Archive for April, 2020

Marketing 101

“He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty” (Proverbs 28:19).

Most of us tend to relegate God to purely religious and spiritual matters, but the truth is He is immensely practical. Just consider the things that He has made, and how they work, and it won’t take long to conclude that He is all about making things work.

Here’s the thing: God is concerned about business, and He has a lot to say about it in the Bible. There are principles, rules, regulations, and outright commands pertaining to human enterprise which, if one follows, a person can be assured of success.

I have been a student of God’s word for a very long time. From the 1980’s until now I have come to understand and apply—to some degree—what I have learned from Scripture. For example, from 1982 to 1986 I was part of what was called “The King’s Club.” This consisted of around 40 men from 6-7 different churches who came together once a month to study God’s word as it related to business. Not only was my current company birthed from this group, but during this period I caught a vision of how the kingdom of God could be furthered through business. I learned biblical principles of management, finance, marketing and other key facets of running an organization God’s way. All of which helped shape my perspective to this day.

I began to see the Bible in a different way. I came to understand there is a lot of helpful information that would aid me in conducting my business—which, by the way, I believe God gave me.

For example, I remember one year where, from Isaiah 28 I came up with a marketing plan that seemed to fit perfectly the kinds of work T. L. Hart, Inc. was after at the time. Another year I received instruction on how to pay my employees. Yet in another instance, this one fairly dramatic, I learned to base my plans on the will of God, not my own intentions.

Here, in this passage from the book of Proverbs, I learn an important lesson: if you want sales, then you need to work your customers.

Of course, without sales you don’t have a business, and without customers there are no sales. This is obvious. But many companies and business owners approach the market like the movie Field of Dreams — build it and they will come. They sit by the phone and hope it rings. Yet things don’t typically work that way. No farmer would ever approach his work that way; he would not sit back and stare at his land and expect it to produce anything without his working it. No, the land has to plowed, tilled, planted, fertilized, weeded, and so forth. If he follows protocol, he can be assured a crop.

So it is with companies—the land has to be worked. I think this is the simplest and most practical thing any owner can do, not only to get his business up and running, but to keep it going and growing.

This principle proved true again for me in 2010. Up to that point we had had a rough go of it, having lost about 2/3’s of our revenue over a period of eight years. We were now properly sized for the market and most of our problems behind us. I hired my son-in-law (who is amazing at sales and people skills) to come in and help us get back on our feet. I handed him our customer list from the past 10-12 years and had him start making calls. I also sent him to various community events, like those put on by the local Chamber of Commerce. Initially the results were barely seen; Jason ended up moving on to take on a role as a financial services provider. The fruit however started coming shortly thereafter. To this day we are doing business on a regular basis with several of the firms he contacted at the time.

By the way, these customers had been clients in the past; it was Jason’s efforts in making contact with them that brought them back. It was his ‘working the land’ that brought results.

As for me, I believe God wants me to grow T. L. Hart, Inc. While others my age (I’m 65) have or are retiring, I have been instructed to grow the company. While I have understood this principle in the past, and whereas I have long held that my current and past customers are my market and represent my best shot at ongoing growth, I have not consistently employed what I know. I have groped for answers as to how to promote my business when all the while the answer is under my nose. I am to work the land God has given me—the hundreds and thousands of people and entities that my firm has served since 1977.

“He who works his land will have plenty of food.” The person who works his customers (in a good way) will have plenty of sales. If you are a new start up, then you need to find them and work them. If you’ve been around a while like I have, you need to look them up and get in touch with them. Check and see if they’ve any needs you can meet.


Why Profit?

My friend and mentor of twenty years, the late Jim Russell, used to say, “You must make a profit every single month.”  I would, out of respect for him, nod in hearty agreement; but in my mind I was saying, “Yeah, but…..”

Jim was in the forms business, primarily serving the medical industry; me, I was in the painting business.  RBF, Inc., Jim’s business, had a steady flow of revenues–and profits, regardless of what time of year it was.  T. L. Hart, Inc., on the contrary, had little business in the dead of winter.  

Jim passed away in 2005, but his words never did pass away.  If it weren’t for the profit we did make in the years leading up to the ‘Great Recession’ we would have never made it.  As it is, we lost all of it, then nearly twice as much–not to mention or 10,000 square foot offie/warehouse building and another property we owned.  Moral of story?  You need profit to sustain your company during difficult times.

These days I have made it my aim that, if it is within my power to do so, T. L. Hart, Inc. will make at least a dollar of profit every single month.  To do that we faced some major downsizing at the beginning of 2010, and since then the firm has been wonderfully profitable every year.  Because of this, it is well-positioned to weather the current storm we are in: the COVD-19 crisis.  

Profit is essential for any business of any size, and at least some of should be retained (or saved).  This is true for small companies like mine, large companies most definitely, and smaller, 1-man shops.  A certain portion of your post-expense income (including your pay) should be set aside not only for difficult times, but for the occasions when a payment does not come through, or you need to make a major purchase.  Doing so will both put and keep you positioned for whatever might come next–and God knows what that might be.  

April 2020