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3 Mistakes: Confessions of a Business Owner | NZ Business Magazine

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Julian So looks back on three critical customer service mistakes he made and the lessons he learned from them.

As a business owner, I always strive to provide quality customer service. I always appreciate positive feedback from customers who tell our team that they enjoy working with us as they understand the value we provide as a trusted advisor. We know ourselves well, communicate regularly and deliver on time what we promise.

However, they don’t always get it right, making mistakes along the way or doing some “stuffing”.

All businesses lose customers and customers. In the last 4 years, 3 customers have decided not to continue the business relationship due to poor experience.

Many people think that customers are the only ones who feel negative experiences, but for me, it was difficult to navigate and undo each of these experiences.

Honestly, as a small business owner, it was especially difficult. Not because of the financial loss, but because each of these experiences of losing a customer suffers from the negative feelings of failure.

But upon further reflection, there are some important lessons learned from these experiences that other business owners may find useful.

Mistake #1: Dealing with disagreements

A client asked me to review their finances. Without thinking twice, we agreed to carry out the task. After my initial review, I noticed that two key metrics were not working well. These indicators look unattractive for investment purposes. We met with the CEO to share our findings.

Instead of looking at ways to improve the current metric, the CEO suggested using another metric not commonly used in the industry to measure business success.

We disagreed with their proposed approach and the rest of the meeting did not go well. Our engagement ended soon after that meeting, and we never heard from them again.

Lesson: Before I work for a potential client, I work on building good relationships first, making sure I understand who I’m working for and their values. If this is done before engaging the service, both parties can confirm that they are suitable for each other.

Learn to listen and understand their point of view, because disagreements are a normal and natural part of relationships.

Mistake #2: Not on the Same Page

One client engaged us to help create a simple financial model. It was a pleasure working with the founder of this startup. I loved what they were trying to do. Their energy and enthusiasm was incredibly inspiring.

I offered to work for them on a stock basis for everything they needed until they raised a round. increase.

Many start-up founders often choose this model to grow their business. This allows you to start a company in growth mode without having to secure financial backing to pay large salaries.

However, the offer did not go well. The bill was paid but I haven’t had a chance to work with them since. I think my offer to work in equities was a big reason. They then raised more money and used another provider to manage their finances.

Lesson: When doing business with others, it’s essential to be clear about your role and where your customers see you adding the most value to their business. As a virtual CFO, I have to remember that my role when working with startups is first and foremost an advisor. Buying stocks and shares in a business is a privilege, but so is being an unbiased financial advisor.

Mistake #3: Discounting Services

A prominent founder asked us to review our financial structure and train our financial staff. Before the contract was finalized, the founder requested that his hourly wage be discounted twice. we agreed.

After that, I worked for that company for two months. It was stressful to deliver what they wanted, and I felt that our service was not appreciated at all by our customers.

Our monthly bill was very small (less than 1% of monthly revenue). The client asked on the bill he was hourly even though there was already a discount offered.

Ultimately, we offered to not charge for the time spent, credited everything, and mutually agreed to end the relationship.

Lesson: I often advise founders not to discount their services. On this occasion, I did not follow my own advice because the opportunity to work with a prominent founder clouded my judgment. It’s a sign that you haven’t.
Mistakes like this are common, especially for businesses that are just starting out. But the key is to keep learning from each experience and keep improving our work.

I am grateful for the lessons I have learned and the lessons I will definitely have for the future. I am proud of our team and the way we strive to build genuine relationships with our clients. I love getting up in the morning to go to work and helping them reach their goals.

Julian So is the founder of CFO4U, a virtual financial services provider that helps start-ups and high-growth SMEs (especially SaaS, DeepTech, and manufacturing) manage their finances. CFO4U provides budget and forecast modeling, monthly reporting, board advisory, and capital raising preparation services.

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