The Small Business Administration says that 50% of small businesses fail in the first five years and only a third make it to the 10-year mark. Those numbers leave me feeling pretty hopeful as Clerical Advantage celebrates nine official years in business today. So why do I believe that my small business to business services company is still alive and kicking? Here are a few ‘secrets’ that I believe have been the difference between survival and failure over the past 9 years.
A commitment to my clients that includes effective communication.
Communication is key to great relationships with your clients. From timely responses to clear and understandable questions and explanations, making sure you place an emphasis on communication helps build long-term relationships with your clients.
Going beyond the expected.
Whether it’s including a month of website maintenance after building a website or putting in a few hours to handle a client emergency nights or weekends, going above and beyond builds client loyalty. I’m not talking about allowing yourself to be taken advantage of and constantly working past closing hours or on weekends. I’m talking about understanding when a client has an actual need for you to do so, and doing it willingly.
Understanding that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea.
I had to get over my desire to have everyone love me and my business early on. You can’t run a successful business if you’re bending over backward trying to make it fit for every client and potential client that comes along. I’ve had plenty of clients that just didn’t work out for one reason or another. An important turning point in my business was seeing this as a good thing rather than a devastating one. Discovering whom you don’t fit is as important as finding out whom you do. My services are never going to work for someone who views what I do as ‘simply freelance work’. My clients view me as a partner in their success, expecting more professionalism and getting more results in return.
Value is more important than cost.
I’ve had plenty of people tell me that my services are too expensive. The usually tell me this because they are comparing them to virtual assistant rates or freelance website designer rates that they’ve seen somewhere. It’s not until I’ve worked with someone that they come to see the incredible value of having someone who can help them with many different aspects of online technology. Once they experience the results of having me in their back pocket, so to speak, they more clearly understand the value they receive for their money. To have one person who can assist on so many business levels, from formatting documents to building a website with tons of specialties in-between is not only a time-saver, it’s a business builder.
Things change. That’s just fact. If you don’t consistently change what you offer and the way you offer it, eventually you’re going to lose out to those who do. My business has been in a constant state of adaptation since day one. Many of the services I offered in 2007 are no longer something I provide in 2016. I started out focusing on real estate paralegal services and quickly realized that some of the more time consuming aspects would hinder me from taking on more clients. Over the years I’ve dropped and added many services according to two criteria. a.) What the needs of my clients truly were and b.) How practical they were to the growth of my business. In 2007 I had little knowledge of how to set up a webinar and an accompanying landing page, I had barely heard of WordPress and my knowledge of Photoshop was non-existent. Today those are all things which I work with on a regular basis. Change and adaptation is the life-blood of business success.
There is a limit to going beyond the expected. Although you may go above and beyond on occasion doing so all the time is bad for business. In fact, it’s critical that you set boundaries in your business. Setting and consistently sticking to a work schedule that provides balance, taking vacations, holidays, sick days and personal days are perhaps more important when you’re the boss. Being available 24/7 isn’t something to be proud of, it’s something to worry about. [clickToTweet tweet=”A successful business is one that knows how to treat its employees well. Even if you’re the only one.” quote=”A successful business is one that knows how to treat its employees well. Even if you’re the only one.” theme=”style3″]
Being the owner and perhaps the only person in your business can make disconnecting from it difficult, especially if you work from a home office. My first few years in business I failed miserably at disconnecting. My office was always right there in my home, tempting me on weekends, holidays and when I was sick to just fire up the computer and check that email. Of course, once I read that first email I was lost and suddenly I found myself working when I wasn’t supposed to be. Over the years I’ve learned the true value of disconnecting. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that one of the most effective ways I’ve found to disconnect both physically and mentally from my business is creating art. Finding something that engages both your mind and your body is important. It keeps you from logging on to your email or thinking about your to-do list. Time spent disconnected from your business allows your mind and body to take a break so that when you return to the office you are refreshed and rejuvenated. My most productive work days have been since I’ve learned to completely disconnect from my business during off-hours and holidays.
Sure, there are plenty of other things that have kept my business going for 9 years, but these seven are the ones I see as being the critical difference between success and failure. Try them out for yourself and see what a big impact they have on your own business.