Just as things were building up a head of steam in the remote rural town of 18,000 people where I successfully started my appliance repair business, my wife landed a job in a city with a metro area of 1.3 million people. So, I moved my business.
Here I am in a completely new business situation, cashing in on the upside, and dealing with the downside.
Here’s a side-by-side comparison so far:
Parts Houses vs. the Internet:
- IN THE COUNTRY: Where I lived before, it was an 80 mile round trip to the parts house, so I had to stock a sizeable inventory, and everything had to be ordered online. Fortunately, my customers were used to living in a remote area, and so were patient with a two or three-day wait for the parts to fix their appliances.
- IN THE CITY: Here in the city, they expect same day repairs, but the parts houses are close by and even cheaper on some items than the internet, which means I don’t have to stock as much inventory.
- IN THE COUNTRY: There was almost no competition out in the boondocks – customers were so grateful I even serviced their area, they asked for fistfuls of business cards to tell their family and friends about me. I got tons of referrals and repeat business. I was one of three companies that came up in a Google search on appliance repair for my town, one of the other guys was out of business, and I developed a partnership with the other one.
- IN THE CITY: For the first couple of weeks, I was on Page 7 of Google for appliance repair in my city. This was one of the scariest feelings I had about starting up here, and I seriously thought I would have to start paying for internet advertising. But first, I thought I would try the free approach and see how far it got me. In order to get better page rank, I added content to my appliance repair website, which was mainly tips and tricks for customers on how to get the most out of their appliances. I also was forced to do SEO for my site by adding keywords, metadata, and tags. Most importantly though, I started asking my customers to give me honest reviews on directory sites. Before long, I was on the first search page again, so it can be done for free with a little hard work. So far I haven’t paid for any advertising – I’m still waiting to see how it far the free approach gets me.
- IN THE COUNTRY: The worst thing about the tiny population I was dealing with was, I would get 6 or 7 calls a day some weeks, and then it would slow way down other weeks. It was like there was only so much business to go around, and I already had most of it.
- IN THE CITY: Once I get fully up to speed and the phone keeps ringing here, looks like I can do steady business every week.
- IN THE COUNTRY: There was only so much I could charge in my remote, depressed economy, so there didn’t seem to be much room for increasing my rates.
- IN THE CITY: It’s a little early to tell, but if I undercut the competition I could be selective, and if I want to charge more, I could do less work for more money. Or, I could work harder and make more money than ever, which sounds good to me!
- IN THE COUNTRY: The calls were 30 miles apart, and return trips were to be avoided if at all possible, although that was often not the case because I couldn’t warehouse every part, and had to order online and come back later to install. The GPS also sent me on a bunch of time and gas wasting goose chases.
- IN THE CITY: I have the luxury of being 15 minutes away from my calls, and the parts house. I can do more calls in a day with less wear and tear on my vehicle and myself. And the GPS works here – no more printing out Google maps!
- IN THE COUNTRY: When I first started up, I decided to go with a toll-free number, mostly because I was in a remote rural area where everyone who called me would be charged for a toll call. I thought they might not hesitate to call if it didn’t cost them anything.
- IN THE CITY: It also occurred to me that if I ever moved, I wouldn’t have to reorder business cards, invoices, signage, etc. Boy, is this paying off now!
It’s a challenge moving a business, and with the entirely new environment in some ways, it’s like starting all over again, but I’m going to work hard to be even more successful here than I was in my old location.