Scrooge Fire & Security - A Christmas Tale
by Jo Shaer, on December 17, 2018
It was the night before Christmas and Eb Scrooge lay in his bed worrying about his fire & security business.
He had spent Christmas Eve day going through the books. The figures for the current financial year made for depressing reading.
Scrooge Fire & Security Ltd had been stuck at around the £1m turnover mark for a couple of years now. Two years ago he had got up to £1.3m only to slip back down to £1.1 again last year.
He had been relying on word of mouth and referrals from existing customers. 80% of his enquiries came through those two invaluable sources. But it was only enough to keep him at about the same level of turnover. His business was plateauing and he knew he needed to do something about it.
A typical day in Fire & Security
Every morning Eb would wake up in the small hours knowing that, even though he would be working a 15 hour day, things were not going to improve. Every one of those 15 long and frustrating hours would be spent putting out fires. He had started to view both his customers and his staff as the enemy.
He was so overwhelmed with stuff to do that there was not enough time to deal with the day to day necessities like following up on quotes, let alone strategise about how to grow the business. And so Scrooge Fire & Security just kept bumping up against the £1.3m ceiling.
He knew that if he could get more customers, he could employ more sales people. But to get more customers, he needed more enquiries. And the extra leads weren’t coming from his existing database.
He was caught in a vicious circle that left him exhausted and alarmed.
A Finance Director stunting business growth
Jake Marley was a man with a mission – to keep costs down! He was determined the future business would not be chained down by bad investments in marketing.
It didn’t matter how much Bob Cratchitt, their long suffering sales manager, banged on about more effective marketing. Marley was not prepared to dip into the coffers for more than the cheapest of Google Ads management.
And that minimal investment was reflected by the quality and quantity of new leads they got.
Cratchitt had highlighted that the website was a waste of space. He was always talking about how they should be using their website more effectively. He wanted to blog about the problems they could solve, not just the products that provided those solutions.
But Marley’s brother had designed the website. It was awkward to point out that it wasn’t generating any leads. Especially as it had cost several thousand pounds. Scrooge wasn't prepared to have that difficult conversation.
Suddenly Scrooge awoke with a start. He pulled the duvet about more closely around his shoulders against the sudden cold. And then he became aware that he could hear something clanking and moaning in the hallway outside his bedroom.
Scrooge forced himself to walk towards the door and look outside.
It was Marley - but he was clearly not feeling himself.
"Eb, we’re in a right old pickle," he groaned, rattling the chains around his wrists and ankles. “We may have some money in the bank but our business is stagnating through lack of marketing investment. Tonight, you will be visited by three spirits who will help you to make some changes!"
"Bah, Humbug, Marley, what are you on about?"
With a flash, Marley disappeared.
The Spirit of Burglar Alarm Customers Past
Suddenly Scrooge was in a beautiful mansion. He saw a jolly, rotund looking fellow sitting at a huge table groaning with gourmet food and vintage wine bottles. He was surrounded by the smiling faces of his wealthy family - their necks, fingers and wrists sparkling expensively. Expensive artwork adorned the walls. And Eb couldn't help noticing the distinct lack of any PIRs or CCTV cameras.
He felt himself gearing up for a sales pitch about home security. But the wind was taken out of his sails when this high net worth gentleman introduced himself as the Spirit of Customers Past. He started to remind Eb of the way things used to be at Scrooge Fire & Security.
Ten years earlier, Eb was a security engineer who had fallen out with his employer. He hated the way that the company was growing through acquisition. The directors would buy up other smaller family-run security firms with great reputations. The goal was to retain their customer base as well as their most skilled engineers.
Taking on these new customers meant more maintenance and monitoring contracts. But in such volume in a short space of time, it also put a huge strain on the existing infrastructure.
Yes, they had also taken on the staff of the new companies but they weren’t always the best people and they hadn’t always received the best training. It took a long time for them to get used to the different systems for handling the jobs.
Quality control was becoming a real issue and he hated going to visit customers who did nothing but complain. They didn't like the new company or the level of service they were receiving. They kept making comparisons to their old supplier. They didn't feel special any more.
Eb's wife got fed up with him moaning and suggested that he start his own business. Surely it couldn’t be that hard?
And she was right! He had set up on his own and started contacting the customers that he had previously served. They were all delighted to follow him to Scrooge Security.
Things were going swimmingly. New alarm systems, maintenance, monitoring and access control. The enquiries just kept rolling in.
The Spirit of Security Customers Present
There was another flash and Eb was in his office with the next visitor. The Spirit of Customers Present looked reproachfully at him.
"It's alright for you!" grumbled Eb. “No one told me that starting your own business meant that you would end up doing lots of jobs that you didn’t know how to do, whilst watching your employees mess up the stuff you know you are great at!"
They also hadn't told him that cash flow would be such a problem. He had to pay suppliers upfront and then wait 30-60 days for the customers to pay. That cash gap was a killer which directly impacted his own salary.
He also had not expected that every fireman, electrician and contractor would suddenly become an expert at Fire & Security. Or that they could work out of their garages with sub-contractors taking on any overflow. Whilst he had the expenses of a premises and employees.
These small competitors were able to undercut him with price every time - even some of his regulars were fooled. And it was only later that these customers realised the poor quality of the equipment and installation.
He had also joined forces with Marley, a guy with an accountancy background, to manage the money, the admin and the people. In theory, this meant that Eb could do the site surveys and project manage the installations.
But it didn't always pan out that way. He didn't have time to catch up with his customers as he had when he was just an engineer.
Bob Cratchitt, the sales manager, was in his office too...
As well as banging on about the shortfalls of the website, Bob had begged to be able to use LinkedIn to locate the business owners who actually needed their services. And to nurture relationships with their existing customers.
But Scrooge and Marley didn't have cash to waste on all that rubbish. Serious buyers were not using social media to look for fire prevention or intruder protection products. They were only looking at pictures of cats and what people had for lunch.
In any case, Eb Scrooge knew that the way forward is existing customers for upgrades and for word of mouth referrals.
And then he uttered the SEVEN WORDS guaranteed to strike fear into the heart of any business coaching Spirit of Customers Yet To Come
We have always done it this way!
The Spirit of Smart Alarm Customers Yet To Come
The words kept repeating over and over in his head as, with an almighty crash, the Spirit of Customers Yet To Come appeared to him in a cemetery.
A tombstone read – Scrooge Fire & Security - they always did it that way.
He peered over the edge of a hole in the ground. And saw the faces of his past customers staring out at him. He could hear them crying:
"You stopped having time to make us feel special so we went elsewhere when we upgraded!"
As Scrooge looked up at the ghost in terror, he felt a comforting arm around him.
"But it doesn't have to be like this. You CAN make things change! You just need to work SMARTER not harder"
The arm pointed off into the distance and Scrooge saw Cratchitt and Marley sitting in his office.
They were brandishing their mobile phones and chortling about how glad they were that Eb had the foresight to really embrace the power of the internet.
Cratchitt was showing Marley an email enquiry which said:
“I saw you on LinkedIn. Can you quote me for new fire alarm system and access control equipment for my new factory?”
They both knew that this was the type of job that could be worth in excess of £100k.
Scrooge knew it too!
He could see his own inbox on the computer screen and there were lots of emails from the website’s contact form requesting site surveys, system take overs and upgrades.
The phone was ringing and everyone was bustling around the office. But they weren’t just like headless chickens piling up problems that would later land on his desk to be fixed. They were dealing with happy customers and genuine enquiries.
He saw the Responsible Person at schools, factories and offices searching on the internet for fire safety equipment. And procurement and purchasing managers being instructed to get quotes for security systems to protect stock and personnel.
- He saw people visiting his website and picking up the phone to call and request a site survey.
- He saw others exchanging their emails for an informative ebook on how to keep their homes and businesses safe.
- He saw them returning to the website or picking up the phone to book a site survey after receiving an email.
- He saw delighted customers referring his business on to their contacts.
- He could see their sales figures and the graph was definitely moving upwards towards the £1.5m for annual turnover.
A noise from his phone brought him, reluctantly, back into the present day.
He was alone in his bed and he was smiling.
The notification announced a new email from Cratchitt.
The title was:
Well, there was no time like the present. He checked his watch.
At 12.01am on Xmas Day, he downloaded his first ebook about digital marketing specifically for his industry. Written by people who had worked with other companies just like Scrooge Fire & Security and generated the leads they needed to break through the financial barriers that were holding them back.
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