Every process comes with lessons that we carry with us through the rest of our careers. After a year of hard work and great ideas, the members of our Indiana CEO Circle gave us the lessons that they learned.
Always get the money up front.
Small business can mean small profits, difficulty establishing yourself, and most worryingly, uncertainty. Until you feel established in your customer/supplier relationships, it is perfectly reasonable to expect payment in full or a 50% deposit. Once your relationship is established, more flexible payment plans can be enforced as is convenient. Until then, don't hesitate to be strict.
Say yes to "fringe" business.
Your best customer or most reliable supplier may not be found where you think. Always stay open to new and unusual markets--you never know who may be interested in what you have to offer. But if the business isn't as profitable, learn to say "no."
Treat a friend like a regular customer.
If you are fortunate enough to have a friend or contact who has been helping you with your business pro bono, you owe them a lot. Treat them with the same gratitude, personability and respect as you would any regular client. That is a relationship to value deeply and to show your thankfullness for.
Don't get sidetracked by busywork -- Focus!
The busywork surrounding your ultimate goal is necessary, but also a means to an end. Make sure to do it right, but don't forget about what you're really working towards.
Don't put the cart ahead of the horse.
On the other hand, it can be easy to race towards what you want without putting the rest of the necessary components in place. Maybe you want to launch a product, but you haven't properly advertized or figured out your distribution strategy. Maybe you've got a great advertising concept, but you're still murky on your target market. You can stay focused on your goal without getting ahead of yourself.
Focus on your strengths.
Figure out where you stand out, and put yourself in a position where that skill is being best utilized. Of course you should still work on your weaknesses, but it doesn't make sense to let your best quality go unused.
Have two-way clarity on "the deal."
Clarity is the best thing you can provide in processing a large-scale, high-importance transaction. You don't want to start to execute your agreement, only to find out that one or both parties have misunderstood what was expected. Take the time necessary to make sure that everyone understands what is being agreed upon.
By the same token, take your time to make sure your contracts are sound and cover everything necessary. It can feel like a time-saver to move ahead on an agreement without a contract, but it is also an unnecessary risk. You're doing yourself and your partner a favor by creating a contract that works for the both of you.
Employees are not going to do as well as you.
"If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself." Your employees are not going to know how to do something exactly the way you want it done unless you show them. Compensate for this by allowing for extra time in contracts and bids for more training and problem solving. Your employees will be more competant, and they will be happier to be able to more accurately meet your benchmarks.
Communicate daily with your employees.
You and your employees will both benefit from daily communication. This doesn't have to be a full meeting. Just checking in daily will allow them to communicate any issues, major or minor, and you will have a better grasp on where they need guidance or help. For more important subjects, really put in the effort to make sure they understand. Have them repeat what you want back to you; it will help them remember and you can catch any miscommunication before they put it into action.
Communicate the big picture to customers, employees, and vendors.
Your big picture isn't important to just you. You can add value to all of your professional relationships if your partners understand your goal. You may find that your vendors may be able to more accurately cater to your needs, you'll find a customer base that aligns with your end goals, or you'll hire more employees who are committed to your long-term company vision. You have nothing to lose by making your ambition known.
We've had a productive year here at PowerLink, and we're always happy to hear about the progress that our clients have made. If you've held a PowerLink Advisory Board or attended one of our CEO Circles and would like to share what you learned through the experience, let us know! Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we may feature you and your company in one of our future posts.
Save the Date
PowerLink is holding its annual Connect the Dots event on Monday, April 23rd! Come for casual networking and light fare, plus a small ceremony for our honorees. More details and registration will be available soon.
image source: @lisamessenger on Instagram. Posted July 28, 2015. https://www.instagram.com/p/5shs1AR02V/