April 2012
Pruning Customers

Knowing what business to go after, and what business to take, is a learning curve we still climb.  Pruning customers is an endless process, in business as in bonsai.

What helps us prune? In bonsai, the caretaker starts with a vision of the mature plant, and that vision guides each artful move. In business, leadership must adhere strenuously to mission and vision. And that commitment means saying “no” to a lot opportunities.

Master coach Scott Coady reminds us that leaders have to get used to disappointing people, and in my book that includes prospective customers who don’t fit our business needs.

Customer fit was not on our radar in the early days of ramping up. If you talked to me about pruning in the early days, I would have told you to get lost. But in the end the iffy customers we took cost us time and money. They took more than they gave. We learned. Now as our business matures, we regularly prune our customer base, and walk away from a lot of opportunities. Do we throw back some we should have kept? Sure we do. That’s a given. But we sleep better, and we make room for the keepers.