You didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur. All you really know is this: being someone’s employee doesn’t really work for you.
You may have the chops to plan events, but dealing with clients is a whole other story. It’s a learned skill — even for people who are natural communicators.
As someone who’s been an entrepreneur for more than a decade, I’ve discovered no matter what industry you’re in, there are a few universal truths that make doing business easier, more profitable and, in the end, will leave you feeling more satisfied with your solo venture. Here are my top 5.
- Know what you’re good at. If I were to guess, I’d say planning an executive retreat or an employee appreciation event — along with every wee detail — are two skills that are probably in your wheelhouse. If you prefer a specific type of event, meeting or client base, narrow the focus of your business. Specialize. Get really good at what you do. People are drawn to excellence.
- Stick to what you know. Unless you moonlight as a CPA, plan to hire an accounting firm that truly understands small businesses. They can handle your payroll and tax filing. (Trust me, you do not want to miss an IRS deadline.) Apply the same concept to other areas of business in which you do not excel. In my case, general office organization comes to mind. I hired a college student to file papers, archive magazines and press mentions, and organize client files. Plus, she’s going to be a doctor someday, so I figure I’ll get a discount.
- Understand the value. There will always be clients — particularly potential clients — who will shop price. If they are looking for the cheapest way to host an annual conference and are ready to go with the lowest bidder, there’s not much you can do to change their minds. Be prepared to share (with ALL your clients) why doing business with you is invaluable. Things like vendor relationships, processes, positive results — and, of course, your winning personality — fit into this category.
- Cash (flow) is king. You’re running a business, not a volunteer service. At no time will this hit you more than the moment you need to buy (fill in the necessity here) and your client still hasn’t processed your payment. Here’s how you can help create cash flow: Invoice on time, expect payments on time and charge reasonable fees. Know your competitor’s pricing structures. Once in a great while, throw in a freebie (and tell them why you’re doing it) for long-term clients.
- Get out from behind your desk. When you build relationships at conferences and events where there are real, live people…something amazing happens: These relationships become the most profitable — and fulfilling — aspect of your business. Even more satisfying than the idea of working for yourself in the first place.