It’s often a stressful and emotional time for them and, as compassionate people, we feel their pain and want to help in whatever ways we can.
Solution: When one of our customers tells me they are closing or thinking of closing, we have three steps we go through with them :
1) helping them maximize assets (Ex: what do they have and how can we help sell it or use it to communicate business value)
2) making sure they have their information, should they ever need it (ex: password to get into hosting account) and
3) helping them announce it online.
Maximizing assets is where it’s hard for us to walk the line between internet marketing people and business consultants. Most of the time, I see the internet as a helpful tool for maximizing assets. We can help a client at least, say, understand the difference between Craigslist and Ebay for liquidating excess inventory. We try to point them in good directions and connect them to those who can help… but business consultants, we are not. I am always the first to say this in meeting with a client in this situation. We want to help, but we can’t be more than we are.
Making sure the client has up-to-date information also helps. Do emails need to be forwarded to new accounts? Is the domain name on autorenewal and needing to be transferred to a new owner? These are questions the client isn’t thinking of but we try to. We also try to keep passwords and client files going pretty far back, on the off chance five years from now, we are contacted and asked about it. (Yes that has happened.)
The one thing we very directly help with is messaging. Who needs to know? When do they need to know? What is the plan for rolling this out?
For example, our longest term client Meg at Local Color recently decided to move back home to the Maryland and close her retail store in Maine. She was exhausted at the idea of having this conversation over and over… so we got her on video which we posted to Facebook:
We did a couple takes until Meg liked how it came out. Then we help publicize her going-out-of-business sales, making events for them online and a way for those who love Meg to come and wish her well. Finally, we sent an email to her email list explaining the upcoming change and where the sales were happening so her most loyal supporters would know.
Self-employed people have a team and we are part of a lot of those teams. Part of being a team member is being there from when the business begins until when it ends. And maybe having a little toast after it all to wish this person well we’ve had the pleasure of working with.
Values Demonstrated: collaboration, compassion, professionalism, helpfulness, friendship
How Could This Story Be Better: Business stories sometimes aren’t fun to think about. I actually tried this as Story 4, Story 5 and Story 6 of this series but only now am able to articulate it how I want to. I guess this story would be better if it was more common. If we talked about things that were hard maybe not as easily and as often as the happy stories but definitely more often than we do now.
I could have used a few other examples of closing businesses: how they were handled and what we helped with but I chose to use Meg’s because it’s the most positive one I can think of. So maybe I’m part of that problem.
More visuals, some quotes from Meg, and other elements mentioned previously could make this story better. But the care in how we handle things like this I think will make our company better.