Sutherland Plumbing Relies on Repeat Customers

Sutherland Plumbing Relies on Repeat Customers
Ti Sutherland's entire business was built on the premise that if you keep your customers and employees happy, everything else will take care of itself.

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Ti Sutherland, owner of Sutherland Plumbing in metropolitan Portland, Oregon, doesn’t sweat the competition. Sure, Portland has a substantial population base of 2.5 million, but there’s plenty of work to go around. There are also plenty of plumbers to fill the bill.

“Your competitors are not your enemies,” Sutherland says. “They’re your friends. We’re all out here doing the same thing. There is plenty of market share; you don’t have to do any shady business or undercut to try to win business. It’s not sustainable when you’re that way.

“A lot of my success came on the coattails of discovering that,” he says. “I can't remember a day in my life when any other contractor was ‘the other team.’ It’s almost like back in high school football … it doesn’t have to be like that.”

Sutherland’s business model is based heavily on repeat business; he says about two-thirds of his clients are repeat or referral customers. He doesn’t overlook the need to generate new customers either, and he has specific ways of going about that.

“Anyone can throw money at a marketing campaign to get the phone to ring, but your entire business and mindset should be wrapped around making every single customer a raving fan,” he says.

For Sutherland, one particular investment has paid big dividends. He invests about $15,000 annually to have his company listed online at angieslist.com, a vetted site featuring crowd-sourced referrals of contractors.

“It’s proven to be an extremely successful return on investment,” he says, adding that about 40 percent of his business comes from the site.

He believes the customers he reaps from that source are “inclined to be the demographic that prefers to purchase quality over quantity.”

But no matter where the clients come from, Sutherland says it all comes down to one insanely simple formula for him.

“The entire business will be built upon the premise you have happy customers, you have happy employees and everything else just takes care of itself.” 



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