5 Outdated Beliefs That Are Hurting Your Business

Take your time.  Read through the list and see if you had or still have any of these beliefs.  No shame in being honest, all of us have probably had at least one one of the listed items pass through our minds as we begun to conduct and operate our business.   So much has changed over the course of a few years and over various industries that we cannot continue to hold onto outdated beliefs, especially as business owners.  Everything goes through cycles, phases and re-boots.  Holding onto what we think is right is because it’s what we’ve known all long is the equivalent to throwing money away.  And no one I know is in the business of doing that.

OutDated

  1. Your customers can and will find you — The Great Recession (I love still calling it that) turned many people into obligated self-employed persons.  People started their own businesses because they had to in order to continue to earn a living.  Skipping over the personal metrics of what that all means — you are not the only person doing what you’re doing or offering what you’re offering.  I don’t care how well your website was designed, how quick you launched the business or how much money you invested.  You don’t exist until you let people know you’re in business.  Which means, you have to find your customer, not the other way around.  Ideas: marketing — traditional and online, networking, community partnerships and word of mouth.
  2. There is no “free” money out there for small business owners  – It seems like it’s no money out there, but there is.  A lot of the times, it’ll be in the form of a contest, and other times it can be a private grant.  Either way, if you want to raise money that you’ll never have to pay back again, just be willing to put in the time.  I probably shouldn’t say this, but I suggest staying away from the SBA and Grants.gov.  Most business owners aren’t professional grant writers, cannot afford a grant writer, don’t have the time and energy to read through the mess they call eligibility requirements and will not meet the guidelines imposed to receive the government funding available.
  3. The customer is ALWAYS right — If the customer is always right, then why are they coming to you?  No, seriously, think about it.  If the customer had all the answers and knew where to find all the resources, why are they knocking on your door?  This is not said to inflate our own egos, but just to help put things into perspective when we’re questioned by a customer or client about our capability and knowledge.  We never want to approach them defensively, but with a bit of enlightenment.  A reminder, so to speak, that we can do what we do because of how long we’ve been doing it, how trained we are at doing what we do and what we know about what we’re doing.
  4. If it worked then, it will work now  — Nope, nope, never.  The problem with this belief should be obvious, but maybe it isn’t.  If you haven’t heard it before, let me share it with you now:  The only constant in business  is change.  Your customers will change, your prices will change, your hours of operation will change, your employees will change and yes, how you do and conduct business will change because the economy and market are always changing.  Don’t believe me?  Fine, don’t change.   Come find me in six months to a year’s time.
  5. Working smart outperforms working hard — Uh, no.  You can work smart, but you still have to work hard.  There’s no way around that.   And we’ve all heard it before: Work smart, not hard!  Let’s be honest, someone had to work hard to come up with that, so what does that tell you?  There really is no substitute for working hard and working smart just means you’ve taken all that hard work and created a system for it.   That’s truly what it is.  Yes, many of us have been working hard only to spin our wheels and get nowhere.  So how do we avoid that trap?  Direction.  Work hard towards something, not just for the sake of working hard.

It’s easy to hold onto what we know and what we believed was working for us when there’s so much new untested crap being thrown our way.  However, we have to be wise and responsive enough to separate what sticks and what sticks to the fan.  The times are always changing.  We need to make we adjust, set sail and flow with it.

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Let’s Talk About Sex…

…Let’s talk about sex, baby/
Let’s talk about you and me/
Let’s talk about all the good things/
And the bad things that may be/
Let’s talk about….

BUSINESS.  Were you singing along too?  I was singing so hard I almost forgot I was writing a blog.  Just a quick shout-out to the lovely and infamous ladies of Salt-N-Pepa.  The ’90s were interesting times and we all know it.

But let’s get back to talking about business, because it’s very much like sex.  And if you’re happily married and don’t understand the correlation I’m about to make between sex and business (other than there’s a chance people in business are having sex) — oh, well.  You’ll follow soon enough.

Think about the nature of business — any of them– all of them.  Is it about the marketing, the revenue, the sale?  No, because before those elements can come into play it’s about building relationships.  Building relations. With several people.  You may be the monogamous type, but your business shouldn’t be.  If you want to have only one customer, fine.  Let me know if you’re still in business in 90 days.  Otherwise, spread the love.  Build relations.  As small businesses go, we are a niche in ourselves and our customers, are a niche clientele.  We are serving the needs of people whose needs have been left unmet (unintentional pun).  But in order to be successful, we don’t want to please just one person.  We want to please all those who need us and who we need.  But, of course, not everybody — we have standards — or niche target market, whichever you prefer to call it.

Because we cater to a smaller group of people, we need to be very selective, very personable in doing (ahem) business with them.  It needs to be an intimate relationship where our customers feel comfortable coming back to us over and over and over again.  Multiple visits and interactions are a VERY good thing.  And word of mouth is still a very powerful tool for smaller companies.  We can’t let a bad co-mingling between one customer ruin our reputation.  We know what gossip can do to someone’s image.  Waiver’s, liability clauses, contracts, agreements, terms and conditions — proverbial condoms.  Use them well, use them wisely.

What about the Big ‘O’? Well, that depends on the business.  For some, it may mean making that transaction or closing that sale.  For others, it’s a referral from an already satisfied customer.  The Big ‘O’ is quite clear in the bedroom but a little gray in the boardroom because it is defined by that business owner’s terms of gratification.  It can be gradual as to build over the course the establishment of the company.   Or it can be overnight with the launch of the business’ website.  Either way, there’s a good feeling at the end.

So, talk about business like you were talking about the best sex of your life with the most amazing people you’ve had it with. And continue to find that over and over again.  Find those amazing relationships with those ideal customers and clients.  Make it intimate, make it personable, make it for everyone who fits the profile you’ve built.  Make your business satisfying.

 

 

 

25 Reminders of Entrepreneurship

  1. Cutting corners shows
  2. Even overnight successes had to prepare and plan at one point
  3. No trick has ever beaten hard work
  4. Treat time like money and don’t waste it
  5. Cheaper doesn’t always save money
  6. Barter to an extent
  7. Don’t network, it rarely works, build relationships
  8. Grow slow and controlled
  9. Invest in and pay yourself first
  10. Free time is now work time
  11. Market yourself, ’cause no one else will
  12. Draft and rewrite as often as needed
  13. Step outside your comfort zone with no expectations but taking everything as a learning experience
  14. Never downplay your talent or skills
  15. Be a connector when you can’t be a provider
  16. You define your success, not some magazine or reality TV game show
  17. Budget as best you can as often as you can
  18. Rejection and failure are the first few chapters, keep turning the page
  19. You won’t always be motivated, but you have to keep aiming for it
  20. Working smart are the lessons learned from working hard
  21. There’s no windfall from being self-employed
  22. Your reputation DOES matters
  23. If you’re not doing it well enough, keep doing it until you do, it’s not about perfection, it’s about excellence
  24. It’ll take many tries and reinventions, but it’ll always take persistence
  25. Don’t count the quantity of your coins, but measure the quality of your work

Before you get all hung up on being your own boss and the next supposed successful entrepreneur, know what it’s going to take and take from you.

How To Treat The Clients You Don’t Want

To truth be told, whether it’s a client you do or don’t want, you need to treat everyone you do business with the same level of courtesy, respect and thoroughness regardless if they’re your ideal customer/ client or not.  But if you find that there is a person or two who are going to be more trouble than they’re worth; whether it’s too many complaints, frequent late payments, canceling appointments, too many demands outside your scope or just plain obnoxious, get them out the door as quickly as possible with little to no collateral damage in the process.  People who are hard to work with make it hard to do the work.

How to get the unwanted out of hair?

  1. Take the blame – Make it seem like you cannot live up to their expectations or cannot provide them the services or products their looking for.  You’ll win points with being upfront about your supposed shortcomings, and when done early on, you’ll bear less the unpleasantness of working with them.  Double points there.
  2. Direct them to someone else – In this case, you’ll need to have a solid network in place of colleagues to refer unruly clients to.  But be fair to your connections in letting them know why you’re passing on this person.  Some people will take all the business they can get, others will want to target specific clientle too.  Just offer as much of a fair warning as you possibly can.
  3. Bow out gracefully – When you find yourself knee-deep in you-know-what, and the only way to climb out is wave your white flag, DO SO!  Be honest and let your client(s) know that you don’t feel that you’re going to be able to continue working with them (and give them a couple of legitimate reasons as to why) but agree to finish whatever it is you’re working on till it’s complete.  Thank them for their service and wish them the best of luck in their endeavors.
  4. Be polite and helpful – Up until you hand them off.  You may not like them, they may not like but that doesn’t mean you can get away with saying and doing whatever you please because they’ve gotten under your skin.  You never know who they know and how quickly word can spread.  No matter which exit strategy you choose, do it with a smile and a calm tone of voice.  The relationship may be ending, but your image doesn’t need to be tarnished in the process.

As you close out every relationship, make sure you give out your business card again.  No, this is not to rein them back in and relive your headaches, but this is a subtle way to tap into their network of connections and find new and hopefully more pleasant clients.  Let them know that if they have any additional questions or concerns or need of resources, you may be able to to direct them to someone who can help.   And that offer is extended to anyone they know, as well (wink, wink).

 

Are Your Neighbors Competition or Contributors?

image

Shopping centers and mini strip malls make it easy for consumers to find what they need in one ideal location. While dropping off their dry cleaning, they can pick up some flowers for that special someone’s birthday and then grab a snack at the mini mart. You may disagree that that consumers think like that, but in fact, they do. It’s all about convenience.

But all that convenience, how does it play out for the business owners of those shops? Are they benefiting from having their neighbors sell products and services that are (or seem) so dissimilar from their own? Are their neighbors helping them or hurting them?

Well, let’s look at this logically. You don’t want to have your neighbor selling the exact same products as you. That’s direct competition, a definite “hurt”.  However, we see this with gas stations 3-4 on every corner, yet they manage to survive. Why? Brand preference. Not everyone prefers Arco, or Chevron, or 76. And those who have no preference don’t care.

For the smaller business owner, neighbors of a different stock are always in your best interest. There’s no direct competition, it’s easier to give positive referrals, get positive referrals and maintain a loyal customer base. But it’s not just about having neighbors with different inventory, it’s also about being neighborly. Get to know your neighbors, find out what they sell, what’s their hottest ticket item, when do they have promotions and if they wouldn’t mind getting referrals from (who’s gonna say no, right?). Word of mouth is still a potent tool, even among the smaller niches.

Common Sense – The Real Successful Skill You’ll Need

Everyone’s trying to tell you what attributes and skills you need to be successful in business.  And they seem to have gotten it down to a science telling you exactly how many skills and how to apply them.   And of course, they go on to explain how to obtain these imperative skills if you don’t already have them and why they are so important to have for a person self employed.  What many experts, gurus, critics and know-it-alls fail to acknowledge is common sense.  Let’s be real here.   Most people don’t have it and a good number of those who do, don’t exercise it.  More importantly, common sense is the conduit to obtaining all the other skills you will ever need to be a successful entrepreneur, no matter the order or the quantity.

  • Listen – No matter what business you’re in, you’re always going to be working with and among people.  Which means, you’re always going to need to stay in tune to the needs of clients and/or customers.  By listening.  Call it feedback, call it customer service, call it complaining, call it whatever you want.  If you’re not listening to the people who you are doing business with, your ship is already sunk.
  • Communicate – Most people get a little nervous when they have to speak in front of crowds, even in front of small groups of people, say like a presentation or a sales pitch.  But if you can’t speak in front of people, how will you ever be able to sell yourself, market your business and network with your industry?  Yeah, you can tweet and post something from time to time, but there’s nothing like an in-person  interaction.  Word of mouth is still a powerful tool.  Work it.
  • Write Well – Just about everyone who texts uses shorthand lingo (except me).  And twitter makes it no better forcing us to say and spray it in 140 characters or less.  But at some point, you’re going to have to write a letter, a proposal, an email, a thank you, a invitation, a business plan, a budget, a brief or a report.  And if you think you can get away with it by hiring an assistant to do those kinds of things for you, you better know how to proofread.
  • Be Honest  – You cannot be everything to all people and you surely can’t be everywhere at once.  Know your shortcomings, know your limits, but emphasize your strengths.  Yeah, you may excel in graphic design and know next to nothing about creating websites.   Say so, but also mention the wonderful projects you’ve been on board and the success of those projects because of your creative direction and talent.
  • Learn – What you don’t know, figure it out.  Again, the reason why you can’t be everything to everyone is because you do not know everything.  But learn as much as you can about what you do so you can be better at it.  This may require some independent study, this may require a few classes at a local college, or finding someone who’s done what you’re doing that doesn’t mind being your mentor.

Logically speaking, we tend to go after the things we want and search out the things to help us acquire them.  There’s no secret formula and it’s definitely not rocket science.  Those with successful attributes plant successful habits, successful behaviors and successful attitudes.  It’s just common sense.

Building Your Business?

Construction is always a phase of business, whether literally or figuratively

Construction is always a phase of business, whether literally or figuratively

What comes to mind when you think about building a business, building your business?  What do you think about? Is it writing out a business or vision plan?  Is it putting procedures and practices in place?  Is it re-inventing or reinvesting resources such as time, money and energy into your business’ brand and image?

How do you build your business?  Do you network, hit up close friends and family members?  Do you spread the word about your company by word of mouth?  Do you take out an ad in the local paper or market online?

Do you think about where your financial resources will come from in order to build your business?  Will you tap into your savings, get a part time job, seeker investors or crowd fund?  Will you take out a business loan?

When you think about building your business, do you ever think about what kind of company culture you’d like to create, what kind of customer base you’d want to attract or the kind of employees you’d want to hire? Do you think about your business’ internal and external forces, the market or the industry?

When you think about building your business, do you start with the end in mind and work your way backwards or do you piece it together as you go along?