I graduated with a degree in accounting so I had to take a lot of business classes in college. Sadly, very little of what I learned in class helped prepare me for business life. I did learn the basics in college but I really got educated at the School of Hard Knocks. The tuition was high but well worth the cost. Here are the 5 most important lessons I ever learned that helped me grow a successful business.
1) Stop Thinking About Myself
In order to be successful, a business has to have clients or customers. People become clients when they believe you can help them get what’s important to them.They don’t care about the business owner’s problems or fears.
When I first started my business I made plenty of mistakes that almost sank me. I was steeped in fear. I was in debt, my income was meager and I had a young family to provide for. I didn’t consciously share my angst with clients but I’m sure they could sense it because it was all I ever thought about. I saw potential clients as potential solutions to my problems and that made it far more difficult to grow my business. Who wants to hire someone like that?
Over time I started approaching people differently and that’s when things really began to change. I got out of my head a little and started thinking about the person I was meeting with instead of myself. Often, they needed a lawyer, insurance expert or tax professional and not a financial planner. That was fine. This change in attitude was critical and I wouldn’t be in business today had I not been able to shift my thinking in this arena.
Whatever financial situation you are in now learn to put it away and forget about yourself when you speak to clients and potential clients. Focus on them. You have to start from your heart if you want to really be successful. Give others what they need and want first. If you do that, the magic will happen – I guarantee it.
2) Get Paid
I just finished encouraging you to focus on others if you want to have a successful business, but you still have to get paid for your services.
When I first started I was so desperate for business I gave away a lot of my time for free to build relationships. At least that is what I told myself I was doing. The truth is I was afraid to ask to get paid for whatever reason.
That was a complete waste of my time and it didn’t do the people I was talking with any favors either. My experience is that people rarely implement ideas they get for free. I’m not sure why that is but I know it’s true. Had I charged for my time early on, the people I was trying to help would have actually been much more proactive about implementing the ideas and improving their financial lives.
Make sure you have a product or service that can help others and that you can proud of. Then get paid for the value you provide. No exceptions.
3) Not Everybody Gets To Be A Client
One of the most valuable lessons I learned along the way was not to try to do business with everyone. I’m not a good match for everyone. Not all clients are a good match for me. My business mission is to help alleviate unnecessary financial pain. If I don’t think I can help someone achieve better results, I don’t want to be on the team. Plain and simple.
Be clear on who your client or customer really is and what they need. What is the problem you solve? Once you are clear on that, look for people with that particular challenge. Don’t try to be all things to all people because you can’t be. Nobody can.
This also goes applies to how you work your business. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Even though my degree is in accounting, I don’t do my own taxes or bookkeeping. Hire a bookkeeper and tax expert as soon as you can.
4) Be Direct
People hire you to help them. They don’t hire you to be their friend. It’s true that people do business with people they like and trust. But the goal of the relationship is to be of service. Sometimes in order to do that you have to be direct and deliver news the client may not particularly want to hear. That’s too bad. You are hired to do a job. Do it in a nice way of course, but you weren’t hired to be nice.
5) Reinvent Your Business
Almost as soon as I launched my business it took on a life of its own. In no time at all, it became something far different than I imagined it would be. Over the years, clients, markets, technology and competition continue to shift. I have to adapt along the way or go home.
When you see a strong shift changing your business environment I encourage you to embrace it. Don’t fight it because you won’t win. There are scores of stories about businesses that refused to do this and now lay on the ash heaps of history. Technology is moving fast and that makes it easier for small business owners to compete with the big boys and girls. Use that to your advantage.
These are all simple ideas but very hard to implement consistently. My last bonus tip is to get yourself an accountability partner to help you stay on course. That’s the secret sauce that continues to help me stay on track.
What business challenges do you face? What have you tried to do to overcome those problems? What has worked best? What other tips would you offer to small business owners?
The guest post was written by Neal Frankle who is CFP ® in Los Angeles. He writes for Forbes, Huffington Post, AOL etc. He is also the editor of WealthPilgrim.com and MCMHA.org.