How to fire bad customers a simple framework for small business owners

As we move into volatile times (again), business leaders more than ever need to maniacally focus on the few customers that matter most to them — and spend much less time on the rest. The customer may always be right, but not every customer is right for you. Some years ago, when our venture firm […]

As we move into volatile times (again), business leaders more than ever need to maniacally focus on the few customers that matter most to them — and spend much less time on the rest. The customer may always be right, but not every customer is right for you. Some years ago, when our venture firm […]

As we move into volatile times (again), business leaders more than ever need to maniacally focus on the few customers that matter most to them — and spend much less time on the rest. The customer may always be right, but not every customer is right for you.

Some years ago, when our venture firm was starting one of its first retail ventures, I met with a highly successful CEO in the retail services industry to better understand how he did so well across all of his stores (he had some mind-blowing numbers). It was abundantly clear when you walked into any of his stores that his customers were genuinely delighted. I asked him for his secret. His response surprised me and has therefore stuck with me: “When we open a new location we quickly grow to a database of 8,000 customer names — and then work hard to get it down to 1,500 names.”

At first I was taken aback, as it seems counter-intuitive to shrink rather than build your customer base. Upon a little reflection, however, it made absolute sense: ultimately, business is not about growing revenue, but about growing profitable revenue with the right target customer. To get that right customer, you sometimes need to start by casting a wider net, figuring out which customers are the most attractive, and then temporarily shrinking the business before you grow it again. With each iteration, you get smarter and more targeted towards the ideal customer profile.

By focusing on customers with the highest potential in terms of repeat purchases and larger average transactions, one is able to create a more successful business because marketing and customer service efforts (and costs) can be allocated where they matter most. But for many CEOs and founders, the mandate for growth creates a bias for quantity of revenue over quality of revenue. At our venture firm, when we evaluate a business model we think very differently about a dollar of revenue with a high probability of recurrence (i.e. a customer who will buy again, making it high quality revenue) versus dollars of revenue that need to be constantly be replaced with new customers. We believe the threshold for a high-quality-of-revenue business is a revenue recurrence rate of over 85%, meaning losing no more than 15% of a customer base each year. Such businesses have higher predictability in their business model and greater leverage in their sales, marketing, and customer service. A higher quality of revenue means a better long-term business.

If you look hard at who is buying your wares, you can quickly get a sense of where the money is coming from and where your money is being spent. Some businesses exhibit the classic 80/20 rule, with their top 20 percent of customers making up 80 percent of the revenue. We have also seen a good number of firms with even more skewed revenue distributions that are closer to 90/10. Yet organizational efforts and resources are often poorly mapped to, or unaligned with, that revenue distribution pattern. In fact, it is often the opposite. That is, the bottom customer quartiles take disproportionately from a company’s sales, marketing, and customer service resources. Some of the most challenging customers are those who in the “low-middle” bucket, buying relatively little, but needing very high touch and maintenance.

Why do so many of us fall into the trap of spreading our efforts evenly across our customer base, or even skewing them towards the lowest-potential customers? It is tempting to embrace every customer equally — and we naturally want to understand why the lower customer deciles are not behaving like the higher deciles. We want to believe that we can nurture and develop all customers to reach high potential levels over time. However, in the companies in which we have been involved, the data do not support that thesis. It is always tougher to change customer behavior than to find new customers similar to your existing top-buyer profiles.

The top priority for a business that wants high quality of revenues starts with understanding everything possible about the top customers. Drill deep to understand their demographics, psychographic, and purchase behavior preferences of your “super loyalists.” Where do they come from? What is their attitudinal profile and what bundles of goods do they like best and at what price? Getting an intimate clustering of your top customer base is the foundation for a high-quality-of-revenue business.

By directing more customer acquisition and loyalty costs towards that top cohort, you will be implicitly de-focusing or “firing in advance” the less valuable customer segments. Yes, the term “fire” is a little melodramatic, but it is a clear reminder that limited resources need to be carefully allocated — and that just because you sell something to someone it does not necessarily mean it is a good thing.

Firing your customer does not mean to literally bar the door, but to set conditions whereby lower- priority customers self-select out and higher-potential ones self-select in. For example, for many businesses, first purchase order size is a good leading indicator of future purchases. If you knew that $50 was the average of your top loyalists and $30 was the average of lower tiers, you could simply raise minimum price on an opening order, or only offer free shipping on orders of $50 or above. As another example, for current customers who spend little but cost dearly in terms of customer support or other costs, consider a new pricing structure where higher support services are only free for accounts of a certain size. In effect, you can offer customers the choice to become profitable cohorts or to leave.

Your top-cohort customers are super fans who have voted with their wallets. They are the ones who will recommend you more often than other customers and would miss you most if you no longer existed. Find more people like them, and spend less time trying to turn others into people like them. Thank your best customers to death for their great patronage and worry less about — or simple “fire” — the others.

How to fire bad customers a simple framework for small business owners

Most companies wouldn’t hold onto a bad, unprofitable business practice. So why would they hold onto bad, unprofitable customers?

Breaking up his hard to do — but sometimes it’s the most sensible thing for the good of your company, customers and overall experience, say Marshall Goldsmith and Alan Weiss, authors of Lifestorming.

“We advise our clients in professional service to consider firing the bottom 10 to 15% of their clients every two years,” the authors say.

Why? Many customers made sense at a different point for businesses, but eventually some can become bad for business and not profitable.

On a larger scale, in the corporate arena, the customer loyalty experts suggest companies “triage” customers so the most-loyal and highest-potential customers get the most attention. Then, the least-loyal and lowest-potential customers might eliminate themselves from the relationship.

Who you fire

Of course, you don’t fire customers just because they’re challenging. Challenges can be met, and problems can be fixed. But there are times and reasons to purge.

Here are seven situations when you want to consider ending customer relationships.

  1. complain constantly about trivial matters and are problem-prone
  2. are consistently mean or abusive to your employees
  3. don’t have the potential to give you more business
  4. don’t refer new business
  5. aren’t profitable (perhaps even cause you to lose money)
  6. engage in or suggest unethical or questionable activities, and/or
  7. no longer fall into your mission or values.

Still, you don’t just ditch longstanding customers or old friends who suddenly don’t fit the mold. But when you are deciding which customers to let go, consider the likelihood that the situation could change. If it’s likely to change, don’t give up on them yet.

But customers who present more than one of the issues should be the first you refer elsewhere quickly and tactfully.

How to do it

Here are steps from the customer service experts at Groove that you’ll want to take when you’ve decided to part ways with some customers:

  1. Be appreciative and positive. You don’t have to end customer relationships on a sour note (even if it’s a sour situation). Thank customers for trying your products, working with your employees or experiencing your services. It can be as simple as, “We really appreciate you giving us a try.”
  2. Frame the situation. You don’t want to say anything that could be considered a personal attack, such as, “We find you difficult to work with” or “You always demand too much.” Instead, frame it in a way that puts you at some fault by reminding them of documented situations that led you to this moment. For instance, “Your request for X was outside the scope of what we offer, and you acknowledged that you wouldn’t be satisfied if we couldn’t do that” or “You’ve contacted us after the last five shipments to say you weren’t satisfied with your order. It seems we aren’t doing a good enough job to keep you happy.”
  3. Extend goodwill. You can often end the relationship quicker and more tactfully if you do something that makes departing customers feel like the winners. That may be an offer to refund fees or cancel the last invoice. It helps them walk away feeling like it was a good ride while it lasted. Say something like, “You shouldn’t have to pay for an experience that didn’t make you happy. That’s why I’m going to issue a refund for this past month.”
  4. Apologize. You might be thinking that these customers owe you an apology, but you’ll end on a much better note by apologizing to them. An apology prevents them from feeling like the wrongdoer and helps them move past resentment sooner. Say something like, “We’d like to think that our product/service/staff is a good fit for everyone. But it wasn’t in this case, and I’m sorry for that.”
  5. Offer alternatives. Don’t leave customers hanging. Let them know how they can pick up where you’re leaving them off. Say, “You might want to try X, Y or Z. One of them might be useful to you now. Best of luck.”

–>

When you are just getting started with your business, you’re probably willing to work with any and every client who comes your way. However, not every client is a good one. The emotional, physical, and mental drain caused by a bad client relationship can keep you from enjoying your job and negatively impact the work you do for other clients. At times, the best way to grow your business is to let go of those clients who are holding you back.

How do you know when it’s time to move on? Here are six warning signs for clients who bring more trouble than they are worth:

1. They Make Unreasonable Demands

We’ve all heard stories about the nightmare client who calls at 11 p.m. with a new idea. Or the client who acts like you are their dedicated employee. Then, there’s also the poor planner who expects you to save him with last-minute work, week after week.

What you should do: “Unreasonable” clients are that way for a reason; they got their expectations from somewhere. If their way of thinking doesn’t work for you and your business, then you need to recalibrate their expectations.

Everyone has his or her own definition for reasonable and unreasonable behavior. This is particularly true when it comes to setting limits between personal and professional time. Some consultants and contractors may not mind when contacted in the evening and over the weekend, while others want to maintain strict 9-5 office hours. The bottom line is, you need to decide what parameters work for you and then stick to your guns. If a client doesn’t respect the boundaries that you’ve set, then it’s time to find someone else who does.

© Minerva Studio – Fotolia.com

2. They Want Everything for Nothing

There’s nothing wrong with negotiating. Everyone — including a good client — wants to get the best deal possible. However, if a client is overly pushy about prices from the start, take this as a red flag. These same clients will probably grumble with every invoice, ask for extra work outside your initial agreement, and will never understand the value of professional work.

What you should do: Debating every invoice and quote will suck up too much time and emotional energy. Don’t waste your time on clients who don’t appreciate the value you bring to the table. As long as your pricing is fair and you perform good work, don’t worry about losing a client or two that finds your services too costly. Remember that low-quality clients tend to lead to more low-quality projects. It’s hard to grow your business when dealing with clients who aren’t willing to invest in themselves.

3. They’re Always Slow to Pay

Clients that are consistently slow to pay aren’t just annoying; they disrupt your cash flow. But in most cases these clients aren’t trying to cheat you; they’re simply business owners or managers who are too busy or disorganized.

What you should do: Try to have at least two to three months of “safety funds” for your business, so a client’s slow payment doesn’t impact your ability to pay your bills. This will allow you to cut a good client some slack now and then. However, if a client is notoriously late invoice after invoice, and requires numerous reminders each time, then it’s time to move on. That’s particularly true if you find yourself spending significant time tracking down payments, worrying about payments, or not trusting a client’s promises.

4. They Don’t Listen to You

If you’ve been working long enough, you are bound to run across clients who don’t follow your advice, are resistant to change, or simply think they know better (even though they hired you for your expertise in the first place). Perhaps they edit and revise your work beyond all recognition. Or, they don’t listen to your advice in the first place and then expect you to fix everything when things go wrong.

What you should do: Dealing with a client who continually refuses to listen to you can be a hair-tearing experience that creates more stress than it’s worth. These clients may pay well, but there’s little job satisfaction as it’s nearly impossible for you to be proud of a finished project that goes against your advice and expertise. If you find yourself stuck in this situation, respectfully voice your opinion, complete the work to the client’s liking, and then be smart enough to move on.

More AllBusiness:

5. They Don’t Respond to You

This client hires you for a project then disappears. You may have been given strict project deadlines, but whenever you need information, approval, or input, they are nowhere to be found. This is the classic “hurry up and wait” situation, where you are forced to sit on the sidelines waiting for feedback.

What you should do: While dealing with this type of client can be frustrating, don’t take the lack of response personally. A slow response doesn’t necessarily reflect the client’s unhappiness with your work. In most cases, their schedule is simply too overloaded or their priorities have shifted. In these cases, you can try to move the project along by asking if there’s another contact to work with. Be crystal clear about the potential consequences (such as missed deadlines) and keep the email trail of all correspondences.

If you fail to get any kind of response, it may be time to pull the plug. After all, missing a deadline can be stressful, no matter the underlying cause. And, it’s difficult to schedule other clients and work with such unpredictability. Send an invoice for the balance due and ask them to check back in once they’re ready to reengage.

6. They Show a Basic Lack of Respect

Do you have a client who constantly misses meetings or cancels them at the last minute? Are they ever rude to you or to someone who works for you? Clients like these don’t just lack basic manners, they eat up your valuable time and interfere with your business. While it’s perfectly understandable to change plans now and then, frequent rescheduling shows a lack of respect for your time, plain and simple.

What you should do: The first step is to begin billing for any cancelled appointments if you aren’t doing so already. After all, you need to send the message that your time is valuable. If you ever feel like a client doesn’t respect you, then it’s time to stop investing your time and energy in that relationship. You’ll find plenty of new clients that can offer you the respect you deserve. It’s time to move on to bigger and better things.

Read all of Nellie Akalp’s articles on AllBusiness.com.

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How to fire bad customers a simple framework for small business owners

Customers get rude or angry for a variety of reasons—some justified, some not. But since you’re in business to serve your customers, you’ll likely encounter rude or angry individuals at one time or another. How you respond can make the difference between a customer who feels satisfied with the resolution and one who vows never to patronize your business again.

Here are tips for coping with a tense situation and hopefully resolving it to everyone’s satisfaction:

1. Remain calm. When a customer starts yelling or being otherwise rude, there is nothing to be gained by responding in a similar manner. In fact, that will probably escalate hostilities. Maintain control of yourself, even if the customer’s tirade makes you feeling like yelling yourself.

2. Don’t take it personally. Remember, the customer is not angry with you, they are displeased with the performance of your product or the quality of the service you provide. Your personal feelings are beside the point.

3. Use your best listening skills. The first thing an angry customer wants is to vent. To do so, they need someone to listen—and, for better or worse, you are that person. Listening patiently can defuse a situation, as long as the customer feels acknowledged in his or her complaint. Hear them out. When they are done talking, summarize what you’ve heard and ask any questions to further clarify their complaint. Body language can be critically important here. Keep eye contact. Stand or sit up straight. Keep your arms uncrossed. Show how closely you’re paying attention to their problem.

4. Actively sympathize. After the customer vents, he wants to know you understand where he’s coming from and how he or she feels. Express sympathy for their unpleasant customer experience. Respect and understanding go a long way toward smoothing things over.

5. Apologize gracefully. Whether the customer’s complaint is legitimate or not is really irrelevant. If you want her to stay a customer, you need to express an apology for the problem they are having (or perceive to be having). A simple, straightforward statement is often all that’s needed: “I’m sorry you’re not happy with our product. Let’s see what we can do to make things right.”

6. Find a solution. Once you understand why the customer is unhappy, it is time to offer a solution. Ask him what he feels should be done or put forward your own fair and realistic answer to the problem. In most cases, that’s all the customer is looking for—and may result in providing some degree of satisfaction.

7. Take a few minutes on your own. After the situation has been resolved and the customer is on her way, it’s helpful for you to take your own “time-out.” Even if you’ve handled the situation in the most professional way possible, it’s still a stressful experience. Rather than let that stress linger inside you, take a short walk, treat yourself to a snack or find someone to talk to who makes you laugh. Then you’ll be ready to once again engage with your customers.

How to fire bad customers a simple framework for small business owners

Newtek is a brand of Newtek Business Services Corp. (NEWT: NASDAQ). Newtek Business Services has been in business for over thirteen years, servicing over 100,000 business…

How to fire bad customers a simple framework for small business owners

How to fire bad customers a simple framework for small business owners

By Brent Nicholson

For many small business owners, their small business is their livelihood. Any disaster that happens to hurt the company can be detrimental the owner’s finances in a huge way. One of the most common issues that many business owners face is fire damage . There are many ways in which fire can affect your business. However, there are steps that a company can take both before and after fire damage occurs to mitigate any damage that a fire may cause.

Fire Prevention
Although it seems obvious, being able to prevent fire damage from occurring is the best defense against fire. There are many things that a business can do to increase their first line against fire issues. First of all, always use the highest quality building materials possible. Many new building materials are much more fire resistant and can end up saving a lot of money. They may be more expensive to put in, but if a fire does occur they can save thousands of dollars in repairs. Also, if you are in a facility with a lot of workers, be sure to talk about the ways in which they can reduce the likelihood that a fire takes place. For instance, always dispose of any cigarette in the proper way rather than throwing it on the ground or in a trash can. These simple steps can go a long way in reducing the likelihood that a fire takes place. However, at the end of the day even if a business takes all of the necessary precautions to prevent a fire one may still occur. It is important to have a plan in place for cleanup and to have a company that you trust to handle all of the fire damage issues you may have.

Any disaster that happens to hurt the company can be detrimental the owner’s finances in a huge way. One of the most common issues that many business owners face is fire damage.

Fire Damage
Professionals specialize in helping homes and businesses clean up after a fire or other natural disaster issue. A lot of business owner think that the fire damage is something that will be easy to clean up. However, there are often several layers of issues that a small business owner faces in the clean up of their business. First of all, flames in a cause fire damage to the exterior and interior of a building. Not only does the cleanup take a long time but there is often structural damage as well. Also, the damage caused by fire, smoke is also a significant issue with fires in a business. Although many people feel as though smoke just smells bad, it also causes long-term damage as well. It is important that you work with a high-quality restoration company to fully clean and restore a building that was damaged.

Fire Recovery
During a fire, it is important that there are steps outlined for owners and employees that can help them escape the danger and get to a place of safety. Important contact information should be posted for all emergency services in many different areas of the business. Also, it should be made known that anyone that smells smoke should immediately report it. There are also many high-quality smoke detectors that can catch smoke before the traditional sensor. Spending a little extra in this area can save a lot of time, money, and heartache by preventing a fire. Investing time and money on the front end for the prevention of fires is the best way to save money and time on fire damage. However, as a business, it is important to understand a recovery plan and have a restoration company at your side to help with all of the cleanups that is required with fire damage.

How to fire bad customers a simple framework for small business owners

Customers get rude or angry for a variety of reasons—some justified, some not. But since you’re in business to serve your customers, you’ll likely encounter rude or angry individuals at one time or another. How you respond can make the difference between a customer who feels satisfied with the resolution and one who vows never to patronize your business again.

Here are tips for coping with a tense situation and hopefully resolving it to everyone’s satisfaction:

1. Remain calm. When a customer starts yelling or being otherwise rude, there is nothing to be gained by responding in a similar manner. In fact, that will probably escalate hostilities. Maintain control of yourself, even if the customer’s tirade makes you feeling like yelling yourself.

2. Don’t take it personally. Remember, the customer is not angry with you, they are displeased with the performance of your product or the quality of the service you provide. Your personal feelings are beside the point.

3. Use your best listening skills. The first thing an angry customer wants is to vent. To do so, they need someone to listen—and, for better or worse, you are that person. Listening patiently can defuse a situation, as long as the customer feels acknowledged in his or her complaint. Hear them out. When they are done talking, summarize what you’ve heard and ask any questions to further clarify their complaint. Body language can be critically important here. Keep eye contact. Stand or sit up straight. Keep your arms uncrossed. Show how closely you’re paying attention to their problem.

4. Actively sympathize. After the customer vents, he wants to know you understand where he’s coming from and how he or she feels. Express sympathy for their unpleasant customer experience. Respect and understanding go a long way toward smoothing things over.

5. Apologize gracefully. Whether the customer’s complaint is legitimate or not is really irrelevant. If you want her to stay a customer, you need to express an apology for the problem they are having (or perceive to be having). A simple, straightforward statement is often all that’s needed: “I’m sorry you’re not happy with our product. Let’s see what we can do to make things right.”

6. Find a solution. Once you understand why the customer is unhappy, it is time to offer a solution. Ask him what he feels should be done or put forward your own fair and realistic answer to the problem. In most cases, that’s all the customer is looking for—and may result in providing some degree of satisfaction.

7. Take a few minutes on your own. After the situation has been resolved and the customer is on her way, it’s helpful for you to take your own “time-out.” Even if you’ve handled the situation in the most professional way possible, it’s still a stressful experience. Rather than let that stress linger inside you, take a short walk, treat yourself to a snack or find someone to talk to who makes you laugh. Then you’ll be ready to once again engage with your customers.

How to fire bad customers a simple framework for small business owners

Newtek is a brand of Newtek Business Services Corp. (NEWT: NASDAQ). Newtek Business Services has been in business for over thirteen years, servicing over 100,000 business…

Definition & Examples of a Target Audience

How to fire bad customers a simple framework for small business owners

Tom Merton / Getty Images

A target audience is the demographic of people most likely to be interested in a company’s product or service.

Learn more about how target audiences work and how they help businesses create effective marketing plans.

What Is a Target Audience?

A target audience is a group of people identified as being likely customers of a business. Target audiences share similar demographic traits including, but not limited to:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Education
  • Socioeconomic status

Identifying your target audience as a business can help craft marketing strategies and define your core customers. Instead of spending money and resources trying to cater to every consumer, defining a target audience allows for more intentional and personal outreach to those most likely to purchase your product or service.

How Target Audiences Work

The best way to find your target audience is by first thinking about the specific needs your product or service fulfills. It’s important to identify the pain point, and then determine who has those pain points. For example, if you’ve learned that creating websites is a hassle and start a business that designs websites, your next step would be to find out who needs a website that would likely have trouble creating one. In this scenario, your target audience is likely small business owners.

The more specific you can identify your target audience’s demographic, the more effective you can advertise to them. In this example, it would be best to focus on small business owners that are likely to be less technically-sound. Instead of deeming small business owners as your target audience, you may choose to focus on small business owners over a specific age in a particular location.

If your product is very general in nature, you won’t have to do as much market research to find your target audience. If the audience is more specific, it’s important to gather data about your customers so you can narrow-focus. One way to collect data is to offer a special price or coupon code to those who visit your website or business if they fill out a survey that captures the information you need.

Market research companies can also help conduct this type of research.

Benefits of Target Audiences

Target audiences help businesses advertise more efficiently as you know who your target audience is and how to reach them. While it’s important to reach as many people as possible, and it often seems like focusing only on specific segments of the population is limiting, you need to reach potential consumers directly.

Directly reaching those interested in your product or service will ultimately put more money in your pocket. Therefore, before you decide what your message is and how to deliver it, you need to understand who you will be receiving it. For people to buy into a product or service, they need to relate to the message’s tone and content. By striking a chord with someone, a personal connection is made, and trust is established.

Let’s say the goal is to sell a product to working mothers. The advertising methods might employ digital and social media platforms and may have an energetic and empathetic tone. A better approach to reaching retired seniors is a marketing campaign using print ads in newspapers and magazines that carry a softer and more relaxed tone.

Criticism of Target Audiences

One drawback of a target audience is that companies may become too narrow-focused on the defined target audience that they overlook or disregard other potential consumers. Even well-researched target audiences may mistakenly exclude people who are interested in the product or service, so it’s important to use target audiences as baselines, not the end-all. As your product and service offerings begin to expand, it’s essential to continuously reevaluate your target audience.

Free customizable forms help you understand and meet Ontario legal requirements

How to fire bad customers a simple framework for small business ownersAlmost 98 per cent of 1.17 million employers in Canada are small businesses, and Ontario is home to more than 410,000 of them. In honour of Small Business Week October 16 to 22 – a national celebration of Canadian entrepreneurs and their contribution to our economy – it’s a good time to promote a new simple and easy-to-understand checklist that helps business owners meet health and safety requirements.

The challenge of health and safety for small business

A recent European study indicated that small businesses are at highest risk for workplace injury and illness compared to larger companies. The report states thirty per cent of small businesses do not regularly carry out risk assessments, compared with only three per cent of enterprises with 250 or more employees. And, of the small businesses that do not carry out risk assessments, over 80 per cent believe that ‘the risks and hazards are already known’ or that ‘there are no major problems.’

The report identifies several factors, including the low investment that small businesses are able to make in occupational health and safety (OHS) infrastructure; limited knowledge of owner-managers of OHS and regulatory requirements; limited capacity to manage affairs systematically; and attitudes and priorities, given their limited resources and concerns for the economic survival of their business, in which OHS has a low profile. The findings also reveal significant gaps in current knowledge on the effectiveness of strategies and interventions aimed at supporting OHS in small business.

How to fire bad customers a simple framework for small business ownersThis summer, the Ontario Ministry of Labour introduced the small business health and safety checklist, which is customizable according to number of regular employees: one to five, five to 19, or more than 20. The free fillable PDF forms are available on the MOL website.

“We hear time and time again from small businesses, ‘We just don’t know where to start – please, point us in the right direction,’ said Sandra Lawson, regional director at the Ministry of Labour. “Well here’s a streamlined checklist that is customized for your business based on the answers that you give that will point you in the right direction.”

Lawson said the new tool cuts through an overwhelming amount of resource information and helps serve as a starting point for small businesses.

“It helps you know where to go to get help, because it’s a bit of jungle out there…So we’re trying to simplify it. We’re trying to provide a way for small businesses to know where to get help. Because at the end of the day, we know that no one wants a worker to get injured.”

By customizing the checklist according to business size, Lawson says it also prevents businesses from having to wade through irrelevant material.

Organized into four parts, the checklist guides business owners on how to meet requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

1. Roles and responsibilities – helps employers and workers understand their responsibilities in the workplace

2. Reporting and records management – helps employers understand reporting requirements when there is a workplace incident such as an injury

3. Hazards in the workplace – ensures procedures are in place to control dangers

4. Training – ensures all workers complete mandatory health and safety awareness training, including specific training on hazards found in the workplace

How the law affects your business

“Some business owners incorrectly believe health and safety legislation does not apply to them,” says Tom Welton, Industrial Director at Workplace Safety North (WSN). “For example, owners who opt out of WSIB [Workplace Safety and Insurance Board] coverage sometimes make the assumption they can also opt out of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, however, that is not the case; they are two separate pieces of legislation.”

Small business owner and two-time WSN health and safety award winner, John Fleming of Fleming’s Trucking and Logging admits it’s hard to find the time to do everything. He considers health and safety a business investment. “There’s a lot of stuff to do, but once you get it in place, it’s a big relief, knowing everything is done the way it should be. I sleep better at night.”

Small business resource information has been bundled into one place by the ministry to help employers better understand OHSA and the Employment Standards Act in Ontario.

How to fire bad customers a simple framework for small business owners

Customers get rude or angry for a variety of reasons—some justified, some not. But since you’re in business to serve your customers, you’ll likely encounter rude or angry individuals at one time or another. How you respond can make the difference between a customer who feels satisfied with the resolution and one who vows never to patronize your business again.

Here are tips for coping with a tense situation and hopefully resolving it to everyone’s satisfaction:

1. Remain calm. When a customer starts yelling or being otherwise rude, there is nothing to be gained by responding in a similar manner. In fact, that will probably escalate hostilities. Maintain control of yourself, even if the customer’s tirade makes you feeling like yelling yourself.

2. Don’t take it personally. Remember, the customer is not angry with you, they are displeased with the performance of your product or the quality of the service you provide. Your personal feelings are beside the point.

3. Use your best listening skills. The first thing an angry customer wants is to vent. To do so, they need someone to listen—and, for better or worse, you are that person. Listening patiently can defuse a situation, as long as the customer feels acknowledged in his or her complaint. Hear them out. When they are done talking, summarize what you’ve heard and ask any questions to further clarify their complaint. Body language can be critically important here. Keep eye contact. Stand or sit up straight. Keep your arms uncrossed. Show how closely you’re paying attention to their problem.

4. Actively sympathize. After the customer vents, he wants to know you understand where he’s coming from and how he or she feels. Express sympathy for their unpleasant customer experience. Respect and understanding go a long way toward smoothing things over.

5. Apologize gracefully. Whether the customer’s complaint is legitimate or not is really irrelevant. If you want her to stay a customer, you need to express an apology for the problem they are having (or perceive to be having). A simple, straightforward statement is often all that’s needed: “I’m sorry you’re not happy with our product. Let’s see what we can do to make things right.”

6. Find a solution. Once you understand why the customer is unhappy, it is time to offer a solution. Ask him what he feels should be done or put forward your own fair and realistic answer to the problem. In most cases, that’s all the customer is looking for—and may result in providing some degree of satisfaction.

7. Take a few minutes on your own. After the situation has been resolved and the customer is on her way, it’s helpful for you to take your own “time-out.” Even if you’ve handled the situation in the most professional way possible, it’s still a stressful experience. Rather than let that stress linger inside you, take a short walk, treat yourself to a snack or find someone to talk to who makes you laugh. Then you’ll be ready to once again engage with your customers.

How to fire bad customers a simple framework for small business owners

Newtek is a brand of Newtek Business Services Corp. (NEWT: NASDAQ). Newtek Business Services has been in business for over thirteen years, servicing over 100,000 business…