“A man without a smiling face must not open a shop.” – Chinese Proverb

Next month, I’m opening up a Jiu Jitsu academy in the bay next door to my office. My teacher, Reylson Gracie, is going out to Las Vegas to start an academy there, so we agreed that I’d take over his business here. I want to do so because I want to keep learning and I figure I can turn what has been an expense into a profitable venture.

I won’t run it on a day-to-day basis. I’ll use his existing people to do that. Nor will I run the knowledge part of the business. He’ll continue to be in charge of that. But I’ll own the business, because I don’t want a partner in something so personal. And I’ll oversee the business part of it, because I believe my business skills are stronger than his.

The first thing I’ll do, after he is gone, is have the instructors call up every one of his past customers and try to get them to come back. We are going to find out what they are doing. We will ask them if they are still practicing and if so with whom. We are going to ask them if we could send them information from time to time. And then we’re going to start a process of winning them back, one by one.

We’ll do this because we know these former customers are our most valuable customers. At one time, they were each contributing hundreds of dollars a month to the academy. I’d like to get that income back.

When you lose a longtime customer/client, you forgo a very valuable business asset. Every once in a while, a customer/client will make such a problem of himself that you will feel very happy about his departure. In most cases, however, you should plan to win back every lost one.

Here’s how you do that:

  1. Find out exactly why you lost his business. Make sure you fully understand.
  2. Find out if there was anything else the lost customer was unhappy with.
  3. Thank him for the information and follow up with a letter thanking him again and promising to stay in touch.
  4. Build trust by sending him, from time to time, information that will interest him.
  5. After a reasonable amount of time has passed (enough so that the negative feelings about you or your business have been softened), call the customer and tell him you were thinking of him and wondering if he is still happy with your replacement. Whatever his answer, indicate that you would be very happy to get his business back. Give him at least one positive new benefit for doing so. Make it worth his while.