Unlike Jack Tripper, I cringe every time I hear someone knock on my door. Because, in today’s world of cellphones, texting, and email, people don’t knock on my door to talk — they knock to sell me something.

Inevitably, it’s some high school student selling some food I obviously could do without to support some extracurricular activity. I can’t imagine what it’s like for our contractor readers. I am being asked only to purchase a Little Caesar’s Pizza Kit while you are being asked to sponsor baseball teams, Girl Scout troops, and school plays.

Robert Wilkos, business leader at Roussos Air Conditioning in Panama City, Florida, has a great approach to these situations. If the organization looking for a contribution can provide the name and contact information of three people who have done business with Roussos in the last 12 months, they receive a contribution.

This practice has gone back 10-plus years to when Wilkos was running a large HVAC organization located less than a mile from his current employer. The company would regularly receive a dozen or more charitable requests each week. Rather than just ignore these moments and hope they would go away, Wilkos was sure he could create a better approach. He did.

“If you’re using our company, I would be happy to contribute, but, if you’re not, please consider us in the future,” Wilkos said. “Some might view this as arrogant, but if you’re the business leader who’s responsible for maintaining a bottom line, this is something you need to consider. I understand this may upset these individuals, but they weren’t using us, anyway. I encourage them to call the person they’re spending their money with, as the only reason they were calling us is that we were visible and they thought we had deep pockets.”

Contractors may want to pay attention to Wilkos’ strategy and consider implementing it because it’s been a great success. Each organization would go back to their boards that inevitably had business people on it. And, the majority of those who did not have three names the first year came back the next year with the same requests, but this time returned with three names. How much would you donate in order to get three people to do business with your company?

Roussos verifies the names it receive. They are not looking for volume, but rather activity.

“I understand it is a hard stance. I had to tell this to the Girl Scouts, which was tough because I have four daughters,” Wilkos said. “But, they came back the next year with three names, so they could not have been that upset.”

When Wilkos donates, the vast majority of the time it is a certificate for a free tuneup for the organization to raffle off instead of just cash, which offers the company very little in return.

With the certificate, the business creates a new relationship and hopefully earns a customer for life. When someone purchases that tuneup at the auction, Roussos now has an opportunity to get into that house and grow its business. Wilkos said he has seen the certificate go for as little as $10 and as much as $125.

“But, that doesn’t matter. It got us in the homes of people who had no relationship with us or had a relationship with a competitor. Because we did not skip steps and knocked their socks off during the tuneup, we converted them into customers and plan to work with them again in the near future,” Wilkos said.

Charity is great, and charitable giving is important. However, when you’re running a business, you should strive to gain any advantage you can.

Publication date: 4/4/2016

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