As others do, I like to look back over the past year 2017. Perhaps my review will bring some interesting information. In the worst case, it will at least serve as a chronicle for my future self.
The year 2017 was very successful in the business front. I think we have managed to progress with the business as much as we did for all of the previous years combined. In addition to the classical increase in turnover, the number of managed devices, etc., we have significantly improved our monitoring system. For today’s article, I have selected 4 milestones that have been achieved and I consider them interesting/determining for our company.
We have launched a new website https://patron-it.cz as well as czech blog by the mid-year. It was a big shift for us (the old site is available for nostalgic purposes at https://old.patron-it.cz). We thought that creating a new site would only take us a few months of work. Finally, it was a year of work (with different pauses).
This delay was caused by the discovery, that in order to make a good site, we first had to make clear for ourselves, what our business is and what competitive advantages we have over other companies in the industry. Therefore, we have simplified our services to just one (influenced by the book “SYMPLIFY“). The service is network management for contractual customers, that is we have stopped offering all one-time services. I think it was a good decision. One-time services did not propel us anywhere.
The new website has also brought a change in our approach to our surroundings. We know for ourselves (we feel like it) that we do our work well (at least better than average). However, we have been failing to pass on our “confidence” to the customers. Basically, we found out that everyone was saying that they were good (which reminds me of a cognitive distortion of “illusion of superiority” or “Dunning–Kruger effect“) and it is difficult for the customer to decide whether it is true or not. They mostly do not understand the given field (if they would, they wouldn´t probably need our services) and thus the customers decide on the basis of the impression they get from the other side. So we have started to be more open and write about things we do and how we do them. Until then, we were worried about everything and were saying “so no one steals our know-how” (it was rather naive). We’ll see how it works and where it takes us.
Getting More Expensive
After 8 years of business, we have made our services more expensive. When I have established a trade license in 2009, I chose an hourly rate of CZK 500/h. We have hardly changed this hourly rate for contract customers since then. However, in March 2017 we raised the price to CZK 650/h.
When I write it like this, it looks simple (basically it’s a couple of emails, phone calls, and appointments). However, it was our first price increase and we were afraid of what the customers’ reaction would be. We did not know whether they would leave, negotiate, or whether they would understand. We were already pushed by the rising cost of inputs and the lack of work capacity. So we didn’t have much of a choice and we head in. As a result, we have mostly encountered understanding. Only one customer left us because of the price increase, and even that was of the smallest.
Few Customers Left
Maybe naively, I had previously wanted no customer to leave. We broke up with a few customers this year. Since it was always respectful, I took it better than I originally thought. Again, the necessity rather than my courage has pushed us. We have many more inquiries than we can handle, and at the same time, we pride ourselves on the selection of talented people (we very much care about the quality of the work) and with whom a connection at first glance will be established (People Are the Foundation of Our Company).
Two small customers found someone cheaper (whether they were better or not, I don’t know, but I would be interested to know how we stand). Then we said goodbye to three customers. Always with mutual respect. The end of our cooperation was mainly because our customers disregarded our advice and recommendations (either lax or too conservative) and there was a risk of data loss or system failure that would then probably blame us (only anticipated). We have agreed with my partner unanimously, that we wanted to do things properly or not at all. The result was this break-up.
We have managed to expand the team. A colleague Jana joined the administration team early this year. We have billing, warehouses, and contracts in order thanks to her. Jana has also provided us with a significantly better invoice due dates – as we were too busy earlier, some customers paid us a couple of months after the due date (I admit that it was often our guilty because we have “lost” the invoice). The colleague was the first woman in our team. We were “afraid” of what would happen to our purely men’s team in the beginning. However, no catastrophe has occurred, but the contrary, there is so much more fun in the office. 🙂
Then our colleague Lucie has joined us to help with marketing and a good image of our company. Colleague Jakub came in mid-year. Kuba is HW service professional. His hands are golden. Thanks to him, we are now able to fix things we have previously thrown away as irreparable.
The year 2017 was interesting, successful, as well as fast as no other before. I hope that 2018 will be successful and positive, and I wish to have our team expanded by a few good colleagues = future friends.