As I just commemorated 20 years of owning my own business, I am going to use this month’s article to share with you a few of the “secrets” to being a successful business owner.
- Discipline- This is, first and foremost, the most important quality that you need to possess to be a successful business owner. You can be great at whatever your profession is, but if you are not a truly disciplined person you are doomed to failure. These are some of the areas where discipline is the most important:
- Time – You only have a certain number of hours in the day and, especially with a service business, can only sell a finite product. If you don’t carefully guard your time you are giving away your most important product.
- Money – There are good times, and there are bad times; be prepared for the latter. Pay yourself the same amount every week, and have that be a conservative number. If at the end of the year there is more money in the pot for you, then you have something to put forward for the coming year. If at the end of the week there’s not enough money to pay yourself-then you don’t get paid that week. Most importantly, pay yourself last. Your vendors and employees come before you. If you can’t pay for a product you either shouldn’t buy it or you need to work out terms with the vendor. It is stealing to take product you don’t have a realistic way to pay for. Not only do you have a legal duty to pay your employees, you have a moral one also. Don’t steal their time.
- Marketing- You are your best (and worst) marketing tool. As a business owner, you have endless opportunities to meet people, impress them, and have them want to buy your product. You may make a great widget, but if you are the idiot at Little League always yelling at the teenage umpire, am I going to want to support you?
- Customer Service – Whatever you are selling, make your customer feel appreciated and respected. If you can’t return someone’s call promptly, have someone else call them back and tell them. If your turnaround time to have something finished is two weeks, don’t tell them one. It is better to not get a customer than to lose one because of shoddyservice.
- Be picky – An old maxim is that a lawyer is known by the client she doesn’t take, and this applies to any industry. There are people who have unrealistic expectations whether it is to time, cost or result. If you remotely think you will not be able to meet their goals, politely tell them and send them on their way. If you don’t, they will be unhappy, not pay you, bad mouth you, and you will be worse off because of it.
I thank the thousands of clients that I have had over the years and am truly thankful for the opportunity to have helped so many people through their difficult times.