The (perhaps not so) simple keys to running a successful business

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Tips for running a successful business

Sometimes lessons learned in your personal life are transferable to business. Case in point – while searching for local tradespeople for some home renovation projects, our experience was less than stellar. So it got me thinking that this may be a good opportunity to share some basic pointers for running a successful business – and apparently these pointers may not be so basic after all.

Whether your company is business-to-business or your target market is the general public – everyone is a consumer. And your goal is to convince consumers to “consume” your products or services. Even though you may be trying to sell windows to homeowners or an online security system to a Fortune 500 company, there are certain basic customer service principles that every business should follow. Here are my basic tips for running a successful business – and I will do my best not to get too fired up.

1. Return phone calls in a reasonable time frame

Better yet, pick up the damn phone! Waiting two weeks to return a phone call or to respond to a completed online form is just plain unacceptable. Calling two weeks later and saying – “sorry, we’re really busy” will do nothing to endear you to potential customers. You might as well say – “sorry, you are just not important enough for me to get back to you in a reasonable time frame. In fact, I don’t really need your business”. Guess what!  You’re right! You don’t deserve my business or my money! Sometimes business can be about feast or famine – so don’t fall into the fat cat syndrome.  Just because you are busy today, you may not be busy tomorrow. Make sure potential clients feel like you truly value their business.

2. Show up on time

[Insert head shake]. You would think this is a given. Just like not returning phone calls, showing up late for a meeting or not showing up at all screams to potential customers – “my time is more important than your time”. Or at best it says – “I’m terrible at managing my own time and schedule, so please don’t expect me to effectively manage your project and any deadlines”. Smart money would be on the next comment to come your way – “sorry, we’re really busy”. Next!

3. Make it easy for potential customer to reach you

In today’s online driven culture, every company needs a website. But having a website without clearly defined contact information is a waste of cyber space. A phone number, email address and contact form should be front and center on your homepage. Same goes for any print collateral – brochures, flyers, magazine ads – take out any guess work for potential customers concerning how they can contact you.

4. Don’t over promise and then under deliver

While not always easy, you need to do your best to balance your work load and resources so you can properly service existing clients while giving new clients realistic timelines for their projects. No one wants to turn away new business, but taking on a project and then doing a crappy job while constantly missing deadlines will do significant harm to your reputation in the long run. Never make wild promises just to land a job knowing darn well you are biting off more than you can chew. Always under promise and over deliver.

5. Know your market

One of the things that was really surprising when we were collecting quotes for our home reno projects was the extreme variations in pricing quoted. While you probably don’t want to be the cheapest act in town, you certainly don’t want to throw down a price tag that’s triple the size of your competitors either. So do your research. Know what specific services and products your competition is offering and what they are charging. Even in the same industry, businesses operate differently and it all boils down to your brand positioning. If you are an elite service provider with high-end products, price yourself accordingly. But if you are selling the exact same apple from the exact same cart as your competitors, not sure how you can justify charging triple the price.

Hopefully for most of you, I’m preaching to the choir with these tips for running a successful business. Sometimes a friendly little reminder can’t hurt. Always treat potential customers the same way you would like to be treated when the shoe is on the other foot. Not sure that makes sense, but you get the idea. Have a wild day.