Thursday, October 1, 2009

Are parasites sucking the blood out of your business??

I recently read an article on small businesses and what stops them from being successful – half way through it hit me…

These problems could be described as parasites – things you don’t even realize are killing your business. Little by little they waste your time and keep you from doing the things that actually make you the success you deserve to be.

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Parasite # 1- Demanding Client(s)…

If you are a business that values your customer – you give great customer service – you bend over backwards to do everything possible to make them happy and give them an experience that will bring them back for more.

In fact 99% of my business, in the past 5 years, have been repeat customers and referrals.

I am proud of that.

Even so, that doesn’t mean along the way I have not run into what I call the demanding client.

When I was a young company, I was just happy to have anyone that needed my services. I didn’t care how difficult or time consuming they were. I would do the design project as we had discussed, but then suddenly, they were not happy with something we had been developing for weeks – thing that were great last week needed to be changed.

Now you may be thinking that is great – more hours more money - NOT!

I work on a per project basis, my clients are mainly small businesses or start up companies that could not afford me if I were to charge per hours, so we have an agreed upon project price.

Looking at this scenario you can see that I was working for less than minimum wage – the more time I would give the more they would demand.

I realized after having a few of these types of clients I had not communicated with them effectively. I didn’t have a written – contract that explained in detail what I would do for a given amount.

Lesson learned I started to set boundaries and write contracts that were much more detailed.

The communication got better and the clients knew what to expect and things ran along much smoother. Happy customers – even happier business owner

Parasite # 2 – Unreasonable Client(s)…

My motto,

Under promise – Over Deliver

How many of us have seen or heard the ads – make 20 billion dollars in 3 hours – solve all your problems in life with just 3 easy steps….

You get my point, if it sounds too good to be true – it is.

I always try and give my clients 110% - I will not nickel and dime them to death. I will help them with marketing advice if they need it etc.

However, ever once in a while I have a client that will not adhere to our contract.

They are just plain difficult – expect the impossible, and I found myself in the difficult position of having to say things like – we didn’t agree on that, or look at the proposal we outlined, or (fill in the blanks)…

What do you do when this happens to you?

Be up front, if you feel it is not worth your time – refund the money and move on – or refund a portion of their money (if it is for a service rendered) and quit doing business with them.

It is not worth the time when you have someone who does not respect you or your business – and if you cannot find a solution cut your losses. Do not continue to hit your head against the wall – you are losing business with people who want what you have to offer because you are trying to do the impossible.

Important point: First of all, I hope you have structured your business so you take a deposit for services rendered. I personally have my client's pay 50% up front and 50% upon completion.

If it is a huge project, I will take 50% up front, 25% once we have an agreed upon design – and 25% upon completion.

This protects my clients from worry because they know if I don’t live up to my promises, I will not get a full payment – it protects me because I know they are serious and have paid me a portion of the agreed upon fee.

Luckily, I don’t have clients like this anymore. I can tell by the initial consultation if it is a client I want to work with.

Don’t be afraid to turn down a client if you find they are not a fit – you will benefit in the long run and so will they.

Parasite #3 – Time Wasters…

You’re a business owner that is trying to be frugal. Times are a bit tight so you think you need to do everything yourself.

Even when you don’t have the slightest idea how to do it…

After all you are smart – why not learn how to do a website – design your own marketing material – and keep the books?

ARE YOU CRAZY?

Seriously, stick to what you do well – don’t waste your time trying to learn things that should be done by someone who knows how to do it right and in a fraction of the time. You don’t need to hire the most expensive person, just a professional who knows how.

The time it takes you to learn how to do these things – could be time you are spending finding clients, marketing, networking doing what you do well.

The old adage is true, time is money. So don’t waste your time learning to do something that should be left to professionals.

In fact you may even do more harm than good to your business. An example may be something like putting up a website that is less then professional and portraying a poor image.

Or not hiring a CPA to do your taxes when you know nothing about what exemptions you can take for a business – so you end up actually losing out on tax exemptions simply because you have no clue about financial matters.

In my case I am not a programmer – I can do some minor programming – and I know where to get java scripts I can use etc. But I hate the heavy duty stuff – and it would take me forever to learn something I am not talented at and I do not like.

If I have a client that needs something I cannot do I hire it done by a professional – and I outsource it.

I know it will cost me a lot less to have it done by a programmer because it will take them a fraction of the time – and they know more than I will ever care to know. On top of that, it will cost my client a lot less because I will not spend hours trying to figure it out.

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The bottom line is – it is important to recognize time wasters when you run your own business.

A lot of things (you may not even realize) can waste your time and pull you under making your business less than successful – and in time drain you of the enthusiasm and excitement you had when you first started the dream of developing your own financial security.

The thrill of developing a business from scratch and seeing it come to fruition is amazingly satisfying and to be able to learn from others will put you on the fast track to success…

Just remember that nothing good comes easy – but everything good will come when enjoying the fruits of your labor!