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The Rak brothers are regulars at industry trade shows and events. Unlike most family businesses in the landscape industry, they don’t work in the same business.

The Ohio natives run two separate companies – Steve (on the left above) runs the commercial maintenance firm Southwest Landscape Management, and Jeff runs Land Creations Landscaping, which handles residential design/build.

Apart from running successful businesses and being friendly guys and, the brothers – both with a couple decades experience and both former presidents of the Ohio Landscape Association – recently started a consulting firm.

“Our goal is to help other people and take the learning curve out of it,” says Steve.

Rak Landscape Consulting aims at working with companies doing $1 million or less in revenue. And again, the brothers each bring something to the table. Steve focuses on numbers and budgets; Jeff on sales and marketing to customers.

“It’s a pricing battle, especially on commercial maintenance end of things,” Steve says. He works to educate contractors on why they shouldn’t cave to the downward price pressure so prevalent in many markets. “I explain to them, this is the new reality, and we’ve got to look at our businesses differently.”

“On design/build side, it’s dried up a lot,” Jeff says. “One of the things I’ve talked with on the d/b side is, if they stay focused and pick their battles, they will build their reputation up and people will still call them in a down economy. We’ve stayed busy through this whole (downturn).”

Here’s an excerpt from their latest newsletter, entitled “How to Lose a Customer in 5 Easy Steps”:

1. So my wife tries to order a shirt online that is on sale from a national clothing store.
2. During the transaction as she is checking out she gets knocked off the site and can’t get back on.
3. She calls the “customer service” number, apparently the site is down. Sale ends today.
4.Customer service rep offers no help, no options and no solution.
5. My wife hangs up the phone, tries again to get on the stores site to no avail. Then decides it’s not worth the trouble.

What if the story went like this?

1. Same as above.
2. Same as above.
3. Same as above.
4. Customer service rep takes my wife’s information and offers to either get the shirt sent out to her or if she can’t do that she will send her a $10.00 gift card for her trouble.
5. My wife tells me what a great experience she had and I write about it here. But this time I tell you how to keep a customer in 5 easy steps. I also tell you the name of the store so you will know how great they are.

What story do your customers tell about you?

I caught up with Steve and Jeff at this year’s GIE+EXPO, where we talked about the market and what they’re seeing. You can watch those videos here and here.


December 14th, 2011 at 11:52 am

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