Entrepreneurship undoubtedly has its allure. Who hasn’t fantasized about having the freedom to call the shots, to be your own boss, and to follow your passions? But talk to anyone who owns their own business and they’ll tell you that being an entrepreneur also has its not-so-glamorous side. Long hours — and long odds (a large portion of those who try to start a business, fail) — can make the job grueling on the best of days.
If you’re thinking about starting your own business, consider these four tips:
1. Think Long and Hard about Your Brand
Starting out is the perfect time to consider what you want your business to stand for. Begin by thinking about how you want customers to perceive you. Do you want your brand to be playful? Sophisticated? Seen as a thought leader? Then, map these adjectives to all the different ways people will interact with your business. For instance, choose corresponding colors for your company logo; craft the appropriate tone of voice for marketing materials; outline your mission and vision in for a press release boilerplate, etc.
2. Focus on Customer Service
This is MUCH easier said than done. Many, if not most, companies will pay lip service to customer service and preach about how they have a customer-centric culture. Many, if not most, are mistaken. In order to have a true customer-centric culture, customer service must be instilled in every aspect of the company. And when you’re just starting out, making customers feel special and well cared for is that much more important. Harry Whitehouse, co-founder and CTO of electronic postage software company Endicia, suggests personalizing services or products when possible. As Whitehouse points out, going the extra mile and personalizing a product to fit the special needs of a client, shows you care — and will go a long way in creating brand loyalty and fans.
3. Work to Build Trust
You’re just starting out, so you don’t have the brand cache of Coca-Cola or Google — yet — which can make it difficult to win customers. But it's not impossible. As pointed out in a recent Forbes article, consistency and transparency are key to building customer trust and earning a positive reputation. Be consistent in all you do ( this doesn’t just apply to customer interactions; it’s equally important to building a positive work environment with happy employees) and be transparent when mistakes are made. Own up to failures and explain the steps being taken to prevent them from happening in the future.
4. Technology Can Help
Small business owners are notoriously busy. Balancing the administrative tasks of running a business with the need to grow customers and sales can leave the most organized entrepreneur up to their eyeballs with work. The good news is that there are a growing number of technology solutions that can help alleviate the workload. Small business marketing expert Stuart Wall suggests five business functions that can be made easier through cloud-based technology solutions, including file management, accounting, website management, and advertising and marketing.