“When your business is ready for change, you must change it. If you don’t, things will get bad. Sales will slow or refunds will soar, or your best employees will walk out on you. If you stubbornly insist on sticking with the old ways, the damage could become irreversible.” -Michael Masterson, Ready, Fire, Aim.
I’ve been in business six months now. That doesn’t provide too large of a sample size, but it’s enough time for me to start realizing some of the flaws in my business practices. You see, I’ve never had any formal business training. I’ve read a ton of books about business and worked towards my “Personal MBA” (www.personalmba.com), but mostly I’ve learned and worked to improve within my field. Now, I have both a “profession” and a “business.” A great book on this dichotomy is Michael Gerber’s “The E-Myth.”
Experiments with my Business
One of the biggest problems with my business is a reliance on “fairy godmother” type new business generation. I’m always counting on a referral or a big break. I’m not sure where it will come from, but like the Field of Dreams I’m hoping to just “build it” and hope they come. Although in a professional business referrals are important, this mentality has left me feeling anxious. It has also led to many up and down months. I would like more consistency.
One of the things I’ve learned from my business readings is the importance of a systematic marketing plan. For instance, perhaps I should be sending out a certain numbers of mass mailers each month. If I can get to the point where I know how much business these will bring in, per every thousand sent (for example), then I will have a better idea of business generation and how to grow my business. The same would apply for advertising or other marketing endeavors.
Another part of my business that has been hit or miss is client generation from my web presence. Sometimes my website will get me two new leads in a day. Then I might not get a single call from my website for a month. I suppose that’s to be expected with a new website, but I’ve redesigned and hired someone to do a little SEO consulting. I’m hoping these will create a more regular stream of business leads.
Can My Business Run Without Me?
Well no–I’m its only employee right now. But one of the thing’s Gerber’s book pointed out was the need for the business to not rely totally upon its owner. If it does, then you will never be able to sell the business (when the time comes) for the price it deserves. I have seen blogs sold where a “committee” of writers take over—and have seen this done with success—but I also think there is a value in being able to keep your business running even if, for example, you have a major health problem.
I’ve tried writing out instructions for my business in hopes of making it easier should something happen to me or should I bring in employees.
Emphasis on Customer Service
Everyone likes to preach customer service, but few deliver. In Joe Calloway’s great business book Indispensable, he makes the point that (and I’m paraphrasing here) ‘every business has a mission statement promising great customer service, but few actually deliver anywhere near those lofty goals.’
I worry about that being the case with my business, but I’ve been working on ways to ensure a better customer service experience. Who hasn’t walked away from a perfectly competent accountant or doctor because they (or their staff) were rude? I don’t want that to be my business. I want to be both polite and competent, and to exceed the expectations. Wow, that sounds almost like a lofty “Mission Statement,” doesn’t it? Looks like it’s time for some more experiments. For the survival of my business, I need to deliver.
What are some of the qualities of your favorite companies? What have you found successful in your own businesses? As always, I’m looking forward to your responses.