How Can Profits Be Negative?

Money rolling in at the cost of good customer relationships can leave your company high and dry. Take care of your customers every day and win big!
How Can Profits Be Negative?
Dr. Kevin Coughlin

Is there really such a thing as bad profits? With business getting larger and more powerful, and investors feeling and expecting ever greater ROI, wouldn’t that imply that all profits are good?

It is an important question to ask.

Bad profits are those earned at the expense of customer relationships. Whenever customers feel misled, mistreated, ignored or coerced, then the result is a bad profit. Bad profits arise when a company saves money by delivering a lousy customer experience. Essentially, the company extracts value from their customers instead of adding overall value.

For those of you who run companies and manage people, understand that the culture you present to your team may lay the foundation for success, not just in the short term, but hopefully in the long term. Leaders who have exceptional core values and focus on good profits — and eliminate bad profits — will create long-term success and continue to provide the products customers need.

When companies don’t understand the difference between good and bad profits, the result is that growth suffers, reputations are hurt, customers become alienated and employees become demoralized. You and your business become vulnerable to competition. Your business may achieve short-term success — but fail in the long term.


Bad profits create detractors. These are people who hurt your company and team members. They damage your company’s reputation; they strangle growth and demoralize an organization. These detractors can be leaders, managers, employees or customers.

Once you recognize detractors, you need to convert them into enthusiastic advocates for your company. This is accomplished through effective internal communication and sterling customer service.

Your goal is to focus on good profits from good products and service. Good profits are earned with customers’ enthusiastic cooperation. They occur when you land repeat customers for your portable restrooms, restroom trailers and associated equipment. These customers want to tell their friends, family and business acquaintances about their exceptional experience. When this occurs they become the best promotional arm for your business.

It has been estimated that most companies have 42 to 82 percent of customers who become promoters of their products and services. Your focus should be to improve that percentage as much as possible to boost your good profits, and this is done by training — and more training — backed up by outstanding leadership and communication.


To eliminate bad profits, learn to recognize business behaviors that create them in the first place. To identify the areas of your company that bring harmful returns, perform an evaluation of your entire operation. Before you start re-evaluating your company, consider evaluating yourself or the leadership of your business. Then look around at the people who influence your staff, from the office workers to the front-line service technicians.

Observe how members of your crew treat the people around them. Do they seek solutions to various challenges in the workplace? Do they sit back, afraid to speak or take action, and fail to be good communicators? Are they good listeners?

In the end, would you believe, like and trust these individuals. If the answer is yes, you have identified a good set of core values. You should be honest and straightforward. You shouldn’t put profits before people. You should do what’s right and not just what’s easy. You should put your customers and employees first, and make sure your team members know you’re always trying to do what is right.

Making good profits simply means you constantly re-evaluate yourself, your team, your customer-service processes, and your products and services, and constantly try to make improvement. These improvements do not necessarily have to be major changes; they can be minor tweaks that provide major improvement.

In order for business to succeed longer, a company’s leadership must focus on good profits, and create the correct processes and procedures that eliminate bad profits.

Dr. Kevin Coughlin is a dentist, author and speaker on topics of small-business success, based in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts. He can be reached through


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