I am repeatedly reminded how simple and useful these five points can be in driving business success. And it should be easy to implement two or three (or all five) of these tips today!
Starting and growing a business takes time – with most small businesses having to survive for three to five years before seeing a profit. But here are five things you can do (today) to improve your chances for success in business (even if you are a pre-startup).
1. Have a Web Presence: The average user checks their smart phone 110+ times a day – that’s a lot of eyes on the internet. And when it comes to purchases, even if we eventually buy at a brick-and-mortar store, we do most of our research online. Now I am not advocating that you go out and spend thousands of dollars on a fancy website – there are applications that let you build your own for free and it costs less than $10 a month to be hosted. Note to self (and for my followers): post the 4 pages every website needs. More importantly, especially for pre-startups is to have an updated LinkedIn profile (including a recent photo of yourself). If you reach out to me to conduct business, I’m going to look you up. If I can’t find you online, I’m not going to consider you a legitimate business owner and I’m going to ignore you.
2. Respond Promptly: This tip is actually a two-parter – respond and respond promptly. I make it a habit to respond to my clients within 24 hours (it may be longer if you email me at 10PM on Saturday) even if it is to let them know I am out of the office and will respond in detail a little later. And especially respond to emails where you are scheduling a meeting or activity – never assume that the other party knows your intentions. My advice is to have unique email and phone accounts for your business – check regularly and don’t mix business with personal email.
3. Don’t Forget Etiquette: Mobile devices make it easy for us to communicate, but don’t forget you are conducting business. One of my pet peeves is business owners who answer their phone with, “Hello?” It’s an easy marketing method to greet potential clients with, “Thank you for calling XYZ, this is X. How may I help you?” It presents a more professional face for your business. With respect to email: 1) don’t put the text of your email in the subject line, 2) address the person you are sending the email to, and, 3) include a signature line with your contact information.
4. Arrive On-Time: Nothing says “unprofessional” more than arriving late for a meeting. I know some people who think arriving late gives them a psychological advantage, but it tells me you respect my time less than yours – and I’ll think twice about doing business with someone who is consistently late. When I was in the military, on-time was late and early was on-time. Always plan to arrive 15 minutes early.
5. Google It: With virtually the entire world at our finger tips, I am amazed at how unprepared many owners are when it comes to conducting business. Industry and market research are an absolute must before spending a single penny to start a business. And a little bit of research before a business engagement can go a long way. Knowing the background of the person you are meeting can help you find ways to connect – and relationships are key to business. And using a mapping application can help ensure that you arrive on-time (i.e. early.)
All of these tips are free (except for web hosting) and easy to do. Start employing them today and you will increase your chances for success in business.
Charles McCaffrey is the director of the Veterans Business Outreach Center at Community Business Partnership. He completed his MBA at George Mason University with a concentration in entrepreneurship in 2012 and was selected as the 2011 Emerging Business Student of the Year from Mason’s School of Management. Also in 2011 he started his own management consulting company that assists organizations (small and large, public and private) in developing plans and strategies that promote creative and innovative growth ideas and business solutions. Charles has twelve years military experience as a Naval officer and five years defense contracting experience. Follow his business blog at postcynical.wordpress.com.