Last week as I arrived home in the NYC suburbs after a long day I received a different kind of gift in the form of an abject business lesson. We have a small yard and when we bought the house one of the things that really attracted us to the property was a canvas awning attached to the house that covered the small brick patio. In mid-April we called the company – Fitzgerald Awning that puts it up and takes it down each year knowing that it seems to take them awhile to get out to their customers once the weather turns nice. In fact we had called more than once.
I had never met the people that do the work and knew very little about the company. In the past, one day I would come home and the awning would either be up or down depending on the season. It looked pretty complicated and I was not convinced it was a job I could do myself and the cost to put it up and take it down was not prohibitive. By happenstance the company came to my house at 7PM on a weekday when I was actually home. I was able to meet and talk to the people doing the work who turned out to be brothers who co-own this family business and their employee all of whom do the actual work.
Last fall during Hurricane Sandy the awning was still up (they had not yet come to take it down although we had called but as everyone knew the hurricane was coming we figured that they were overwhelmed) and we rode out the storm watching and wondering if the awning would act like a sail and be ripped off the house. It not only survived the hurricane, but it seemed to not be affected by the storm at all. I actually sat outside under it a few times during the storm because it was exhilarating (and not too smart I’ll admit) to sit outside under shelter during a hurricane.
So I asked the owners how they attract customers and Greg mentioned that it was all word-of-mouth and that they had more customers than they could handle. The reason was that the two brothers and the other employee put up and took down every awning that they made. Their father came up with the idea on how to make and install the awnings and their attention to their customers was all they cared about. They even acknowledged that we had called several times and apologized profusely for having made us wait.
I asked about expansion and Greg said they had no interest as the work had to be done by the family. Think of it, a business that had all the customers it can handle, a somewhat unique product and product approach, and no desire to expand. It was less than 30 minutes from the time they arrived until the time they left. It impressed me that for two months they could be spending 10-12 hours a day putting up and taking down awnings. Sounds boring to me but these guys seemed more than content and just interested in doing a great job for their customers.
Our awning is almost fifteen years old and Greg (or maybe it was his brother George?) suggested that we may need a new one (they will make one for us – custom of course) next year but they would come back and patch up the few holes that were made by tree limbs falling during the hurricane. No extra charge. Do you think we will look elsewhere for a new unit? Not a chance. We would not want to work with anyone else but Fitzgerald Awning. (Don’t go looking for a website – why would they need one?)
I’ve started and run several businesses in my career and have always striven to do the best job I can for both my clients and my team. Yet I was reminded of what is most important when doing business of any kind. First, take pride in every aspect of your work. This way if you are not a financial success (as there is no guarantee), you will still be a success in the eyes of people that truly understand what’s important. And I guarantee you’ll be a happier person that way as well.