This week I’d like to talk to you about how to be taken seriously as a small business owner. As a solo entrepreneur, I find frustration in getting friends and family to think of me as a serious contender in the business world. For some reason, they think that because I don’t punch a time clock and work a regularly scheduled 8 hour shift, I am always available for coffee, chatting and that I’m sitting at home watching TV and eating bon-bons. What is a bon-bon anyway?
Chase the vision, not the money, and the money will end up following you-Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO
The Importance of Setting Your Schedule
It is imperative to set limits for your daily schedule so that you control it, not your customer. When I first started my business 5 years ago, I met clients when they wanted to meet, often causing undo stress and frustration.
Make a list of all of your responsibilities and the amount of time needed to complete each task. Give yourself plenty of time for each item on your list. Look at your weekly schedule and mark out time to complete these items. You may decide that you need one day a week in your office to complete these tasks.
Determine how many appointments you can do on a given day, or if you will see clients certain days of the week and mark those times on your schedule. Remember to give yourself plenty of travel time if you are meeting your client away from your office. You may decide to on a location (like a Starbucks, Panera Bread or a local business where you can sit at a table and have wifi available) and ask your clients to come to you. This choice may be beneficial in many ways because your time is more structured, you can see more clients in a short period of time and not spend the entire day traveling in your car.
If you are constantly late to your appointments, you need to work on time management. Always arrive 5-10 minutes before your scheduled appointment and be prepared. Make sure you’ve packed everything necessary for a successful business meeting. As the owner of a promotional product company, I always try to have catalogs and samples with me to show my client. Nothing is more frustrating that not having the necessary items at a scheduled appointment and having to schedule a follow up. It wastes time – both yours and your clients
Dress for Success
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “fake it until you make it”. Part of faking it is dressing like you are already successful. Make sure your outfit is business appropriate, your hair and make-up are done and what you present yourself in a professional manner.
Risk more than others think is safe. Dream more than others think is practical- Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO
Have a Website
I can’t tell you how many times I had a potential client a business card and they ask if I have a website. If you are selling a product, make sure clients can sit down at their computer and look at it. Update your site as often as necessary and make sure that it is user friendly.
Meet Your Deadlines
Being a small business owner is tough. Try to under promise and over deliver. If your client is expecting an order on Monday, surprise them and deliver it a day early. It will show them that you take their business with you seriously. Since I am a product driven business, I could have my orders directly shipped to my clients. When it is possible, I have them shipped to me and I hand deliver them. This allows me the ability to look at their finished product prior to giving it to my client. I try to give a ‘thank you’ gift when I deliver their order. Good customer service goes a long way in securing repeat business.
Sit down and talk to your family and friends about your business. Make sure they know it is a business, not a hobby. My husband still jokingly calls my company “a hobby”, but knows I am working hard at growing my business. Make time for coffee with friends, but don’t spend so much time playing that you forget to work. It is easy to get side tracked as a business owner. You have to stay accountable.
The value of an idea lies in the using of it – Thomas Edison, General Electric Co-founder
My challenge to you this week is the following:
Do you have friends and family who constantly try to get you to forget work and spend time with them? Are you flying by the seat of your pants or do you have a good business plan and strategy? Do you know what’s on your schedule for tomorrow?
It is important to become organized and dedicated to the schedule you set for your business. If Mondays from 1-5 are your business hours when you file, do invoices and return emails, then Monday afternoon is probably not a good time to plan a shopping trip.
Stay focused. Stay organized. Find a mentor to hold you accountable. And remember to have fun. Owning your own business should be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
Have a great week!
I own a promotional products business where I offer over 1 million different products to meet your promotional needs. I also have a complete wedding line including save the dates, invitations, napkins, imprinted stemware, and attendants gifts. I’d love to schedule an appointment with you to see how I can help you with your promotional needs! www.gardnerpromotionalsolutions.com
Image Sources: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/125303894@N06/14408940363″>Woman at work</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>
<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/41177682@N04/6305483153″>businesswoman walking</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>