Familiarity Breeds Profit

Do you have names for the meals you cook regularly at home?

We do.

There’s “Rail Rider;” a sauteed medley of sweet potatoes, onions, chicken sausage and spices, so-named because it seems like the kind of thing you’d eat while hopping freight trains in the 1930s (not that I really have any idea).

We’ve got “Flop-Overs;” round flat bread covered with chicken, onions, beans, cheese and whatever else we have hanging around, which is then “flopped over” in a pan into a half circle.

Our newest addition is “Mussel Beach;” tortellini soup with spinach and, you guessed it, mussels (extra credit for family members who eat shirtless).

Why bother naming them?

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Well, for one thing, it’s a convenient shorthand. The names make it easy to refer to a particular meal, as in, “I don’t feel like dealing with Rail Rider; we have that fresh bread so how about Mussel Beach?”

Repeating the same meals is also way easier, logistically.

You know which ingredients you need; you know how long it takes; you know where the preparation pitfalls may be. After a few times, you don’t even need a recipe; you just wade into it until it’s done (not literally).

Repeat work with repeat clients works the same way … and for many of the same reasons.

Last month, for example, I was hired by one of my favorite clients (for whom I produce a monthly newsletter) to work on a small side project. Very similar work as the newsletter – it involved writing, email and some design.

And yet as I got into it – even though it involved something similar for a familiar company – I quickly realized how much more time and effort was involved.

Not so much in doing the work itself, but in figuring out how to get it done.

I had no routine – no recipe committed to memory – which meant that I necessarily moved more slowly and even backtracked occasionally to correct earlier process errors.

The way I look at it, all clients and projects are not created equal. That’s why I consider two things when attempting to uncover an ideal work situation:

  1. Have I done this before?
    One-off projects are always complex. Until you’ve done the same thing to completion a few times, you’re destined to spend time and effort figuring out how the pieces fit together.

    Even better, not only do I look for things I’ve done before, I look for arrangements in which I do the same thing, over and over again, for the same people. Monthly newsletters, membership clubs, ongoing coaching … all opportunities to shorten and improve the underlying process.

  1. How well do I know these people?
    Nearly all the client “gear-grinding” happens at the beginning of the relationship. Can I trust them to pay on time? Can they trust me to do what I’ve promised? Do we communicate well?

    One of the reasons I happily never raise prices on existing clients is that I understand the benefits – both in terms of efficiency and predictability – of working with people who you already know and trust.

    New clients, no matter how wonderful, require much more vigilance and come with much more risk.

Here’s the bottom line. There’s nothing wrong with doing one-time projects for one-time clients. But it’s not where profit lives.

For that you want to focus on doing things you are really, really good at for people you know really, really well.

Gotta run, just got word we’re on for flop-overs tonight.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you ever eat dinner with your shirt off? Send photos.

  1. What’s your #1 dinner recipe?
  1. Do you think it makes sense to focus on repeat business with repeat clients?

Share your comments below!


11 thoughts on “Familiarity Breeds Profit

  1. Charles Alexander

    1. My dad always made bacon that way. Mom burned the Polaroids.
    2. Breakfast. Bacon, eggs, and pancakes. Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I guess.
    3. I try get all of my newsletter and whiteboard video clients on a subscription basis. Doesn’t always work out that way, but that is definitely my preference.

    Now I’m off to buy a book, but not a fridge. I may get a bacon plate for the microwave though:)

  2. Dorothy Ayer

    1. No, never even thought of it…
    2. My pasta w/ lemon sauce over whatever veges and meat/seafood we have on hand. Very easy. Saute your veges and meat in some olive oil and set aside. In the pan add as much dry white wine as you want, the juice of a lemon, a little salt, and lots of lemon pepper. Get your pasta on to boil (I like gemelli) and when it’s done, add the pasta to the reduced sauce to mix, then the veges/meat. Fast, easy, and de-lish!
    3. That’s my plan! Hope to take off soon.

  3. Dana Leigh Lyons

    1. Only when wearing a scarf (otherwise, I catch a chill).

    2. The one my husband cooks.

    3. Yes! In the past couple years, I’ve shifted from a session-by-session business model to a package model.

    Now, I’m thinking of taking this a step further, increasing the length of my basic, “starter” package from 30 days to 90 (encompassing my current “starter” and “follow-up” packages in one).

    Moving in this direction has not only meant steadier income and easier, more efficient work with regular clients…but also improved client outcomes.

  4. Diane Spadola

    I HAVE eaten without a shirt on….but was body painted, thus appeared to be completely clothed. HMMMMM, “we make your guests look twice!” could be a great tagline for a restaurant featuring body painted waitresses!
    Believe it or not, there is a restaurant here, near Cleveland, that serves “fold overs” which sound like your flop-overs with a classier name. They are made in a lighter-thinner pizza dough than a calzone or a stromboli, and are amazing!
    Favorite dinner: “chicken with mushrooms and cheese” over rice. My mom served it whenever I brought my family home to see the grandparents. YUMMM, even my husband can make it now.

    I ONLY focus on repeat business with repeat clients (and their referrals to us). I don’t have to convince them of our service or our value….they already know. They are happy to call me, and I am happy to serve them.

  5. Kitty Pearl

    Cool! Looks like you have the makings of a Penguin cookbook?

    I love being a repeat client. Its a bid deal for me to find someone I trust enough to make it worthwhile for me not to do everything myself. Like its a big deal to regularly read someone’s newsletter;) It has to very cool – possibly Arctic cold – for me to invest repeat time.

    Not to nention, repeat customers are your best investment in word-of-mouth advertising.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Excellent points, Kitty. Especially looking at it from the client’s point of view: it’s better for them as well to work with people who provide a service repeatedly.

      And penguin cookbook? I assumed they were endangered….


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