When the hail started to hit the metal top of our tent trailer, the sound was deafening.
At first, we laughed somewhat uproariously. It was exciting!
But then as the storm continued — and the hail started to accumulate, rivers started to form on the roadways and the melting ice chips started to drip inside our tent trailer — we all fell quiet.
After all, a violent hail storm was the last thing our group of family and friends was expecting. When I booked this summer camping trip in Bend, Oregon, my biggest worry was that it would be too hot to do anything.
And it was incredibly hot that first day — and most of the next.
But then that afternoon, the sky started to darken. We could hear a distant, almost continuous rumbling, and the temperature quickly dropped.
The wind suddenly picked up. And then the hail hit.
About twenty minutes later, the storm blew through. But our bedding was completely soaked. The old tent trailer canvas was pretty much ruined.
Anything left outside of the trailer was soaked and covered in dirt and debris from the surrounding trees and shrubs.
In a way, we got off easy. Tents located just a few spots down from us were collapsed and sitting in several inches of water. Everyone spent the next few hours booking hotel rooms and packing up their soggy messes.
We were caught completely unprepared. None of us had thought to check the weather forecast. And just a few hours before, we’d been walking outside, enjoying ice cream.
In the great scheme of things, the great hailstorm of 2019 was hardly a tragedy. No one was hurt, and it makes for a good story.
But you can be sure we’ll be better prepared the next time a storm hits.
When Your Biggest Client Decides to Leave
Unexpected events can also catch business owners by surprise.
And one of the most common of these “storms” is the loss of a cornerstone client.
But fortunately, you can prepare this kind of loss — just like our group could have checked the weather forecast and had tarps at the ready.
Here are four ways to help prevent and prepare for the loss of a big client:
1. Check in regularly
We all get busy executing tasks and completing projects for clients — so busy that we sometimes forget to stop and check in with them.
This should be done at least annually. The anniversary of the date you started working with them is often a great excuse. “I noticed that we’ve been working together for a year now. I wanted to check in with you about how things are going.”
If you can do this in person, that’s even better. “Let me take you out for lunch so we can touch base….”
Use it as an opportunity to get feedback and identify problems before they snowball. Probe for upcoming company changes that might impact your work. Look for new opportunities to expand or solidify.
2. Diversify your client base
Specializing in a particular target market is generally a good thing. After all, having one big client can simplify things. But it can also put you at risk.
It’s good to have some diversity. If your particular target market experiences a downturn for any reason, you already have a base elsewhere that you can expand on.
So try to have a least a few other clients on your books if you can. Even if they’re small.
Having one big client can be great because it simplifies things. But it can also put you at risk.
3. Test new services
Could your service offerings get sidelined by a market change or technology development? Are there new opportunities you’re missing out on?
If you have an idea for a new service offering, don’t be afraid to dip your toe in and test it. Offer it to a few select prospects (or existing client) to see how it goes.
Because you want to stay agile with your services. Customer needs will change — and you want to stay ahead of the curve.
4. Keep on marketing
When you’re busy with client work, it’s easy to let your own marketing slide. But you’ll regret it if your biggest client decides to walk and you have nowhere else to turn.
Keep marketing, prospecting and networking. Continue to build connections so you can leverage them when/if you should need it.
Don’t Let a Hailstorm Ruin Your Business
No one likes being surprised by a freak hailstorm when they’re camping.
And no one likes it when their biggest client decides “to go in a different direction.”
But these things can happen.
So take steps to prevent them when you can — and prepare for them when you can’t.