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How Do I Renegotiate with Clients Without Alienating Them?

This and more reader questions answered.

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We are growing so fast that we can barely keep up… We took on many clients early on who are still trying to low-ball us and frankly [are] not paying nearly as well [as newer ones]. What is the best way to renegotiate these budgets without alienating our early clients?

First, keep in mind, as you said, that you are growing and your new customers are more profitable. Even so, no one wants to deliberately shed original, loyal customers, but you do need to ease them out of their sweetheart arrangements. One way might be to introduce “new” (i.e. higher) pricing accompanied by explaining the increased costs or shortages your company has likely been experiencing for materials and possibly labor. If a “loyal” customer you’ve had for years is willing to go elsewhere over a small price increase, let them go. They may even come back when they realize that your company’s quality and service are worth the incremental increase.

Do you have a section for hiring new employees?

While we don’t have a section in the magazine, we have an entire online channel dedicated to it: signsofthetimes.com/help.

Is there any point to doing performance reviews when it’s unlikely we will be giving pay raises this year? I don’t particularly like doing them and I imagine the staff will view it as a waste of time.

Ideally, a review should be a discussion about performance, not about compensation. And while you have no carrot to wave, it’s still important to let your staff know how well they are doing at their jobs, what plans you have for their development, what areas they could improve (and if possible, targets for them to shoot for), plus a reminder that the payoff will come when times improve. The review gives your staff a chance to provide feedback to you, too. No matter what, try to take some action based on what is discussed in the review. Otherwise, it really is a pointless exercise.

Are there any business questions that are too stupid to ask?

No.

We just got a one-star review on Yelp. How can I ensure this never happens again?

Brand storytelling expert Bernadette Jiwa has this advice on how to avoid bad social media reviews: Start by writing the five-star review you’re hoping for. Make this your manifesto and share it with your team. Now design every touchpoint in your business to make that review a reality. Additional tips: Care twice as much about how your customers feel as you do about what they might say. Make sure reality exceeds expectations.

How do I deal with a new hire who doesn’t seem eager to get started? She has rescheduled her start date three times.

Sounds like you’re her backup plan or she’s a worker with a serious lack of enthusiasm for honest labor. Send her a note thanking her for her interest but telling her that recent developments have forced you to reconsider the position and that you are rescinding your offer.

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Signs of the Times has been the world leader in sign information since 1906. Contact Signs of the Times' editors at [email protected].

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