Be a Small Business Boy Scout
Yes, I’ll admit it, I used to be a Boy Scout. As dysfunctional as our troop was, I had a ton of fun and learned many valuable lessons. And it recently dawned on me that just about every quality you need to give your small business a chance to succeed is in the 12 Boy Scout laws. Believe it or not, I can still recite these from memory. You should be…
Interesting how this is the first Boy Scout law and is also first in business. You have to establish trust first, before you sell anything to anyone. In the short run, trust can help you overcome business weaknesses but in the long run, your product, service and you personally must meet or exceed expectations consistently to maintain that trust you have established.
Loyalty has several legs. A lesson I learned the hard way is to be loyal to your suppliers and vendors. Think about more than just the cheapest price – think about the value-added services long standing suppliers provide and the advantages of the relationships you have established. Imagine you use printing services and always seek the lowest price, chances are your material will be printed in a satisfactory manner. But what about those situations when you need your material printed yesterday or when there is an error you didn’t catch when your material was designed . Having a relationship with your printer will help get your job moved to the front of the production line when needed and will have them watch out for you and mistakes BEFORE the job is printed.
From a customer perspective, loyalty is commonly returned/reciprocated. If you look out for and reward loyal customers, you will be on your way to stable and repeat business. Consider ensuring, for example, that early adopters of your business’ products/services are grandfathered into pricing that was originally quoted or established with them. A great example is my AT&T mobile phone plan. I am grandfathered in for an unlimited data use plan. While there are other plans, including AT&T plans, that offer new unlimited data options, the one I subscribed to many years ago is unrivaled and has been the primary reason why I stick with the company – it’s good business all the way around.
Being helpful is the essence of business. The objective is to help customers solve a problem with the product or service your business offers. Being helpful also propels the business to go beyond expectations by delighting customers and hopefully convert them into loyal advocates.
People do business with people they like – period. I’ve proven this to myself time and time again. Being friendly also helps you establish trust – there’s a thin line between like and trust.
If you put customers and their needs first, you are ahead of the game. It will help assure that your business will deliver the right products and services in the correct manner. It may also inspire customers to be loyal.
Having a caring disposition will work in your favor. You know the saying: “It’s easier to catch bees…” Caring about customers, employees and suppliers breeds loyalty. Systems should be put in place to show customers and employees that you care.
I always recommend writing a business plan as a starting point for any company, regardless of size, which should be followed up by written operations plans, as well as practices and procedures outlines. Everyone at the company should be well aware of these documents and adhere to them. Doing this will pay off. It will not only make business processes flow more smoothly but it is also a huge help with human resource issues. The establishment of written rules and regulations helps you identify who has been obedient and who hasn’t.
We come across all kinds of people in this world, including the extremes. I so much admire people who are always positive. They have a way of making most people around them feel good. This cheerful disposition is sometimes a business’ essence – think Disney. Attitude and disposition are contagious – how many long faces have you seen at a Disney theme park (other than the kid whose parents will not allow him to go on Space Mountain for the 23rd straight time)? Try to be cheerful and watch it permeate throughout your business, straight through to customers.
Efficiency is important. I like to define it as “doing things right.” Business start ups in particular are extremely exciting as are new product launches – I am fortunate to have been involved in many. Often times the anticipation of sales and growth overshadow the need to manage and audit the process. You should always keep at least one eye on the bottom line.
It takes guts to forego the security of a steady paycheck and choose instead to start your own business. And everything in between as well – introducing new products and services, diving into new markets, hiring new employees – it’s all risky. But entrepreneurs are a brave breed. They have the sort of courage that keeps them focused on their dream and makes them blind to obstacles.
Appearance and neatness matter. Think about customer expectations. Interestingly, I observed an issue with a home health service provider. There were some employees consistently not getting hired as home attendants. We discovered that the expectation was for the prospective home attendants to be in uniform when being interviewed by families considering their service. The insight it provided was that the uniform gave home attendants an aura of competency and professionalism. Make sure you and your employees fit the part and look their best.
You hear it in sports all the time – “respect the game.” It applies to business as well. How you conduct your business matters. Obviously, customers and employees deserve respect. Moreover, your business’ success depends, in part, on how well you adhere to the rules and ethics of the business area you are in and how much you respect the community in which you operate. It greatly affects how you are perceived. Being a good corporate citizen pays off.
So that’s it. If your business is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent, along with a lot of planning and hard work, your business has a fighting chance to succeed. And don’t forget the Boy Scout motto: “Be prepared.”