I was invited to speak at a coffee event this morning. The audience was made up of new start-up entrepreneurs. Plaid Swan just celebrated our 5-year anniversary this month, and some people that were just starting out wanted to know how they too, may be able beat the odds.
I wish I could have given them some complicated, NASA level insight, but in the end, it is simply, excellent customer service and time management. They looked at me like I was going to be one big waste of their time, but when I asked each of them to share a situation where they had experienced poor customer service by a small business, they all became quite animated.
Once every one had taken a turn, I asked each of them, “Will you ever go back?” 100% said, “No.” And THAT is why companies go out of business in their first year.
It is the simplest of things. Not returning a phone call for 2 days; not responding to emails in a timely fashion, not showing up on time, failing to deliver your product as promised, making excuses for delays etc. Simple, simple things.
The greatest challenge faced by most that are self-employed people, is time management. I am truly convinced that you are either wired to be self-managed or you are not. It is not easy to have control over every minute of your day. You have to be very committed to keeping an accurate calendar of appointments as well as managing your time well.
“Flexibility” seems to be the reason most state for wanting to be self-employed or do freelance work, but that flexibility has to work both ways. You may be able to take the afternoon off to attend an event with family, but if you are not willing to make that time up the next day by working 12-16 hours, I doubt you will be successful.
My own example was a handyman that did work around our office. Young guy, good at what he does. BUT, he is very undependable. After the first time I used him at work, I hired him to do work at the house. I really liked him, his rates were fair, but he could never show up on time. Sometimes, he was days late. This ended up costing him two very good clients. My personal business and my company’s business. I have to believe that losing an average of $500 a month when you are starting out, hurts. Add to that, losing someone (me) that made a point to refer him to others. That spigot has been turned off as well. The lack of a simple time management process will be the death of his business.
If you are just starting out, make sure that you are not spending your hard earned dollars and valuable time to chase new business and then dropping the ball at implementation. You will likely only get one opportunity for someone to take a chance on you. Treat every single opportunity like the gold nugget that it is.
– Betsy McCloskey | Principal/Partner
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