My husband and I have both owned and managed our own businesses and have learned quite a lot about succeeding on your own as small fish in a big sea. In very differing businesses – mine a freelance writing and design venture, his a synthetic grass dealership — we found similarities in what makes our small businesses grow and prosper.
It isn’t the business plan, or the mission statement, or a fancy office, or investors, or any of the ideas a lot of people associate with business success. It is people, and our relationships with them. If you, as a business owner, take time for your clients from first contact to final sale and beyond, you will do well. If you listen, ask about their kids, find out what they do for a living or what they enjoy doing in their free time, tell them about yourself, you will develop a personal relationship with clients that will yield benefits in the end.
You will be first on their minds when they need more work, or when someone else asks them for a recommendation, because you cared enough to invest just a little bit of time in them. It is true in business and it is true in education. If I show even a modicum of interest in my students and talk about myself, the feel comfortable, secure, and ready to likewise invest themselves.
The parent company of my husband’s dealership pays a lot of money to a sales expert who provides all the dealers around the country with materials and script to help them deal with clients and close sales. For a person to whom this aspect of business comes naturally, the script feels stilted, forced, and transparent. While I’m sure it is a valuable resource for those dealers who are not gifted in relationship building, it sits unused in our home office.
In fact, Chris and another owner were asked to speak to dealers at the last national conference to share their insights on what makes their businesses so successful. Without comparing notes ahead of time, the commonality was the relationship building with clients – be they home-owners, commercial ventures, or landscape architects. A lunch here, and surprise bagel drop there, and even just an immediately returned phone call make all the difference in the world.
Yes, you are busy. Yes, you have more than enough to do when you are running your own business. Yes, it sounds impressive when you talk about how there aren’t enough hours in the day. But take a minute or two with a client, give them your full attention, and will will be assured that you stay busy, stay profitable, and stay successful.