Prevention Is Better than Cure

By John Warrillow

To grow a valuable business – one that is sellable – your client needs to set up their company so that it is no longer dependent on him or her.  This can be easier said than done, especially when, like a PR consultant or plumber, what the business owner is typically selling is his knowledge and expertise. However, as a business coach/consultant, this is an area where you can help the owner set up his business so as to make it more owner-dependent and therefore more sellable.

To scale up a knowledge-based business, the business owner first has to figure out how to impart his knowledge and experience to his employees so they can deliver the goods. However, it can be difficult to condense years of schooling and on-the-job learning into a few weeks of employee training. The more specialized the owner’s knowledge, the harder it is for him to hand off work to juniors.

As a business coach/consultant, it’s important to realize that the key to scaling up a service business can often be found in offering the service that prevents customers from having to call the owner in the first place. Where this is the case, you need to help the owner shift from selling the cure to selling the prevention. Fixing what is broken is typically a hard task to teach; however, preventing things from breaking in the first place can be easier to train others to do.

For example, it takes years for a dentist to acquire the education and experience to successfully complete a root canal, but it’s relatively easy to train a hygienist to perform a regularly scheduled cleaning. It’s almost effortless for a real estate manager to hire someone to clean the eaves trough once a month, but repairing the flooded basement caused by the clogged gutters can be complex.

For a master car mechanic, overhauling an engine that has seized up takes years of training, but preventing the problem by regularly changing a customer’s oil is something a high school student can be taught to do. For an IT services company, restoring a customer’s network after a virus has invaded often takes the know-how of the boss, but preventing the virus by installing and monitoring the latest software patches is something a junior can easily be trained to do.

When your client is basically selling his expertise and know-how, it can be tough for him to hire or train a team to do the work for him. However, in many cases, much of the work can be eliminated by offering a preventive service, which not only maintains your client’s business income but also eliminates the need for someone to call him or her in the first place.

John WarrillowJohn Warrillow is the founder of The Sellability Score, a tool business coaches use to help their clients understand what drives a company's value. John is the author of Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You. Between 1997 and its acquisition by The Corporate Executive Board (NYSE: CEB) in 2008, John Warrillow led Warrillow & Co., an advisory firm providing marketing advice for reaching the Small & Medium Business (SMB) market segment to companies such as American Express, Apple, Bank of America, Dell, eBay, Google, IBM, Microsoft, RBC Royal Bank, Sprint, VISA, and Wells Fargo. John has been recognized by B2B Marketing as one of the top 10 Business-to-Business marketers in the United States.



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