"So, there I was..."

... chatting with a client outside of his machine shop, when a gentleman (copies of prints in hand) approached us to inquire about getting a quote for his job. As we were talking a few minutes earlier, we had noticed this same gentleman enter and exit a few other machine shops close by. Obviously he was shopping the job to several other shops in the area. My client, I'll call him 'Tom', politely took the prints and told the gentleman he'd take a look at them. After the gentleman left, we watched him enter yet another machine shop, Tom and I went into his shop. Just inside the door, Tom casually tossed the gentleman's prints into the garbage. He noticed the puzzled look on my face and said 'Those guys waste my time'. He explained that he gets several of those kinds of RFQs (request for quotes) a week from guys price shopping the area machine shops. Most are looking to get work done for nearly nothing... even going so far as to say 'Hey, if you'll do this job for me cheap, I'll bring more work to you in the future'. Honestly, you're lucky if you ever see those guys again. They tend to wear out their welcome and move on to other areas with higher concentrations of machine shops.

The morals of this story, if there really are any... don't get entangled into false hopes and promises. Its a hard thing to do as a businessman in turning away any potential work. That's especially true if your workload is slowing down or you're trying to build up your business. You never know when, what seems like an insignificant job, may turn out to be one of your biggest or best customers. Its a catch-22. How do you determine which customer has potential and which doesn't? That's a hard question to answer... you don't. But you cannot waste a lot of time in dollars chasing after nickels. That's just not economically feasible.

Another machine shop friend of mine and I have had several discussions over this very same issue. He calls it 'trimming the bottom 20%'. That means, in essence, cutting the bottom 20% of your customer base to make room for your better customers, thus allowing you to better serve their needs or demands. It also allows you the opportunity to seek out other revenue streams such as developing a product line, finding new customers, or giving you the time to bid on larger corporate contracts. The theory is that, by investing the time saved in cutting that 'bottom 20%', you're opening other doors and business possibilities.