Looking at the statistics, the odds of failure in running a small business are stacked against us. More than 50% of small businesses fail in the first year, and more than 95% fail within the first five years. The reasons are all over the board; from lack of market demand, financial resources, cash flow management, etc. to the uncontrollable, like the pandemic we are facing, that has rendered over 30% of small business- es in the US currently non-operational.
With all the potential pitfalls, we as business owners need to do all that we can to not only survive but thrive. And not only thrive right now, but into the future. The following principles can be very easily overlooked and dismissed in business today, but those that make it a point to consider these, will set themselves apart from the rest.
Keep Your Word
This is so important, not just in business, but in all aspects of your life and in your relationships. Needless to say, if you don’t follow this one, your relationships won’t last long.
The focus here is on following through on your commitments to others. Quite simply, if you say you will do something, do it. Deliv- er, no matter how big or small the promise. If you say you will call someone at 1pm tomorrow, do it, on time. If you agreed to meet somewhere, do it, even if it means you have to go out of your way. If you have an agreement with someone, follow through.
The “easiest” way to build trust is to do what you said you would do, consistently. Okay, simple but not always easy. This not only elevates the professionalism of your business but makes the person feel valued and respected. Consistent follow through on your words shows reli- ability and that reinforces trust. The reliability becomes expectation, which builds faith in your business. Your brand will become synony- mous with these ideals.
The quickest way to lose trust, look unprofessional, and let your clients know you do not value them is to not follow through on your word.
Of course, things happen as life is riddled with delays and mishaps. How you respond and how you treat your clients, customers, vendors, associates and employees in those situations will make all the difference.
Those are additional opportunities to show them how you do business and reassure them of why they should be doing business with you.
If you will be late, call and give the person a heads up. Apologize. If you failed to provide what you promised, don’t leave the person wondering what happened. Apologize and make up for it. Maintain good com- munication. If you cannot fulfill an agreement, be up front and honest. People appreciate that and may be willing to work with you, especially if you have built trust in your relationship to that point.
In the course of running your business, you will no doubt encounter plenty of flakes: those who like to talk the talk but will only walk the walk at their convenience or when it serves them. The more flakes you find yourself dealing with, the more you appreciate those that keep their word. Same goes for you as a business owner. People will respect your consistent follow through, but more importantly, they will feel respected and valued.
Under Promise And Over Deliver
Part of making sure you can always keep your word, is under promising. Creating high expectations for a client and not being able to live up to them is a bad look. I am not saying you should not present your products and services in the best light possible. If you believe in them, of course, you should give the best representation of your business.
I am saying you should never tell a client or prospect anything misleading or more than what you know is possible. I’m sure that goes without saying. If you plant that seed of expectation, your clients will look for that result. If you cannot guarantee delivery of that result, don’t set the expectation of certainty.
It’s always better to give your customers the experience of surprise when they receive more than what they were expecting, rather than looking for what they were expecting, only to be disappointed. That can be the difference between a happy repeat customer and a dissatis- fied one-time customer.
Longevity Is The Goal.
With the policy of over delivering, comes the perception that good enough is not enough. If you run your business with this mentality, every product or service you provide will be exceptional.
Have a genuine thoughtfulness for your customers, employees and those you interact with while running your business. A great quote from President Theodore Roosevelt that is very true: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
When you value your cus¬tomers and sincerely want them to be hap- py with your products and services, they will feel it. When you care about your employees and show them through your actions, they will go the extra mile for you. Your employees may be the ones interacting with your customers. Taking care of your employees is also cultivating your PR team.
Happy customers leave good reviews and continue to contribute to your great online reputation, which will attract more people to help and serve. The customer may not be right, but you must listen to their perspective and try your best to accommodate. It’s very possible to turn an unhappy customer into a lifelong customer with just one response to their concerns. Consider your customer acquisition cost, and potential customer lifetime value. These two metrics could put things into perspective. You should also consider how one bad review could impact your business.
Too many times I see business owners replying to comments on their yelp reviews, bashing the customer publicly in an attempt to defend themselves.
Anything you post online will be a reflection of you and your business. You never want to look unprofessional. You may not care if you lose them as a customer, but to be thoughtful of your response, is to be considerate to the person who came to your business and spent money.
One of our clients committed to a one-year minimum for a monthly service we provide. About four months in, I could tell from his actions that he was having some challenges, but was doing his best to fulfill our agreement. This was recently, during the pandemic. Although he was an essential service and was able to remain open, most local businesses have been hit hard.
I reached out to ask if he wanted to pause his monthly plan. I let him know that we had already laid a great foundation for his online pres- ence, and that budget was better served in his pocket during this pan- demic.
At first glance, some people would probably think this was foolish to do from a business standpoint. Perhaps it was. There are other options, of course, and potentially ways to bring in more customers to help his business to afford our services. Let’s explore further.
If he goes out of business because he cannot manage expenses due to the pandemic, we lose a client immediately. If we offer him additional services when he is already struggling to afford our current plan, that could send the wrong message. If we say nothing, allow things to move forward, and ignore his subtle clues, then we show him we are only concerned with our benefit. Sure, we can justify that it’s up to him to let us know if he needs to stop.
We chose to take the path that would clearly show our client that we care about him and his business. His response confirmed that we made the right decision. Turns out he just closed escrow to buy two additional local businesses right before the pandemic shut everything down. All the numbers were down, and he had to pull money out of savings in order to cover all the expenses.
He really appreciated the gesture and agreed to pause services for a couple of months, but would resume and follow through on our deal, with additional services for his other two new businesses. He would also connect us with other businesses in his network.
Showing your clients that you genuinely want to help them goes a long way. Match that with a policy of keeping your word and over delivering to set yourself up for success and longevity.