Are You a “Reactor” or a “Responder”?

Window cleaners are an eccentric bunch. I had a friend who charged twice as much as I did, yet he cleaned an entire restaurant’s windows in exchange for lunch because he liked the pizza so much. The independent nature of our business seems to attract owners who sway to the beat of a different drum. As an example, we may give more weight to emotion over logic when making business decisions. I do it. Ask me why I still charge some of my long-time customers half my current pricing? It’s certainly not the right business decision, but those hugs are worth something, right?

All business owners have the right to charge what they want, treat their customers how they want, and essentially run their business in the way they see fit. However, we should not conclude that having that right means that our decisions will always be right. Pride, a lack of business acumen, and poor customers service can keep business owners from being as successful as they can be. The tragedy of our plight is this: It often doesn’t have to be that way.

We have the control, yet the determining factor between success and struggle can usually be found in this question: Are you a “Reactor” or a “Responder”? A Reactor is a person who behaves in response to a suggestion, stimulation, or some other influence. That doesn’t sound so bad at first, but it can end up being an anchor around the neck of your business. For instance, in response to a slow period and without much forethought, a Reactor may offer prepaid services at a huge discount just to generate some income. Of course, then they will have to honor those purchases at the expense of spots in the schedule that could have gone to customers paying full price. Or a Reactor might hire someone unqualified in response to a busy period, leading to many future headaches coming long after the busy season has passed.

On the other hand, a Responder is a person trained to deal with emergency situations in an efficient and positive manner. They are measured, controlled, and not easily rattled. They know what to expect and have a plan or strategy ready to implement for each situation. The key to your company’s long-term success is maturing enough to call yourself a Responder. Have you ever known a person who is great at starting new businesses, yet they always seem to falter after a few years and then just move on to the next “big thing”? They are most likely chronic Reactors. A Reactor’s actions are controlled by the situation, while a Responder controls their actions and manipulates the situation to their benefit.

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How can you learn to be a Responder rather than a Reactor?

  1. Plan ahead. Do you know when your slow season is? Have you calculated how much you will need to get yourself through that period? Have you made it a priority to first save that amount during your busy season before you make any big purchases for your company? If you have information about any potential problems your business is likely to face in the future, use it to your advantage. Plan now so you don’t find yourself forced to make bad business decisions later.
  2. Have high standards and refuse to lower them. Business growth is great, but if you don’t hire the right employees you are just asking for an aneurysm. Yes, it may mean turning down work until you do find the right person, but that is better than having to redo jobs or give discounts to customers as an apology for our employee’s poor workmanship. There will be many areas where you will be tempted to lower your standards to make a short-term profit. Remember, your good reputation will last long after your busy period is over. Don’t risk tarnishing it just to fit in a few extra jobs.
  3. Have a process and stick to it. If you haven’t taken the time to sit down and figure out a process or strategy to manage your growth, do it tonight. Without one your company will be aimless and you will be prone to being controlled by the circumstances you find yourself in. A process gives you boundaries that will keep you on your path. Your goals can be anything you want: double customers in 3 years, maintain current level of work, or gradually phase yourself out of the field. Knowing what you want from your business will keep you from getting sidetracked on other time-consuming projects that might be interesting but have nothing to do with your long term goals. Wherever you want your business to go, have a process to get there and stick to it.

You have the power to make better decisions for your business. And don’t worry, taking control doesn’t mean you still can’t do you. Responders like pizza and hugs, too, you know.

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