Like a majority of small businesses, the nature of our business is relationships. Developing strong client relationships leads to referrals upon referrals. The same is true for my father’s company. When my grandfather started, he established relationships with hundreds of clients in town. As time progressed, their children became clients of my father. Word of mouth from these clients brought in business from the remainder of the town and towns surrounding, establishing a client base that essentially began as relationships. Today, my father is heavily invested in the social aspect of business. He greets every customer like a close friend, knows their address, when their last delivery was, who their parents are, etc. It surprises me how much he knows about even his smallest clients. The same holds true for an insurance agency.
When it came time for me to buy car insurance, the first place I looked to was an agency that my family already had a relationship with. My parents had their car insurance with a local agency, so naturally I defaulted to that agency knowing that I would be recognized without having met the agent before. I see it on a weekly basis in our agency. Customers of the agency come in with their teen driver and sign them up for a policy. Little thought goes into exploring other options because they know that if an issue arises, it will be handled promptly and professional. Little thought goes into writing with a direct writer because they value the personal, friendly relationship that our agents offer clients, even if it means sacrificing a few dollars for the sake of service. It would be very easy for my father’s customers to buy oil elsewhere when only considering price. At times, financial position and market influences dictate charging a higher price that some competitors, but the assurance of knowing that if a problem arises, no matter the time or day, someone will answer the phone is a higher priority than price.
On Thursday, the agency’s own Sandi Abrams hosted a Ladies’ Luncheon for members of the Private Client Group, among other customers of the agency. Insurance talk was forbidden provided it was strictly a leisure event, with a representative of Stark Fabric & Carpet presenting design highlights for 2012 (a riveting presentation, I might add). Though I had little interest, the women found the presentation and event delightful, given the lighthearted, fun environment. Though it was not an event solely focused on referrals, the development of relationships became a central focus. With representatives from a variety of area businesses and industries, and an environment that promoted socialization, everyone seemed to mingle with people they might not have elsewhere. Many a phone number or business card was exchanged, and if anything, attendees walked away with new friends and leads. While the colors, fabrics, girl-talk were dizzying, I could tell that the event was far more than a lunch.
As the summer comes to a screeching halt, I find myself staring down the barrel of what is to be my hardest year of schooling yet. With courses like Cost Management Accounting, Advanced Managerial Finance, Advanced Financial Accounting and Reporting, and International Finance, it looks to be an insurmountable challenge. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m not ready for my summer to end!