Reading time: 5 – 8 minutes
Hard to believe it’s been that long.
12 years as a small business owner and it’s been one heck of an education.
I made many mistakes, lost lots of money and endured tough nights…but I kept at it and somehow I’m still kicking.
Over the course of those years not only did I build up my business, but I
- Got married
- Taught myself magic
- Survived the tsunami
- Became a father
- Wrote a book
- Created this website
- Learned finance
And as a result, I’m not the man I was 12 years ago. I decided that rather than go through life hoping things would change, I decided to make a change…in me.
It wasn’t easy. 2 hours a night (every night) for a year and a half to learn magic. 2 years to get my book written and published. And now 3 hours a day on finance.
So through all that…what did I learn? So much but for today I thought I’d share with you 12 business lessons I have learned, one for every year I’ve been in business.
- The customer is not always right
- Marketing is everything
- Be willing to go the extra mile
- Location, location, location
- Raise your prices
- Your clients are your best resource
- Copious notes
- A single wrong person can ruin everything
- Get a contract
- What’s in a name?
- Health – essential when you’re a small business owner. Sometimes the stress that comes with a job just isn’t worth it.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
First, the customer is unfortunately not always right. While we must understand the needs of our clients and do what we can to satisfy them there are those clients out there that take advantage of. I remember one such client.
We agreed to a special deal but within a week they had reneged on their side of the deal. I spent time, money and energy and bend over backwards only to see them walk out the door.
Marketing is how we get our name out there. This includes business cards, advertising, website, social media, products, etc. Quantity counts. Big companies spend millions of dollars a year on advertising. The key is to be in our consciousness.
Try this test, say the first word that comes to mind when you read the following words:
Did you say Coke, Marlboro, Budweiser and iPhone? Maybe, maybe not…but that is what companies are trying to do. Take up space inside your head. This should be the strategy for every business, big or small. Find ways to get inside people’s head. Music, catchy slogans, memorable design…anything and everything.
Going the extra mile is a sure-fire way to win over clients. But remember that all clients are not created equal. Be careful not to go too far. One famous marketer once said that never let one client become more than 50% of your business, no matter how good a client they are. Why? That way you have a cushion should they leave for whatever reason.
McDonald’s has proven the location concept. A good location will give you exposure and more traffic. If you can afford it, a good location is worth it. And even if you can’t, it’s still worth considering. Do the math and figure out which location is right for you and your business.
Raise your prices. Notice I said “raise” not price yourself out of the market. But people equate quality with price.
Your clients are your best source of improvement. Ask them what they like, what could be improved…and ideas they might have. You might be surprised what gems of wisdom you’ll uncover.
Notes - record everything you can (digitally if possible, environmentally friendly, easy search capability). You never know when you might need it.
Never underestimate the power of a bad apple. One bad apple in a company is like a virus spreading disease throughout.
Sadly trust isn’t what it once was. Many people are no longer as good as their word. Contracts may be a pain but I assure you that in most cases you’d do well to take the time to get things in writing. There may come a day you’ll be glad you did.
Names are simple. People love to hear their own name. But what’s even truer than that is they hate it when people mispronounce their name.
Next comes health. To perform well at work we must be healthy. That means rest, exercise, diet and all the other things we know we should be doing. And what good is all the money in the world if you aren’t able to spend it. Don’t let your work kill you or ruin your health.
Finally, synergy. Always remember that 2 horses together can carry much more than each horse could carry individually combined. What I have found is that a good team is worth its weight in gold. Don’t expect to find your team overnight. It does take time to find the right people. One final word about a team, be sure to find people who compliment you.
12 lessons, 12 years, many painful stories. But I’m still here and with any luck this year will be my best ever.