I have observed that there are 3 old-fashioned business practices that need to be revived. These 3 practices seem to have died of neglect, and not of malicious intent, so I can’t blame a singular person or event for their demise. Yet I can ask that the professionals reading this please consider helping me revive them.
I’ll explain what each one is, since there’s a chance some may not know what they are, then how the practice was screwed up, and finally why I still use it in my business.
A reseller’s rate is a discounted rate that you provide the business that is reselling your services. It’s discounted because you didn’t earn the sale. You didn’t close the deal, didn’t meet with the new client, didn’t do much of anything to land the gig. Sure, you do great work and have a great reputation, which is why you’re hired, but you give your resellers a discounted rate because they did the sales part, and need a better margin from selling your role in the project.
Yet here’s how it’s been screwed up today…
The Great Recession gave birth to the Gig Economy, and it’s made a lot of professionals into soloprenuers. The problem is that a lot of new soloprenuers didn’t learn business fundamentals (or forgot them), and are now of the mindset that they should charge anyone and everyone the same rate, no matter how the sale is gained. To these people, it doesn’t matter if the work they get is passively attained, or if they went out and closed a deal themselves.
I confess that I didn’t notice right away that the people we hired were no longer giving us a reseller’s rate. It took a while, like the old “boiling frog” analogy. But in early 2016 I noticed that a vendor we worked a lot with had more than doubled their rate over the time we had been working together, even though we were giving them more and more projects. So we made a change: we stopped working with those vendors who didn’t give us a reseller’s rate.
We took it one step further and began setting the price we would pay for the different services we hire. It was no longer a question of “what do you charge…can we afford you?,” but rather “this is what we pay – interested?”
The reseller’s rate is important because it respects where the work is coming from, and keeps very healthy reciprocal business relationships. To be blunt: If someone is bringing you in on a project you didn’t seek out and close yourself, business history says you owe them a discounted reseller’s rate.
I know, I know. “Get off my lawn” must be going through the minds of some reading this, as somehow a phone call for business has become linked to “old” in the minds of the young. For others, the ubiquitousness of a text message – in one form or another – is too convenient since you loathe the expected common courtesies of phone call etiquette for businesses.
Here’s my reply, and it’s based on a hunch: Either you’ve just had bad examples of phone calls to learn from, or you’re just lazy and need to get over yourself because – truly – you’re not nearly as important as you think you are.
Now, I’m not an anti-text communication guy, either. Any person I work with will testify to how much I like to write. Yet I’ve disrupted more than several email exchanges when it was clearly not accomplishing much of anything by picking up my phone, and talking voice-to-voice. Over and over, no matter who I am working with, we accomplish in a 15-minute call what would have taken 50 additional minutes writing 15 more emails.
That amazing device you may be reading this on is called a phone for a reason. Use it.
Professional courtesies are the little things that you weren’t told to do, yet you do them anyway because it shows you’re paying attention to the bigger picture and aren’t chasing pennies for your time. A professional courtesy is absorbing that extra 30 minutes needed for a project. It’s including the social media avatar images when you were only hired to make the logo. It’s referring that service to your client that you know you can’t resell. It’s answering a question about the website you launched 2 years ago, and not charging for your time. Professional courtesies are done by people who are genuinely interested in the well-being of the people they’re hired to serve.
I’m only an armchair psychologist, but my best guess as to why this old-fashioned business practice went awry is that constructive thought has also declined. In its absence, and because it’s the easier/lazier thing to do, order-taking now rules the day. You know order-takers. They only do what you tell them to do, they don’t apply much thought to the bigger picture, and they want a steep down payment to start work, plus immediate payment upon completion. To these mouth-breathing dolts, Net 30 may as well be the name of a new droid in the next Star Wars® film.
My career, indeed my life, has been enriched and informed by people who believed professional courtesies were the right thing to do 9 out of 10 times. I was mentored by professionals who showed me a long-term approach to client care with lots of professional courtesies that added up to clients that stayed with them for years. To this day, I find that giving small professional courtesies is the grease that helps projects turn into relationships. This is a huge component to why my co-founder and I named our business Brand Shepherd: We apply that shepherding mindset to every nook and detail of what we do, and it’s worked quite well.
So, what do these 3 old-fashioned business practices have to do with branding?
I would argue that they are the “under the hood” components a thoughtful brand uses to conduct smart business, make the best use of time, and treat others with dignity and respect. Morale among the people who work with and for the brand is made up of these kinds of things – the old-fashioned things that are old and still used for a reason: they work.