As a small business owner myself, I am bombarded with invitations to all manner of on-line groups which are supposed to connect fellow business owners, one of which is Alignable. Most of the time I am pretty busy trying to get all of my obligations met and attending BNI or networking meetings. For the most part I just let all of the notices from groups like this pile up in my inbox until I have a quiet moment.
When I do get some time, I will answer questions posted by other small business owners. Specifically about Websites and social media, but also about other business practices.
A short while ago I came across a post by Chuck Heinz, from New York. He wrote about wanting to get out of the slog that is corporate America and run his own shop and do things his own way. He wrote about how most small business owners can be distrustful of corporates types, and how different the world of small business is from big business. He was shocked that most small businesses don’t develop a business plan, and he couldn’t believe that most of the business owners he met didn’t have a marketing plan either.
In the early 1990’s I started my first small business. Like I think most people who build their own business, I did it out of necessity. There were no lofty goals of being able to do things better on my own than what I could do as a corporate cog. I just wanted to survive. I was in Mortgage and Real Estate sales, and just when I would get a steady book of business rolling, the company I worked for would get bought out, or sell out, or fold. I had been in tech for 15 years before that, and the same thing kept happening there as well.
I just wanted to do good work, be professional, take care of my customers and know from one day to the next that I was on relatively secure ground. Because I came from a corporate background, I understood what a business plan was, but I certainly didn’t write the kind of plan one would present to an investor. I wrote down my goals, made a spreadsheet of my expenses and the revenue I needed to pull in, what I thought I needed to do to reach my goals, and opened my doors.
I never took out a loan, I just got by and purchased other things I needed as I could afford to. On the good months, I saved money or got ahead on my bills, on the bad months, I used savings or credit cards to keep going. That’s what most small businesses do.
When that business went south because the entire financial world imploded, my husband and I looked around for something else we felt we could do well. We applied for training grants and attended everything we could. Then we studied what others were doing, watched YouTube videos, took more classes and started our web-based business.
Again, there were no loans, no one looking to invest in us, no elaborate business plans, just us and a few employees and contract workers who came along for the ride. Our capital investments are few, some computers, software, and our fingers and our brains. That’s it.
Getting back to the post by Chuck Heinz, he wrote a great post that touched on many of the misconceptions people have when they leave corporate and start their own business. I think its one that people who are preparing to exit the corporate world and venture out on their own should read. For me, the part of his article which resonated the most is this excerpt:
“6) It really is all about PEOPLE, genuinely about people
We in the corporate world hear this all the time. “Our people are the difference” “We could not have done this without our people” “We only hire great people” etc. etc.
All of this only to have others talk behind our backs, perpetually self-promote themselves, talk over others in meetings, dismiss an idea because it wasn’t theirs, talk down to another with a lower title etc.
TAKE NOTE: To have any chance at being successful as a small business owner, you have got to genuinely realize the value of each person. This is one environment where the phrase “people matter” is not a cliché.
Of course, these businesses advertise, but Word of mouth over a job well done is worth more than 6 months of good search placement. (SEO).Sitting down with a customer who is frustrated by a problem to hear him/her out. Then trying to problem solve WITH that person is worth more than any direct mail piece.
Joining any number of community groups and getting to know the important local issues is more effective than any email.
Making a customer feel as though they are the center of your business and you exist just to solve their problems, is worth more than any coupon or discount ever could.”
That’s the way we feel about our business. It’s not just a business, it’s a way to solve problems for others, to connect with people, to make sure their phones ring and money comes in. And to be able to donate time to promote worthy causes. That’s our business plan at Social Cindy. What’s yours?
Social Cindy, at your service