For some; A difficult thing to say.

What is the only word that can be made up of consecutive letters in the alphabet?

To give you a hint, it’s one of the most used words that parents say to their kids when they’re growing up and, one of the words you don’t want to hear when you’re proposing to your partner. Unfortunately, it is also a word that business people have trouble saying to clients.

Recently I received a call from a painter that I know quite well. He wanted to know if we could catch up for a chat and also give him some business advice; so we met up at a coffee shop the next day.

While sipping on my latte, he told me how stressed he was and that it resulted in him getting very little sleep. The cause of the stress he said was ‘too much work’ and ‘not being able to keep up with the demand’. The reason for the influx of work at the time was that construction had slowed in the previous months because of the un-seasonal abundance of rain we have had. This in turn, held up many of the trades from working. Then all of a sudden, things caught up, houses were ready to be painted and the builders were on his back to start and, complete. To make matters worse, he was working hard and working long hours but not making much profit for all the effort put in.

I know this can happen from time to time and unfortunately, that’s the way business can be. The simple answer can be just too ‘knuckle down’, source some temporary help and work hard to catch up. This is only OK ‘IF it’s temporary and that after the rush, you have something to show for it in your bank account.

So how can a problem like this be solved if the increased workload continues?

In this painter’s case as mentioned, there was no extra money for the hard labour put in so we looked at the builders and what they were paying. Sure enough when we broke down the labour and costs associated with the painting, he was only just breaking even on some of them. When I explained this he admitted that he couldn’t/wouldn’t/didn’t know how to say the simple word ‘No’ to them. He always accepted the price offered, as all that mattered to him was the constant flow of work to keep his staff employed.

The majority of his work came from builders but there was also a consistent stream of private residential homes that he did also. When occasionally he couldn’t keep up with the demand, he sacrificed the home owners work in favour of the builders, just to keep them happy. This is where I told him was his biggest mistake. Residential homes is where the money is made so why work for someone if there isn’t a decent profit to be made. I advised him he had to forego one of the un-profitable builders; even if it meant losing one of his employees. It is insane having seven people working for you if you can make the same amount of profit with six. It’s also pointless working on a job if you are just breaking even. Why do it?

I say this to everyone I give advice too. You are in business to make a decent living. You are not a charity. You do not lower your rates because someone wants a cheaper job or they want a discount.

So the point is, you have to learn how to say NO occasionally.

No, I can’t match the other painters’ price.

No, I can’t do it for that square metre rate.

No, I can’t give a pensioner discount.

If people insist, then say you can only do it by cutting down on the time in the preparation work or you can use a cheaper line of paint to bring down the price. Otherwise, do not compromise your high standards to suit their cheap budget.

Remember; you work for yourself for a reason. One is to not have to work for a boss and the other is to make more money than if you were on wages.

Discount and you will never get ahead.


Jim Baker

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