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Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Lykos Group serves Collier County, Florida. It may be a model for you to emulate in your own area
Sonny Lykos has smarts. The semi-retired contractor sold his business to his sons, but he didn't leave the scene -- he started a 'modest' business serving condo owners for simple jobs in the Naples, Florida area.
He believes in branding. Not branding in the stereotypical big-advertising-budget image; but in the rather simple concept that if your potential consumers in the market perceive your brand has value, they will pay more.
See this posting in a thread from last spring (he also recently posted a comment in response to my posting on Friday, "So you are looking for that magical, quick answer." In his posting he rebuts another poster who suggests branding relates to advertising and expensive marketing:

I didn't know that. I'll have to tell my son, Tom. I sold my remodeling business to him and his brother in 1999. About a year or so later he bought out his brother, and his brother started his own remodeling company. I started it shortly after moving to Naples, FL in 1991. My advertising in our newspaper started in Feb, 1991 and I stopped it in May, 1991 and never again had any more ads. In 1999 when I sold the business we did just under $1M in sales. Last year The Lykos Group, Inc. Did about $6M in sales - all from "Branding." Among other awards Tom received the Remodeler of the Year Award for the state of FL.

I guess it's true what they say: Some people succeed at doing something because they didn't know it couldn't be done. And since I'm now semiretired specializing in only very small remodels and a lot of repairs, while most of my so called competitors base their prices on labor rates of
between $35 to $65/hr, mine are between $85 to $125/hr and I and my part-timer still can't handle all of the work. When I started my small new business in 2000, I never advertised. Still don't. What son Tom and I do is the result of "branding", not luck, advertising, or marketing. And by the way, Tom's "net profit" is consistently double to triple the national average. Mine is about 40 per cent. But maybe you're right, and we really can't do what we're doing. So I'll not comment about it again.

I requested (and he graciously provided) some copies of his simple newsletter he uses to promote his condo service business. You can view a copy at this link. In his email to me with the newsletter copies, Sonny notes:

My pleasure, Mark, and if it can help others, go ahead and reference it on your blog. About half of my sales are for condo associations, so the front page is for them and the back page for condo and home owners. They were tremendously effective. Created on my word processor - nothing fancy, just very informative.
Attached in pdf format. I keep hard copy files with articles from various trade magazines. Keep the files by trade. I do the same on my computer with articles from various trade association newsletters and also mfg. web sites. I just hang on to them for future newsletters I would send. I also used what I had up here in my head from my expertise and experience. And by using the same newsletter format, all I had to do was pull up a previous newsletter, erase the text in the particular block and type in the new info. Maybe the most it ever took was one hour, so for that minimum amount of investment, where the heck could we get such positive feed back?
Good luck with your own. Incidentally, one guy I know used to get verbal approval from a past customer to use their name and photos in a newsletter, and show the before and after photos with the owner's name (no address or #) and brief description of what the remodel entailed. People like to see their names in print. Makes them feel like a celebrity.
Anyway, quick, cheap, and very effective. Just remember to keep a couple dozen copies in your truck to give away to any customer's neighbor you meet. I bought a HP color copier and printed them on both sides of the sheet. I think it was cheaper than using the computer printer. And you can use a heavier paper, glossy or other wise. I used a heavier flat paper - no gloss at all. Sonny.

Aha, note some wonderfully simple yet effective things here.
  • Sonny has a niche. A defined market segment, which clearly needs his services (and which you may well be able to replicate in your own market area. I would recommend offering to pay Sonny for some consulting advice in this regard -- he is doing it successfully in Naples; why not in virtually any other community in North America.)
  • He doesn't waste money; he uses a newsletter to provide simple, valuable information, relevant to his readers, and information which you likely will have on hand in your own format with your own resources.
  • This high perceived value -- the nature of a 'brand' is only possible if he actually delivers the service to the level clients expect. A good brand, he notes, allows you to get away with occasional errors (provided you rectify them quickly) and command a price significantly higher than the commodity level. You make more money, with less stress.
Finally, note the wonderful long-range implications of giving without worrying too much about 'return' on your knowledge. You don't need to call or pay Sonny to emulate many things here -- and if you do, you will likely succeed. But if his business matches something you think you can do, offer to pay him for his services. I think your return on investment will be staggering.
Note: Sonny sent me a couple of additional copies of his newsletter, which you can request by email from me at

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