In growing smallbiztechnology.com there’s a few things I’ve learned that I think have contributed to the success of my business.
I thought to share them with you here!
- Be Honest
- It’s You Not Your Busienss
- Never Burn Bridges
- Never Sit Alone: Network
- Get to know Sneezers
- Show Value First
- Do Awesome Work
I easily see hundreds of business professionals every month. Sometimes I see them selling something, sometimes I see them being sold to. One thing that is often missing is a good smile.
An honest, from the heart smile, is one of the easiest and most powerful things a business owner can project. Whether you are selling something to someone, speaking to an employee, listening to a partner, or just talking to a cab driver – smiling is essential.
When you smile, you convey a sense of pleasantness and calmness to the recipient of the smile.
Honesty is something that we learn from our mothers and fathers as soon as we can gurgle a few words. However, as business professionals, some of you lie to your clients, lie to your employees, lie to your customers. It’s not necessary. Being honest about mistakes made or envisioned problems is the best way to build trust and confidence in those we work with.
In 2005 I was calling upon many company’s (BIG companies) to sponsor the First Annual Small Business Summit. On one of the calls, one of the potential sponsors asked me, “can you guarantee that you’ll have the projected attendance?” My answer, “No. We might have NO attendees and you’ll have lost your investment”. We received a sponsorship check from them the next week and they’ve been a sponsor ever since!
It’s YOU. Not Your Business
Sometimes we forget that as small businesses, we don’t often have a 20 year track record of success behind our logo, nor do we have the look or feel of a BIG business that we can hang our hats (or purse or shawl) on. The most important asset we have is ourselves. Whether you are selling a copier, steak or marketing services, businesses will (for the most part) be influenced to buy from us based on our personality and “vibes” they feel about us.
John Jantsch from Duct Tape Marketing says it best: Marketing is getting people to know, like and trust you. Once you have these things taken care of, the sale is pretty easy (assuming they have the budget and/or need/want your product)
The smaller you are the more important your personality is to the success of your business.
Never burn bridges
When we have fierce disagreements with clients or get angry at our partners, one thing you never want to do is say or do something that will “burn the bridge” in your relationship. The world is so small that we can’t afford to burn bridges. Sure, at times, we must “fire a client” or break up with a partner – it’s just business. But always gracefully and respectful do so. In 6 months or 6 years, a) you might need that person for something or b) someone you do want a relationship with meets them and asks them about you. You can’t get much better accolades than to have someone you are no longer associated with say a kind word about you.
God created us with two ears and one mouth. So often we (as the 24/7/365 sales people we are) act as if we have 2 mouths and one (or no) ear. The art of listening to the needs of people, thinking and responding to meet their needs is extremely important.
In producing the Summit, we get needs and expectations from a variety of people – our sponsors, the attendees, our marketing partners, our production team and more! It’s easy for us to talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk and talk, about how WE want things done. But I always first LISTEN and hear what others want.
I received a phone call from a laser printer toner vendor one day telling me that they could save me a certain percentage of money on my toner supplies if I switched to this vendor from Staples. I explained to them (the caller) that saving a small percent on toner was NOT my number one concern. My main concern was speed of service, fast technical support and retail stores. The toner vendor kept telling me how much they could save me money. Needless to say – our phone call did not last too long.
If you can’t listen to customers, you won’t be able to meet their needs.
Never Sit Alone: Network
I was recently at a WCBS Business Breakfast in New Jersey attended by hundreds of business professionals. While most of the attendees were in various groups of people – networking – there were a few people just standing around. As we went into the ballroom for the main presentation, many of the tables were abuzz with discussion – but some people were sitting quietly.
I’m not advocating that you need to yack and yack and yack, but what I am saying is that when it’s time to network and meet people, you should maximize that time. Approach groups of discussions and listen. At the appropriate time, simply introduce yourself, say what you do and ask about what others are doing as well. Although when networking, you have no clue who you will meet. You could meet your next employee, partner, investor or customer.
PS – Always carry a good supply of business cards and printed material about your business.
Get to know sneezers
There are several people important to the growth of your business. Your customers bring in the money. Your employees do the work to produce your products and services. Your partners and vendors are part of this ecosystem as well.
The other community that’s important is “sneezers”. Sneezers are those in your community (online or right next door) who are influencers.
For example, maybe in your local town, the president of the chamber is an important player in the local community. Maybe there’s an aid of the Mayor or a blogger who writes about all the local events. These are the types of influential people you want to connect with to help give great visibility and even credibility to your business – beyond which you could do on your own.
By becoming a sneezer, sharing information, connecting people and being friendly, you’ll attract other snzeezers to yourself.
Show value first
My kids are always looking for ways to earn more money. Sometimes they even ask for money BEFORE they’ve completed what they said they would do to get paid! My kids are not alone in this. There are many business professionals who also DO NOT SHOW VALUE before asking for something. For example, before giving some time for them to WOW a customer and show their real value, they ask a customer for a recommendation or try to sell them on more services.
It’s always better to SHOW value – to under-promise and over-deliver.
If you show incredible value to your customers, you’ll find that you won’t even have to ask for a referral as they will provide unsolicited referrals. In fact, if you need to raise prices, if you have first showed VALUE, they’ll happily (well almost) accept and understand the price increase.
Do awesome work
It’s easy to do average work. However, what really excites clients is doing AWESOME work.
Guy Kawaski did his first and I think only event in New York City, Bootcamp for Startups in 2000. I was an attendee and never forgot the experience. There was music. Smoke. Black-shirted volunteers. Seth Godin and other premier speakers. And overall, GREAT, GREAT content.
In 2006, six years later when I produced my own event (the First Annual Small Business Summit), we set out to not just create an event. We set out to create an AWESOME event that sponsors and attendees would want to come back to time and time again. There are a LOT of good events in New York City, but we had to ensure ours was awesome. Four years later, we’re in our fifth year and are trying to ensure each event is not just good (or great) but AWESOME.
Whether you’re an accountant in a small firm, a lawyer in a big company, a copier sales person, a receptionist or the guy who brings water every week – YOU MUST DO AWESOME work. Doing just “good” work is not good enough. In these challenging times when budgets are tight – you MUST do awesome work.