Are you an entrepreneur or business owner running a business for less than five years? Maybe you’re still in a day job, less than enamored with cubicle life and considering going out on your own. I get it. Been there, done that, am doing that now. In fact, I’m running my second business. The first, by the way, was a very successful PR shop, which I bring up not to brag, but because I want you to know that I know what I’m doing and that I speak from experience.
Running a business is challenging. It requires a skill set different from the one you’ve honed to develop your craft. It comes with it’s own set of challenges and blessings. Fifty percent of new businesses fail by their second year according to Forbes. It’s a pretty startling statistic.
You can, however, optimize your opportunity to succeed by staying focused, continually educating yourself so you’re at the top of your game, and by utilizing these five tried and true suggestions:
1. Do not take on friends as clients.
No matter how wonderful and loving your friends are, they have expectations. They may be unconscious; they may be unspoken, but they’re there. I know you think that your friends are the exception to the rule. I did too.
The thing is, making a transition from friends to advisor-client creates a new relationship. You are no longer peers. Not everyone is able to make the shift, or navigate back and forth between two distinctly different types of relationships. Successful professional relationships come with a set of boundaries that personal relationships don’t require. Not everybody gets that, can abide by it or is able to adapt. In the end, it may be your friendship that derails.
2. Put it in writing.
Don’t start a project on a verbal okay. Use a written agreement. A contract. Spell out what you’ll deliver, by when, for a given price and get the client to sign on the dotted line. Start working as soon as you receive an email with a written okay and assurance that the signed agreement is en route to you via snail mail. Cumbersome to use the post office, I know, but you need an original.
If you’re unsure of the exact cost of a project, estimate it and include the estimate of cost over-runs. For example, if the final price may vary by 10%, manage the client’s expectations so that everyone is on the same page. Trust me, the day will come when you’ll be glad that you’ve got it in writing.
3. Find a mentor.
Find someone who is more experienced than you, who has demonstrable expertise in your niche and who has been successfully running a biz for a number of years. It must be someone you trust, who is available and devoted to helping you succeed. In other words, get a mentor.
At some point, something will come up that will raise questions for you that is outside your comfort zone. For example, you need advice about how to deal with politics at the agency you work with, or you may need honest feedback about what you could be doing better (no one’s perfect). A good mentor provides insight, support and perspective that is invaluable, especially on the dark days.
4. Never lie.
If you ever get caught lying about something, anything, no matter how inconsequential, your credibility is dead in the water. Do not go there. Be above reproach. Build and maintain a solid reputation for being trustworthy, reliable and dependable.
5. Ensure that your processes are up and running and that you communicate them to your team and clients before the work starts rolling in.
Business comes in cycles. There are busy seasons and slow seasons. Sometimes everybody calls, other times nobody calls. If whatever you do requires the help of other people to accomplish it (an assistant, freelancers, etc.,) or if you oversee multiple projects and deadlines are involved, make sure your processes are fleshed out, communicated and understood by all before you get going.
Once you’re in crunch mode, if somebody drops a ball, you may not have time available to address the situation without working all night or all week. It’s also a best practice to always have a back-up plan. Because, you know, life happens.
Colleen Dowd is a blogger, and social media marketing and management professional with over 20 years experience creating and implementing high-profile marketing and PR campaigns. She is passionate about strategy, helping small business owners, doing all things creative and traveling. To connect with or work with her, please click here: www.savvysocialmediamaven.com.