Small Business Expo & Workshop — Today!

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It’s a bit of last minute news, but for those of you business owners who have the time this morning, Los Angeles City College is hosting a small business workshop and expo today, along with the Hollywood Business Source.  It’s a free event, so if you have the time, there’s really no excuse, if you have the morning available.  The campus is out for the summer, so no need to concern yourself with unruly students.  And the college provides plenty of parking in their structures.  Event starts at 10:00am.  So, If you’re up, go get at ’em!

Overqualified

It seems like the only time it’s perfectly acceptable to be well-overqualified is when we’re self-employed.  Because that’s exactly what our clients want.  They want someone who they believe is an expert, has more than enough experience and can ultimately resolve their pain points.  At any other time in our professional careers, we would never want to have too little or too much experience — just the right amount.  Just enough to land us the job.  But now that we’re running the show, being overqualified is in our favor.

And we are overqualified.  Sometimes we just don’t realize how much experience we have.  Any time a client ask about our professional background and how it relates to our business, make sure they hear about ALL of our related experience, no matter how unique their issue or project is.

Keep in mind, our experience didn’t begin from the moment we decided to go into business for ourselves.  It started well before then. we just need to backtrack:

  • If we ever worked for someone else — and most of have — that’s experience under our belt
  • If we’ve ever volunteered, no matter the organization or the length of time, although more time equates to more experience
  • If we ever helped out a friend or family member, or a friend’s family member, or a family member’s friend or whoever, that counts
  • Any and all related school and training is experience
  • If we’ve ever freelanced, that most definitely counts as experience
  • If we’ve ever taught — and make no mistake about it, not all education takes place in the classroom.  We’ve could have taught a community class, hosted a workshop, we could have been the ones providing the on site or on the job training, whatever.  Teaching someone else clearly illustrates our understanding and knowledge base

So the next time a client requests to know a little more about your experience and professional history  — over share and share it all.  It is so much more better to be overqualified to a client than to not know what the hell you’re doing.

Media Kit It

Every business, no matter how small, large, the employee size, industry type or location should create for itself a media kit.  If you don’t know what a media kit is, think of it as a business’ résumé — it highlights the accomplishments, the goals and the journey of the business.  It tells the brief story of the company’s creation to its present standing.  Media kits have commonly been associate with publications such as magazines, journals, newspapers and books, but no longer.  If you operate a business, you need a media kit as part of your marketing package.

When writing a media kit, focus on three (3) primary elements: (1) What is your business and what is it about, (2) Who do you serve; who is your target audience and how does your company serve/help them and (3) the cold hard facts and figures about your company.

What is your business about — is a service based business, product based, B2B?  What industry is the company in, what niche; how much technology is infused — simply put, what does your business do and for you?

Who do you serve — who are the people your company caters to and makes it products/services for and why?  This, you gotta know.  This you should’ve known starting the business.  And when writing about who the company serves, look further past the demographics and into the lifestyle of your customer/ client.

The cold hard facts — This is the most straightforward aspect of the media kit.  It deals is measurements, reach, dollar signs, because it’ll be mostly made up of figures.  And these figures should as accurate as possible.  If you have a following (such as social media) include how people, if you have a newsletter include the subscribers.  Always include sales figures that play in your favor.

Utilize every glitter and sparkle that makes your company stand out and stand up against your competitors.  Remember, this is your business’ résumé.  Make it work.

You And Your Crew

I’ve had the pleasure — even displeasure, if we wanna keep it real — of working for a number of small companies; small business owners.  And I’ve taken every lesson I’ve learned from each employer into my own business.  I’ve watched them studiously as they conducted business, formed relationships and grew — and I’ve retained as much as could about all they were doing right and much of what they’re were doing wrong.   And it seems like whenever employees are introduced into a growing established company, problems arise.  In other words, people make things crazier —who knew!  But the important takeaways that I gathered about owners and their employees were:

  • Hire people who have the potential to grow as your company grows and not just someone looking to fill the position.  Hell, with the right training, anybody can do a job.  That’s how most people got to the jobs they have now — by being trained, or taught or schooled, or whatever you want to call it.  But ambition to grow — that’s not something you can teach, that’s inherently in select individuals.  Hire those folks.
  • Keep your word.  I remember a company I use to work for; we were a staff of 14 people including the owner of the company.  For some reason, we were  unable to have our annual holiday party in December, so the owner decided to move it to January and call it an “Employee Appreciation Dinner”.  The date was set for the middle of January.  Well, when  January came and gone, we started to passive-aggressively joke about how little we were appreciated because there was no mention of the dinner anymore.  Although it was just a dinner, people became a little resentful of the fact they were promised something and it wasn’t delivered. Deliver or don’t promise, but you can’t do both.
  •  Know what the gossip’s about.  I don’t care how small a company is, there’s always  gossip.  And 9 times out of 10, it’ll be about you, the owner.  So as they owner, know what’s floating around the office.  Check in with each employee on a regular basis.  Create an atmosphere in which your employees can feel comfortable with approaching you with what they need to make your business better.  You might even find that the open-door policy reduces the noise of gossip.
  • Say what you mean.  No one’s a mind reader. I don’t believe mind readers are mind readers.  And neither are your employees.  Don’t have them guess what you’re thinking or try to figure it out.  If you don’t know what you mean, they don’t know.  And don’t punish them for not knowing.  That’s so dumb.
  • Be the first with a greeting.  I know it sounds trivial, but you’ll be surprised how sensitive people are in the work place.  Not receiving a hello from their boss in the morning can start the day off all wrong.  Listen, I said nothing about being buddy-buddy.  I said say, ‘hello’, ‘good morning’, ‘good evening’ or whatever the time of day calls for.  This goes along with acknowledging your employees.  You may not be saying ‘job well done’, but a ‘hello’ can simply translate into ‘hi, thanks for coming in today and giving me your time today’.

Listen — the people that work for you are your crew.  They’re there building your dream.  They don’t have to be there.  They could be working for someone else who doesn’t mind showing them a little appreciation.  You have a relationship with your employees, no matter how badly you’ve neglected it.  And just like any relationship, it’s about the little things.

Communication Builds Better Business Relationships

Just like any other relationship you have, the relationship between you and your clients relies on strong and active communication.

Think about all the customer service flops you’ve experienced.  You have a problem with, say your new computer.  On the back of the computer box or package is a tech service or a customer care number for you to call.  And so you do.  First, like so many companies are doing these days, you get an automated response.  The automated machine then prompts you to select a the option that best represents your reason for calling from 1-7 (if you’re lucky).  Then it asks you to key in the product number you’re calling about.  Then receipt or customer number.  You finally get a real person on the phone only to be asked another series of number questions, and mind you, your computer problem hasn’t been solved because it hasn’t even been addressed yet.

Do you think your clients’ customers want this same run-around?  Of course not!  But sometimes as small business owners we’re so caught up in getting the job done that we fail to recognize the quality of our communication with our clients/ customers.

If you want your business relationship to run as smoothly with all your clients, put yourself in their shoes and focus on the type of communication and service you’d like to receive.

  1. If there’s an issue, or a delay in service or for a product, notify your customer as soon as you know.  No one wants to ask what’s going, they rather be informed.
  2. If your client/ customer is unclear about something or you’re unclear with the requests of your client/customer, don’t guess, ask.  Ask for clarification, meaning, a better understanding, but never just guess.
  3. If you or your business has guidelines or restrictions, make those clear upfront.  No one likes to be told about limitations halfway through a transaction or conducting business.
  4. If a client comes to you with something you’ve never heard of or don’t know anything about, be honest about it.  Don’t lie or make something up.  Information is pretty easy to verify these days and you don’t want to lose business trying to have all the answers when you really don’t.
  5. Break it down.  With all this specialty lingo, such as  with computers and social media, it’s hard not use it at times.  But if you have a client/ customer who is new to a territory in which you provide service in, don’t just zoom over their head thinking it’ll impress them.  Make the information so they’ll understand too.

Success begins with a firm foundation and that foundation needs open communication.