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Business Lessons From The Paperboy

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Extra, Extra Read All About It!

Extra, Extra Read All About It!

Some of the younger readers might not know what a paperboy is and barely know what a newspaper is.  Those who were around when paperboys were commonplace you can skip a head a couple of sentences.  Back before Al Gore was kind enough to invent the internet for us commoners, a human being typically less than 16 years old would deliver the newspaper to your door by either walking or perhaps using a bicycle.  I kid you not this really happened.

What lessons can we possibly learn from such an out of date media form and delivery method?  We can learn plenty, in my opinion.  It will be my job in the next 400 words or so to explain.  The paperboy can teach us at least three things.

  1. Use of technology
  2. Customer service
  3. Keeping bad debts to a minimum

Let me begin with technology.  The smart paper boys who wanted to have the largest route and most efficient delivery method would utilize a bicycle.    You may think that a bicycle is very low tech but compared to walking it was very advanced.  What we can learn is that employing some technologies even if not on the “bleeding edge” can yield results.  Fine, don’t be an early adopter but by now you should be using things like social media to replace traditional advertising like yellow pages or, dare I say, a newspaper advertisement.   Get rid of your dedicated fax line and use a scanner to send and receive pdf files over the internet at a much lower cost.

What does a 12-year-old paperboy know about customer service?  If he is a good paperboy he will not fling your paper in the drive way but ask you for your preference.  Would you like your paper between the storm door and the main door or shall I bring it in the kitchen and set in on the table by your coffee?  This kind of thing really happened. (Ask my dad he will tell you)  Of course this also was before doors were locked and remotely monitored with a smart phone.  Alas, technology giveth and taketh away.  How far do you go to make the customer happy?  Can you tailor your customer experience to fit each customer’s wishes?  Amazon does this and they are a huge company yet they maintain a unique customer experience that does not feel impersonal despite dealing with you through the internet.

Face to face interaction and good service leads to lower dead beat customers.  The paperboy interacts with his customer almost daily or at least monthly when he collects his money.   What we can learn from this is to become like a friend to your customer.  Some good advice I got from my boss at the CPA firm where I worked was to do your best at becoming  a friend of the customer.  He said it is easy to fire a service provider but hard to fire a friend.  We can also learn to stay on top of our receivables by monitoring them regularly.  The best way to stop bad debts is not allowing the receivables to become past due in the first place.

My 400 words have been used; I hope I have reminded you that we all can learn a little from the paperboy.  Have a great week.

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Written by pacelinebiz

May 20, 2013 at 8:01 am

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