Why We Learned to Say No to 90% of Customers - to Benefit the 10%

By Keith Mitnik / May 08, 2023


When I tell people that we decline 90% of the potential customers who come to us, they’re often shocked. They want to know how and why we turn down so much revenue. Doesn’t this alienate prospects? The truth is, no. In fact, this practice has allowed us to give more to the customers we do have - and they’ve thrived as a result. Consequently, so has our business. Here’s the story of how and why we began operating according to this business strategy. 

Building Our Partnership 

I started out in the LCD display industry 21 years ago as a newly minted mechanical engineer. I worked in business development for Three-Five Systems, Inc., the largest LCD manufacturer in North America at the time. In my standard products display business unit, we served more than 400 customers, all small to mid-volume businesses. 

I learned a lot about the products, and I also learned all the frustrations that smaller manufacturers face when they’re dealing with buying displays from a larger supplier. When you’re one of 400, you get what you get, and that’s about it. There may be some customization of the product itself but very little customization of the quality processes, logistics, and delivery. That kind of imbalance doesn’t lead to healthy relationships between vendors and customers.

At Three-Five Systems, I met my current business partner, Joe Sidoryk. He was the director of worldwide sales, responsible for displays for Motorola cell phones. Motorola displays made up about 85% of our entire revenue at Three-Five, and whatever Motorola wanted, they got. As the supplier, we went out of our way to not just solve problems for our best customers but to proactively solve them in advance. It was an enormous amount of pressure because that one customer could make or break the whole company. That didn’t lead to a healthy relationship either.

Recognizing The Value Of The Right Fit

By 2005, the cell phone market had shifted from monochrome displays to color, and our biggest customer shifted with it. Even though the business unit I was responsible for was still profitable, it wasn’t enough. Three-Five had to file for bankruptcy.

I looked for a new job for about two weeks before I realized my heart wasn’t in it anymore. It was so painful to pour my heart and soul into my work and have it ripped out from under me, even though my business unit was succeeding. I didn’t want to experience that again. I joined forces with Joe, and we mapped out a brand-new vision for a new company.

We compared our two totally different business experiences and decided that we really wanted to offer the top-tier service that went into supporting Motorola to a broader and more diverse customer base. We defined that base as mid-volume industrial customers. We then realized that the key to stable long-term relationships is the same in business as it is in our personal life: finding the right fit. 

In order to bring top-tier service to this mid-volume customer group, we could only work with the right customers while simultaneously only working with manufacturers who were the right fit for us as well. We learned to focus our business so precisely that today, we refer about 90% of potential customers who call us to other companies. That’s how important a good fit is to us, and it’s made a tremendous difference for our customers and our business. 

Are you looking for the right fit with your LCD supplier? Give us a call!

Topics: customers, LCD manufacturers, business strategy