It’s been a long, cold, hard winter here in Ann Arbor, MI. How has this winter been for you? I watched as Mother Nature gradually took her toll on the some trees and shrubs we have growing around our home.
This past weekend was wonderful weather. It was time for me to assess the damage. It was time for me to see what I could salvage.
There were a lot of frost-bitten bushes. These should have been extremely hardy and evergreen. These shrubs were my friends: I had nurtured them from small plants. Clearly, I had some hard calls to make.
I cut away the dead wood. Then I pruned them. I pruned them way back. To allow them to grow.
Shrubs, even ones with dead wood, will continue to force sap up into dying branches. That’s a lot of energy for a shocked plant to expend. They keep trying to sustain portions of the plant which need to be sacrificed for the overall health of the plant. These branches are not growing in balance with the rest of the shrub. They have to go.
In business, you have to prune back your customer base. If not quarterly, at least annually.
You will have some hard calls to make. Like those shrubs with dead wood and dying branches, you will try to breathe life into some of your customers. You are reluctant to let them go. They have been with you since the beginning.
But you must. You expend a lot of energy continuing to do business with them. The return on the investment of your energy is not that great, is it? Let them go.
Like cutting off those long skinny shoots which distort the shape of the shrub, you will balance your customer base. A balanced set of customers evens out cash flow throughout the year. A balanced customer base allows you to diversify and move into new markets. A balanced customer base allows your business sap to be equally distributed throughout your business, instead of being focused around one vertical or a set of fussy and unprofitable clients.
Periodically pruning your customer base allows you to focus on balanced business growth. It’s easier to keep an eye on the pace of your overall business when you’ve shaped it with a strategy that creates balanced and sustained growth. This tack allows no branches of your business to be compromised by overgrowth or lack of attention. The result: your overall customer base can be maintained in a healthy manner.
That’s your task for this week: assess the health of your customer base. Prune it back so your business can grow.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers, LLC, catalyzes revenue-producing business transition, startup growth and professional development, one millimeter at a time. She works with manufacturing and engineering firms and small business entrepreneurships. Download her newest White Paper at her Free Resources Page.