by Diana Ennen, President of Virtual Word Publishing and author of “Virtual Assistant, The Series: Become a Highly Successful, Sought After VA“
Having a successful business takes time and effort and a blueprint that works. It differs for all businesses, but many key factors remain the same. As an entrepreneur for 33 years (celebrating this month), I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. You know what I mean. The thrilling excitement of a month that exceeds all your expectations not only monetarily, but with the work you do and the clients raving about your services. To those devastating lows when mistakes happen or clients leave unexpectedly and you’re left with a smaller bank account and a little hole inside missing not only the work but the clients themselves.
It can be a roller coaster for sure. But just like the thrill of a roller coaster, the absolute joy in owning your own business makes this one ride, most are happy to take, year after year.
But with most things, doing it right makes all the difference. Here are some tips entrepreneurs need to know to grow their business, but more importantly to love it as well.
Know, Understand and Listen To Your Clients.
Truly listen to your clients and respond accordingly. Many are so afraid to hear negative things that they simply don’t ask. Big mistake! Yes, it might be uncomfortable at times, but when clients know they can come to you with ways to improve their relationship, they will. And often times it can be something really simple to change. Also, it can be as simple as when sending your invoices each month, you say, “Do you have any recommendations? Please let me know.” I have made this a practice for years and I’m always glad when clients come to me with recommendations. I want them coming back year after year so when I can do something better, I will.
Be Exceptional at What You Do.
No matter what services you provide, do it so well clients can’t do without you. And not only that, but they rave about you to their friends and business associates. You always want to provide that “wow” factor. Wow, that is exactly what I needed. Or wow you make me look awesome. Always go above and beyond and make exceptional your everyday practice. This isn’t to say you need to work 24/7 and not set boundaries. Quite the opposite. You succeed best with boundaries. But by being exceptional at what you do, your clients will feel the love.
Work Your Business.
So many entrepreneurs get so caught up in their client work (which rocks, don’t get me wrong!) that they have little or no time for their own business. That means their newsletter doesn’t go out on time. Their last blog was 2010. Their social media is still wishing everyone a Happy New Year! You get the drift.
It’s so important to work your business. That means scheduling in time for your business. Write it in your calendar and schedule it the same as client work. You wouldn’t NOT do your client work would you? Of course not, so don’t skip out on your own business.
Training & Learning.
Continually learn new things in your craft and apply it to what you do. So many learn new things, but then stop short of actually doing them. That’s like going to Target and walking out with just what you came for. Impossible! You are missing out on all the goodies.
Same with training. Often times you learn things, but don’t get to the action step of doing it. Make it happen! Also, be an avid reader. Not only of business books, but memoirs and fiction too. You can see styles you like and tips for success. Books just motivate you and sometimes provide the escape you need to reboot.
Know Your Numbers.
Boring! I know it can be, but once you get doing it, it rocks. You find yourself competing with yourself to get those numbers up. Track social media and how many followers/fans/friends, etc. on each network. Track website views. Track clients and hours you spend on each client. Track the services or products you provide. Track your own marketing and how much time you spend on it and what you are doing as well as the results. If you have a team, track those stats too. Again, this will differ for each business, but just get started.
Now here’s the fun part. Highlight your results. On the times your numbers go up highlight those in a fun color like purple or blue, or your very favorite color. For the weeks they go down, highlight in brown (of course that is unless your favorite color is brown.) It’s a mental thing, but boy is it fun to see those fun colors on those good weeks. You’ll find yourself wanting to do more to increase your stats and get rewarded.
Also, treat yourself with wins. On weeks that your numbers rock, get that extra Starbucks or something special you like and know that it’s because of the good results. It’s a mindset thing, but it works!
Be Truthful – Integrity is Everything in Business.
Be proud of who and what you have accomplished and don’t fudge things. Nothing gets more annoying than knowing that a business isn’t being truthful. And it’s not just those who are claiming to make 6 figures and you know they are barely breaking even and their income isn’t close to that, or those that talk about their all their amazing speaking opportunities and you know they are speaking to two or three people in the back of a 7-11. (Okay, that might be extreme, but you get my drift.)
Be honest; it’s important. Instead of fibbing, start building real contacts and relationships and grow that way. You’ll feel great the more you do.
Yep, it’s going to cost you. But it’s an expense that will pay for itself time and time again. To see what you need, write down your day and all you do throughout that day. Include the time it takes to do each of your tasks. Take an extra minute or two and write down how it makes you feel. Do you love it or dread it? It’s that simple. Do more of the things you love. Try and get more of those “I hate this” off your list.
Now I’m not saying that you will need to turn it all over. However, if you keep track for a short time period, it’s going to become clear where you can make changes. Then take the next step and make those changes! Hire the help you need. Keep in mind a Virtual Assistant can do many different things based on their specialty: PR and marketing, social media, research, sending out pitches and articles, bookkeeping, administrative tasks, finding speaking opportunities, writing, etc.
Network and Build Relationships.
So key to success. Networking can be done in person, online, etc. The key is to network with the right people and doing it the right way. No one wants to spend time talking to someone who hogs the whole conversation and only talks about themselves and their business. People make a beeline away from these individuals. So learn to listen and build relationships.
Also, networking to the wrong crowd can be a waste of time and money. For example, say the event is focused on health and wellness and you are there to promote your dog grooming biz. You can see how they are going to look at you like you have three eyes. Network to the right people, at the right time, in the right venue. It works best when done this way.
But, but but… I don’t have the time. Find the time! If you don’t schedule it in, it won’t happen. Also, set realistic goals you can keep and deadlines for being tardy. For example, I need to have this done by this date, but at the very latest, it has to be done by this time. As you can see with this article, the focus is on setting practices in place you can keep. Marketing your business is the same. Set up ways to market that you can do and then do it!
Bottom line, have fun. Not every day, rolling on the floor laughing hysterically fun. But enjoy your business. It shows! For me, I love my clients. I love the work I do. I love the people who I respect that I get to connect with regularly (thank you Facebook!) and I love that even after 33 years, I’m proud to say, I’m an entrepreneur. Watch me roar!
Diana Ennen is the President of Virtual Word Publishing, offering PR and marketing services. She hosts PR classes through www.prsuccessseries.com, and is also the author of six books on starting your own business including the best-selling”Virtual Assistant, The Series: Become a Highly Successful, Sought After VA“, Contact her at Diana@virtualwordpublishing.com or @dianaennen for a free PR Informational Package.