Stupid way how to loose a client

There are many ways how to loose a client. But the most painful is when it isn’t your fault and the client is sure it was your fault. I would love to explain what happened to him, but the only explanation would be blaming his team. Which is not the best way how to win him back. So we lost him. How exactly? Could it have been prevented?

Being a manager means you have to put out fires, maybe even prevent them. But you can’t expect to prevent everything. Like this palm on fire at our condo complex, which was struck by a lightning. It was us who called 911, you kind of know when a lightning strikes next to your window.

First, it is hard to actually know you lost a client. We do a lot of low priced transactions so we can’t focus on measuring everything and everybody. Not with our size and budget. So we just eyeball it. We send invoices manually and still do it as the owners and have not given that task to our team. Why?

That way we are able to see what is going on in the company every day, without any delay. So when we see that we haven’t sent any invoice to a regular customer in a while, we reach out and ask what happened. Most of the time they just don’t have any business for us, real estate market is volatile, one month they have plenty of homes for sale, another month is either slow or they work with buyers (no business for us). But sometimes they reply that we messed something up, so we try to do a research and find out what happened. Somehow we realized this regular client haven’t ordered anything in 2 months.

In this case, the client said that we were difficult to work with in terms of scheduling. That we haven’t showed up at the last shoot, rescheduled it afterwards, etc. Which is weird, because we almost never reschedule and we usually know if it happened and give the client a discount. And I can count the instances when we haven’t showed up on a single hand. It basically doesn’t happen unless there is an accident or injury and this wasn’t the case. OK, another client once woke me up in the morning, calling where am I. I forgot to put their appointment in my calendar, but that was the early days, OK? Happened once. And I arrived there couple minutes afterwards because it was close. So that doesn’t count.

So after some research with our team, we found out where the problem was. The client actually haven’t confirmed the shoot with us so we haven’t arrived as a result. And then haven’t confirmed the new time, etc. He would know if he messed up, right? He didn’t know, because his assistant did this mess.

So when we initially called him why he is not doing business with us anymore, he asked his assistant why they are using another photographer, and she told him that we haven’t showed up, rescheduled a lot, etc. She lied to cover her back and blamed us. She wouldn’t tell him that first she forgot to confirm the shoot and then messed up the follow up. There is no way to prove that it wasn’t our fault when it was mostly phone calls. And going against the word of his assistant wouldn’t solve much.

It hurt mostly because we worked for him for more than a year, shot 37 homes for him and his team and he dumped us without any complaint or notice.

Lessons learned:

  1. Know who you are dealing with. Is it the final decision maker or just an assistant? Create a relationship with the decision maker so at least they give you a notice when something is wrong
  2. S**t happens and sometimes you can’t do much about it.

EDIT: My wife just told me that the main reason he left us and didn’t want to hear the explanation is that he was stung by a scorpion while waiting there for us during the unconfirmed appointment. So not only he looked bad in front of his clients, he was also stung because of us. That is a loose-loose situation 🙂

Million dollar mistake!

I love click baits. They work. Maybe it is not a million, maybe it is more. And gladly, it is not my million. Decisions in business come daily and there are a lot of “rules” like 20/80 (The Pareto principle) or some other tips on how many decisions must be right in order to survive or importance of each decision. The devious thing about making decisions is that you NEVER know if it is an important one.

Our first business idea we worked on before, during and after we moved to Las Vegas failed. I will write about it in some other post. The second business idea was kind of a straw we were grasping in order to make some money and the business took off, it is the real estate photography business. But before it took off, we were looking for clients everywhere, including working for out of state competition. There are dozens of companies trying to work like a national service providers so they need contractors in every city. Most of them don’t want employees because it is a mess to have one or two employees in every state. Paperwork, taxes, liability, etc. Besides looking for regular clients (Realtors) I did research on companies who were looking for a contractor real estate photographers in Las Vegas.

This is not very valuable photo for anybody living in the US, but my friends from Europe ask me a lot about how are the US homes made. 99% of homes in Las Vegas, including multi-million $ mansions are built exactly like this. Concrete slab, some wooden sticks, a lot of drywall (gypsum board), insulation and paint.

One of them was a successful company in their hometown and they were spreading to more cities and already had some footprint in Las Vegas. Realtors I tried to meet told me about them, so they were known already. I checked their website, they listed my camera and equipment as acceptable so I applied. They reached out and said the camera is not good enough so they didn’t accept us as a subcontractor. That was in 2014.

In 2013 there was almost zero construction in Vegas because of the mortgage and real estate collapse. I saw maybe one house being built when driving around town. Now you see neighborhoods and apartment complexes being built again.

Life went on and after some time we knew they are the biggest competitor for us in Las Vegas, because we heard their name from potential clients the most. By the end of 2018 we surpassed them and became the biggest real estate photography company in Las Vegas in terms of volume. I am sure of it because there is a way how to estimate their volume pretty precisely. With a camera not good enough 🙂 Would the business grow as it did if we worked for them as a contractor? Nobody knows. What I know for sure is that they lost a lot of money in revenue because of one (bad?) decision.

Of course we are making bad decisions every day but not every day gives you an opportunity to feel satisfied about somebody else’s mistake 🙂 But that is probably just part of my bad Czech nature.

What is this blog going to be about?

We’ve moved to the US more than 6 years ago. I played with the idea to write a blog for a long time, since we moved… Actually a very first draft of one post was written when we were still in Prague and we were working on our business plan and visa paperwork. One night I wrote a litany about motivation because 1) I was over-motivated and felt a surge of need to share it, 2) a lot of people were saying we are brave to just throw everything away and move to the US. Some were even saying they are jealous. I was trying to tell them that they could do the move as well, there is nothing special about doing it.

Our Czech Chihuahua working on his tan, not worrying about going bankrupt in next couple months.

You just have to want to do it and be able to jump into unknown. Which is why people don’t do it. I get it. But I was full of confidence (after reading John’s blog and his contagious optimism about how easy doing business in the US is) and I was 100% sure we will succeed. We did not, at least with our first project. Those who know me must know that positive thinking is not my best skill, but I felt that way back then and we did the move. Optimism is just a lack of information. Good thing for us, that confidence and uninformed decisions can still lead to positive results 🙂

bark scorpion
Nice example of a result of the uninformed decision to move to Las Vegas, sometimes you have to share a shower with a scorpion.

Don’t be afraid, this blog won’t be about motivation or how to move to the USA.  At least not in a form of a complete guide from A to Z. During the last couple of years I made notes about what topics I want to cover. They will mostly fall into 3 categories:  funny cultural differences we’ve encountered, some posts may be about travels we do and last but not least, plenty of small bits of trivia what it is like to do business here.

Our first car, around $3,000. Piece of advice, the A/C might be blowing cold air in April when you are buying the car, but that doesn’t mean it will blow cold air in July when it is 115°F (46°C) outside.

Another advice… don’t get used to the parking sensors, not all cars have them. I was waiting for a -beep- and got a -thud- instead. Got stuck in sand at the same time so we dug the wheel out with a soda cup from McDonalds. McDonalds saves lives!

For a long time I struggled with the decision of what language it should be written in. Czech? English? Both? Czech would allow me to write it funnier (English makes me a boring person). English would allow to offer my experience to a broader audience. And writing in both would be tedious. “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”. So welcome and pardon my CzEnglish!