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It’s your Business so do what you want to-Part Two

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=sunshine%2blandscape&iid=5276696″ src=”6/0/b/1/Rays_of_sunshine_8254.jpg?adImageId=9515058&imageId=5276696″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]See the sun peeking through the trees?  There is hope for spring to come and there is good news in this conversation.  *This is Part Two of a 2-part post: It’s your Business so do what you want to.

PART TWO: It is your BUSINESS so do WHAT you want to.

Yesterday I took a break at noon to have lunch and while eating my sandwich [I’m one of those people who just loves sandwiches…my favorite is on homemade white bread with mayo, a couple of green leaf lettuce leaves, slice of provolone cheese, Virginia baked ham slices and thinly sliced yellow onion – good!] I watched the latest episode of Castle.  I’m such a fan of Nathan Fillion – ever since Firefly.  Anyway, the commercials were from Blackberry and their newest tag line is Love what you do and Do what you love. Great advice.  Especially for small business folks – those of us with tiny businesses…the less than 5 employees and the solo-preneurs.

Yes 2009 – even 2008 – simply was awful economically.  However I don’t want to talk about that today.  I’m one of those people who suffer from sunshine deprivation in the winter and we’ve had over a week straight of rain and clouds and I’m missing the sun…I do live in California after all…so I want to bring some sunshine into this conversation.  It’s not all bad out there and there is hope.

One of the proofs of that was in my morning newspaper’s business section.  A medical device maker is going to call my community “home” this year.  In fact it was the second company in two weeks to announce a move to my city.  According to the article by George Avalos five companies have done significant things in the past few months that will bring jobs and commerce to my community.  The companies are Bridgelux IncJLA Inc.Wiley X Inc. Enray Inc. and Admedes Inc. This is good news.  The newest mention is Admedes, a medical equipment maker and, according to the article:

  • “…Admedes has bought an 18,000-square-foot office and research building that it will use for a manufacturing center and a showcase for its medical products. The company makes miniature components for medical devices…’Our plan is to get to 50 employees in about five years,’ said Eric Veit, a vice president with Admedes Inc. ‘We are looking at and interviewing a number of people right now.’….”

There are more positive notes out there in the ether

In an article at Forbes.com, Mark Wolf wrote about “…A remarkable trend is emerging in the U.S. job market–one that will greatly impact the workplace of tomorrow. Women are becoming the nation’s job-creation engine, starting small businesses and stimulating new jobs at a rate that outdistances their male counterparts and disproportionately exceeds their current contribution to U.S. employment….”  He was referencing a newly published report by The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute and summarized it by saying, “…Specifically, the Institute expects that women who own small businesses will create from 5 million to 5.5 million new jobs across the U.S. by 2018, and in the process transform the workplace of tomorrow into a far more inclusive, horizontally managed environment….”

I know I’m a woman business person and chose this tidbit for inclusion in this post, but don’t take it that I don’t see that men who start new small businesses aren’t also a positive factor for this year because they are.  There are only two genders and we’re all in this together.

INC.Com has a great article, 9 Home based Businesses You Can Start In Your Pajamas In 2010, and gives a short description of the 9 people who are making a go of it:

This article tells me two things: 1) there are innovative and interesting niche markets that people are creatively finding ways to have businesses in – I, for one, had never considered “Online Content Aggregation” prior to this and love the way Chris Jordan has approached the insurance business.  and 2) have you noticed that I was able to find a link to each and every one of those businesses?  Just a marketing hint: no business is too small to have a presence on the web.

Small Business Trends had an article earlier this month by Dawn Rivers Baker, Top Microbusiness Trends for 2010. She says, “…there’s no reason to imagine that there are no opportunities to be had in a sluggish economy, as any astute student of entrepreneurship will tell you. And right now is a particularly good time to run a lean, efficient microbusiness that doesn’t need a bank loan to chase growth prospects….”  Of the trends she mentions the one I’d like to highlight:

  • “…Federal contracting. Plenty of people will tell you that microbusinesses are too small to fulfill government contracts but I’m not one of them. There is still plenty of money appropriated for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) projects that hasn’t gone out the door yet. For microbusiness contractors in construction and related sectors, there will be plenty of contracting and subcontracting opportunities….”
  • Also, in the comment section following the article Ms. Baker responds to a commenter in part: “…nonemployers are a subset of the microbusiness universe. Micros are defined as firms with fewer than five employees. Nonemployers are firms with no paid employees outside the business owner(s), which means they certainly fit the micro definition. They are, in fact, the largest portion of the microbusiness population, comprising about 80% of it….”

I found this article interesting because (a) it reminds us that the government [in the U.S.] does have money to spend on contractors and why shouldn’t the tiny businesses be included?  And (b) I found it a very interesting statistic that 80% of micro-businesses are what I call solo-preneurs…a business that is comprised of me, myself and I.  Just like the business here in my community where my husband and I take our vehicles for maintenance – Ron’s Valley Brake & Auto Repair.  Ron has a shop downtown and he’s the owner and only employee.

Another article at Small Business Trends, this one by Anita Campbell, 10 Small Business Trends and Opportunities, speaks to solo-preneurship; her trend #10:

  • “…More Sole Proprietorships – One thing that we know is that during and in the aftermath of recessions, more  people who are out of work will turn to starting their own businesses…If you are looking for businesses to start, these typically require little startup capital and may not require highly-specialized training or degrees:  pet businesses;  kids products;  Web businesses; consulting for your former employer or industry; virtual assistants; apps development; home based franchises.…”

Again, there is a mention of small business ideas I hadn’t thought of like apps development.  Interestingly, my husband’s cousin is currently developing just such a small business.  This is very cool to learn of an industry about which I previously had not known and discover it is a trend.  Cool.

Even in my industry, fine arts – I consider myself an artist-preneur – there is hope.  This Friday I will participate in the first art event of the year and who knows maybe there will be a sale or two.

So all-in-all there is hope regardless of the screaming headlines.  The sun will indeed shine again and I won’t have to rely on my Ott Lite.

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It’s your Business so do what you want to-Part One

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=business+graphs&iid=6752210″ src=”9/8/3/5/GM_CEO_Fritz_1d7c.jpg?adImageId=9360485&imageId=6752210″ width=”234″ height=”152″ /]*This is Part One of a 2-part post: It’s your Business so do what you want to.

PART ONE: It IS your Business so do what YOU want to.

Sometimes when people are asked to choose between two kinds of news, good and bad, they will take the bad first, to get it over with so they can end the conversation on a more pleasant note.  That’s what we’ll do here.  To that end, here’s the bad part of the conversation for those with tiny businesses, the very small business owner and the home-based business owner – if you happen to have a truly large business or you influence great chunks of our global commerce, well this is the bad news for you too.  If you do what YOU want to with your business at the expense of your integrity, your ethics, your clients and customers, your friends and family and your industry…then you ought not to be in business at all.

That’s a pretty bold statement.  I’ve actually heard a person or two say, ‘it’s MY business so I’ll do whatever I want to do with it.’  I wonder if that was the sentiments of those bullies on Wall Street who claimed recently before the U.S. congress that they were ever so sorry for “…severity of the 2008 financial crisis and apologized for risky behavior and poor decisions….”  I pulled this from the Associated Press story as it appears online at Tampa Bay Online.  Of the quotes that appear in the article that continue to raise my blood pressure:

  • “…Americans are furious and “have a right to be” about the hefty bonuses banks paid out after getting billions of dollars in federal help,….”
  • “…’Over the course of the crisis, we as an industry caused a lot of damage,’ Moynihan said….”
  • “…Like the other witnesses, Blankfein acknowledged lapses in judgment in some practices leading up to the crisis….”
  • “…Dimon said a crucial blunder was ‘how we just missed that housing prices don’t go up forever…..'”

Let’s talk for a moment about lapses of judgment as Mr. Blankfein of Goldman Sachs said in the quote above.  I would ask: lapses of judgment?  How could these people have such huge lapses of judgment as to cause the near collapse of an entire economic structure?  As a home business owner I have to watch very carefully every business judgment I make because I can see instantly what the ramifications of my decisions will be.  Is it that these institutions are so huge that the people who make the decisions and carry the influence can no longer see anything beyond their pen to paper?

Shoshana Zuboff, the author of The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism,  said in a BusinessWeek article :

  • “…The economic crisis is not the Holocaust but, I would argue, it derives from a business model that routinely produced a similar kind of remoteness and thoughtlessness, compounded by a widespread abrogation of individual moral judgment. As we learn more about the behavior within our financial institutions, we see that just about everyone accepted a reckless system that rewards transactions but rejects responsibility for the consequences of those transactions. Bankers, brokers, and financial specialists were all willing participants in a self-centered business model that celebrates what’s good for organization insiders while dehumanizing and distancing everyone else—the outsiders…..”

Don’t you think this hints at an erosion of personal business integrity and an erosion of personal business ethics?  I’m not so naive as to think that money and power won’t always be addictive aphrodisiacs for some people and that the siren call of more zeroes on the check can blind some people as to what cost those zeroes were arrived at?  [clumsy sentence but asks my question]  But what about the folks around those people?  Wasn’t there someone in those overpriced offices who thought, just for a moment, that perhaps this was a bit too good to be true and whenever this question arises it means that someone somewhere down the line is being hurt?

Ms. Zuboff’s references in her article another she had read about the Nazi war trials and the conclusions of “…Hannah Arendt’s ruminations on Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann as she reported on his trial in Jerusalem for The New Yorker 45 years ago….”  What at first might seem an unfair comparison, I find not so and agree as Ms. Zuboff says:

  • “…This message is not restricted to the unspeakable horrors of mass murder. It is relevant to the relationship between individual judgment and institutional processes in any situation. It’s a message that says: you can’t just blame the system for the bad things you’ve done. Yet to the world’s dismay, thousands of men and women entrusted with our economic well being systematically failed to meet this minimum standard of civilized behavior. They did not capably discern right and wrong. They either did not judge, or they did not act on their judgment….”

I guess what I want to say is that just because it is YOUR business doesn’t mean that you get to do what you WANT to do at the expense of other people. Ms. Zuboff says, “…The economic crisis has demonstrated that the banality of evil concealed within a widely accepted business model can put the entire world and its peoples at risk….” Then she asks, “… Shouldn’t those businesses be held accountable to agreed international standards of rights, obligations, and conduct? Shouldn’t the individuals whose actions unleashed such devastating consequences be held accountable to these moral standards?….”

Then she says, “…I believe the answer is yes….”  And so do I.

And why not?  Small business owners are expected to pay their taxes, not cheat their customers, have truth in advertising,  make their prices competitive [not gouging the customer or stealing market share from competitors], recall products that don’t work, offer replacements and a host of other ethical practices…as well as giving to their communities and being good citizens.  So how are small business owners any different from the “big guys?”

I think it’s a matter of personal integrity.  I think a person has to choose to be ethical and to do so it requires that he or she begin with personal integrity.  In an article at Columbus Business First, John Maxwell, author of  The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, said: “…In the midst of an ever-changing and uncertain environment, there is one thing over which you have absolute control – your integrity….When it comes to being principled and ethical, you are the master of your destiny. Other people and external forces might test it in various ways, but ultimately you alone control your integrity….”

Mr. Maxwell continues in the article with, “…This is a good way to think of us as leaders when it comes to integrity. People of integrity don’t live divided lives; their morals, ethics and treatment of others are the same wherever they are and whatever they’re doing….”

Yesterday Arianna Huffington wrote about renewing the hope of Dr. Martin Luther King, ‘…What we need is Hope 2.0: the realization that our system is too broken to be fixed by politicians, however well intentioned — that change is going to have to come from outside Washington…This realization is especially resonant as we celebrate Dr. King, whose life and work demonstrate the vital importance of social movements in bringing about change. Indeed, King showed that no real change can be accomplished without a movement demanding it….”

Maybe what’s needed is a movement from all of “us” – the individual citizens of the world [is that too broad a movement?] or to start local, the individual citizens of the U.S. – to ask that the leaders of policies [government] and industry [commerce] rediscover the meaning of personal integrity and business ethics and apply those meanings to themselves and to their business and political practices.

Is this a naive thing to ask?  No, I think it’s necessary.  The small business sector needs a healthy economy within which to prosper.  Home business owners need homes from which to conduct their business.  Everyone needs customers who have spendable income.  Can we expect a utopia?  Goodness, no…never happen because human beings are involved.  We’re fallible, but we’re also educate-able.  We can learn and grow and improve.  So let’s do so.

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Is your business on the Highway or the Byway?

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=highway+signs&iid=259699″ src=”0256/8cc02d39-2a22-43c0-ba77-ab28011c1391.jpg?adImageId=8890792&imageId=259699″ width=”234″ height=”158″ /]We all can admit that 2010 is going to be an uphill climb for businesses of all kinds and sizes.  Doesn’t matter if you are a solo-preneur or a global conglomerate with 20,000 employees…it’s an uphill climb.  And maybe now, this week, maybe even today, you decide on which road you will travel: the highway or the byway.

The highway is a main public road that connects one town or city with another.  It’s an artery connecting people one to another making commerce both possible and efficient.  The byway is a little out-of-the-way side road.  It is little traveled and isn’t really meant to be a commercial artery.

There was a feature story in my newspaper’s business section this morning that showcased a small family business that I believe is on the highway.  To me, some of the signposts of being on the highway are:

  • a dream and passion for the business
  • determination to make the business work
  • great customer service
  • offering added value

The article by David Morrill, Contra Costa Times, is titled “Vacuum center owner on job 7 days a week,” [different title in online version].  In reading the article, I find that Mr. Raees Iqbal’s business, Western Vacuum & Sewing Center, is not only traveling on the highway, Mr. Iqbal carries all the signposts. [from the article]

  • a dream and passion for the business – “…‘It’s great to be able to offer something that every single house needs,’ he said. ‘We give them good dependable vacuum cleaners to help keep their homes clean….'”
  • a determination to make the business work – “…Raees Iqbal keeps the doors open seven days a week. And he works nearly every day…’Right now we are just trying to hang out here and make it work,” Iqbal said. “I’m going to do everything I can to keep it going….'”
  • great customer service – “…Iqbal knows his company needs to be on top of the industry. Every vacuum cleaner brand that comes in, he needs to be able to fix. If a customer needs a part, it has to be on the shelf.…”
  • offering added value – “…’We have to treat everybody like they’re VIP,’ he said….”

These signposts of being on the highway are no guarantee of success certainly.  They are, however, indicators that the business is making every effort to be alive and vibrant.  Just like Mr. Iqbal is quoted in Mr. Morrill’s story, he’s willing to do what he must to keep his business going.  The article is not a long or comprehensive one, but Mr. Morrill gave a pretty clear picture of one small business owner’s strategy for 2010:

  • be available to customers – keeping his store open 7 days a week is one way
  • provide needed services onsite – keeping up-to-date on his industry and keeping his shelves stocked with parts
  • have a customer-centered business – in his own words, “…treat everybody like they’re VIP….”
  • keep the dream alive – “‘…make sure that you are really passionate about what you want to do and have a whole lot of patience.…'”

Not to put too fine a point on it and turn this into nothing but flowery prose I think what’s important for all of us who own businesses and wish to remain in business this year is to determine what we’re going to be willing to do to stay on the highway and off the side roads: defining the dream and vision; knowing our industry and products and services inside and out; offering customers quality care and added value…and hanging in there.

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Let’s make Courtesy the Hallmark in Business for 2010

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=new+years+++ball+2010&iid=7442881″ src=”8/a/6/2/Ball_Drop_In_dc39.jpg?adImageId=8778463&imageId=7442881″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]A hallmark is a distinctive characteristic or attribute.  Kind of like a stamp used on gold and silver coins to mark them for purity and excellence.  If you get a gold coin with this hallmark, then you know it’s pure.

Courtesy, in a simple definition, is a polite gesture.  You say “thanks” when someone picks up the coin you dropped on the floor at the cash register or you say “no, you go first” when approaching a door and the person next to you has their hands loaded with packages.  Simple courtesy.

Since we just finished the major shopping season of the year for 2009 and most of us braved the stores amid madding crowds I wonder if you can recall moments of simple courtesy?  How many business people extended courtesy when the crowds were at their crush-iest and most demanding?  And, did you return courtesy for courtesy?  One example I participated in was to allow a pedestrian to cross the lane in a busy shopping center…I could have just plowed ahead pretending not to see this woman standing there hoping for a break in traffic.  But I reasoned that if it were me, I sure would appreciate having a car stop so I could cross…so I stopped.  She not only acknowledged my effort at courtesy, she returned it by saying loudly, “thank you so much.”

Last year, 2009, wasn’t a fun year in business.  Not a jolly year for the economy.  Too many people suffered job loss and paycheck shrinkage.  2010 may not be much better.   What could be better, however, is our combined efforts at being kind one to another.

  • sales staff people could acknowledge shoppers with a smile and a “how is your day?”
  • counter staff people could say “thank you for your business” and “is there any other way I can be of service today?”
  • on-site managers could both be kind to the employees and the customers – give the employees much needed positive reinforcement such as “you did a great job on that report,” or “I appreciate how you handled that situation with that customer,” or even “is there anything I can do to make your job easier?” [in some cases this could be a better chair or new keyboard or some added training]; the on-site manager could come out of his or her office and help customers…in a retail setting, the manager does not get sales compensation and shouldn’t take anything away from the commission-earning sales staff, but maybe the manager could help to tidy up the sales counter or do a little stocking of shelves to help
  • business leaders could literally lead in this effort by making courtesy a hallmark of doing business this year: acknowledge that raises may not come this year and no one might get a bonus, but that doesn’t mean that positive reinforcement needs to dry up.  Business leaders could do everything within their current budget creatively to make their businesses a positive place to work for the employees and a positive place for customers and clients to do business
  • solo-preneurs [single person businesses and home-based business owners] can also adopt the hallmark of courtesy in their relations with clients, customers, suppliers and competitors

What about the consumer? I’m not leaving them out either.  We’re all consumers, every one of us.  We all shop at the grocery store and gas station.  We all purchase food for our pets and visit our health care providers.  In every instance we can say “thank you for taking your time,” and “I appreciate your finding this,” and “yes, please” and even “no, thank you.”

Simple courtesy practiced and perfected by all of us on both sides of the business plate just might make this New Year a bit more pleasant for all.

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Take 2 Beatles’ Songs and Call Me In the Morning

[picapp src=”0269/407bbd21-b363-4211-b3cb-5beddd8008f1.jpg?adImageId=7170919&imageId=273014″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]Does your business have you stuck in a rut?  Is the economy getting you down?  No one buying what you’re selling?  Are you wishing your product could have been included in the government’s [US] “cash for clunkers” program so that you could have raked in an influx of money?

  • “…The enormously successful CARS program helped consumers who turned in gas guzzlers buy nearly 700,000 more fuel efficient vehicles in fewer than 30 days. By late September the U.S. Department of Transportation paid all eligible and complete dealer transactions. “There can be no doubt that this program drummed up more business, for more people, in more places at a time when our economy needed help the most,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood….”

Are you wishing this was last year or even the year before?

  • “…Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
    Now it looks as though they’re here to stay
    Oh, I believe in yesterday….”
    opening lyrics for “Yesterday,” on the Beatles’ “Yesterday…and Today” album released 1966

Yet the business skies could be looking brighter.  Or maybe just less dark.  Denise O’Berry writes, “…the good news is that the talking heads are discussing a positive outlook on the horizon….” Denise, in her article, points to several surveys that reflect some hope for small business owners: “…the general consensus is that the economy is slightly better….” A great article for anyone looking for an upside for small business.

I would say that as a small or home-based business person you, like me [I am also a home-based business person] would judge a brighter horizon by these indicators:

  • sales of your products/services are not falling
  • sales of your products/services are increasing
  • fewer to no returns of products or cancellations of services
  • being able to pay your bills in full and on time
  • having enough profit to purchase raw materials
  • having enough profit for operation improvements [even if that is just some updated, new books for your business bookshelf]
  • daring to dream that in 2010 you’ll be able to expand either your product line, your service offerings, your marketing outreach or other improvements to your business

Denise concludes her article with: “…You’ll have to continue to keep a sharp eye on expenses and pay close attention to collecting your receivables to stay afloat. Even in a flush economy that’s how small business should operate to stay on the positive side of cash flow. Today’s economy just makes the challenge a bit tougher. But I know you can do it….”

To this I add the advice to keep doing what works; keep your dreams alive and know that this too shall pass.  Or, in the words of the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” [Magical Mystery Tour album 1967]:

  • “…There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done….”
  • “…There’s nothing you can make that can’t be made….”
  • “…Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be….”

Song lyrics are always a bit mysterious, but I take these phrases in a positive, hopeful way.

 

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Customers want more than products and services

Customers purchase the products we sell.  Customers pay for the services our business provides as a product offering.  For instance, customers of an independent contractor for a cosmetic direct selling company will purchase products: lipsticks, blush, skin creams and other related items in the product line.  In another example, customers of an independent consultant for an insurance direct selling company will purchase both a product (insurance package) and services (ongoing consultation).

Rarely, however, do customers only buy the product or the service.  Customers also want:

  • personal attention
  • ongoing relationship
  • loyalty
  • customer service

One very important way that any business can grow is by increasing its customer base and one way to do that is by customer referral.  A satisfied customer is likely to tell his or her family and friends about:

  1. a great product or service they’ve purchased
  2. the positive purchasing experience they enjoyed
  3. satisfactory follow-up customer service they’ve received

Personal Attention – this is a golden opportunity at the point of sale between the business person and the customer.  At this particular point in time, the customer is very important.  This customer has the potential of representing many more potential customers [those possible referrals].   During this transaction:

  • don’t rush the encounter; if this is a buying situation, take time to make sure the customer has all the information needed to make an informed buying decision: have you made the customer aware of all the color options?  Size options?  Flavors?  Any other information about the product(s) that could influence whether they purchase or not?  If this is a service, such as an insurance consultation, try to have the customer feel as though they are a valued contact and not just another “sale.”  Take time to get to know your customer: what are their goals and objectives for the consultation?  Have you given them enough information for them to receive full benefit from the consultation?
  • be gracious and courteous – this person has value to your business and deserves the niceties of please and thank you and is there any other way I may serve you?  All too often it is easy to forget that as business people we need our customers, they don’t need us…not specifically us unless we are the only business on the planet offering our products or services and even then they could always do without.

Ongoing Relationship – this concept is especially true of people who are independent contractors with direct selling companies…you rely on repeat business – you need your customers to buy-use-buy again your products and services.  This is also true of many professional types of businesses: doctors, lawyers, dentists.  As business owner, you want to develop an ongoing relationship with current customers:

  • check in with your customers at some time-frame after their purchase: (a) to make sure they don’t have any lingering questions; (b) don’t already need to buy more or upgrade or add to/on; (c) to let them know you appreciated their business.
  • if appropriate for your business, send your customer list holiday greeting cards, birthday or anniversary congratulations; also, remind your customers of annual appointments, or tune-ups or upgrades in service.

Loyalty – this is a concept we often think customers ought to have towards our business.  I propose that the opposite is true: we should be loyal to our customers.

  • alert your current customers to new offerings, improved products or services before anyone else will hear the news…give your customers the opportunity to purchase something new and/or improved first…even offer a discount if appropriate.  This will make your customers feel valued.
  • alert your customers to important changes in your business: location, times of available service, new ways of contact – maybe you have a website where they can purchase from your business.  Make sure your customers always have up-do-date and pertinent information regarding your business so they (a) feel as though you find them of value to your business and (b) they have the information they need to keep coming back as customers.  There is nothing worse than finding out that a longtime customer referred your business to a friend only to have the friend not be able to contact you because you neglected to keep the customer informed on a change of phone number, or website address or email address or physical location.

Customer Service – every business of every type and stripe needs excellent customer service protocols.  When a customer has an issue with your products or services they need to be able to get these issues resolved satisfactorily.  That old saw of the customer’s always right is not correct; however, customers deserve:

  • attention to problems with products and services– it’s never fun to have to make an exchange or refund a purchase price, but two things are important to remember: (1) a disgruntled customer will tell others about their dissatisfaction and could lose you both current customers and future customers and (2) your business’ reputation is on the line.  If you offer a refund policy then honor it; if you offer 24-hour service, then abide by it.
  • attention to shipping and delivery issues – make sure your business has a function built-in to deal with shipping and delivery mishaps.  This has to do with good faith.  For those businesses whose products are shipped and delivered by outside vendors, realize that the customer has paid for the products and in good faith expects that you will see they are delivered in a timely and safe manner.  When something goes wrong, offer a replacement.  Not only that, offer the replacement sent 2nd day air.  The point is to keep that good faith with your customer.  Again, its your business’ reputation on the line.

As business owners, we know that our customers are our life blood…without customers to purchase our goods and services we have no business.  Value your customers and see them as part of your family of commerce.

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Why Joss Whedon’s work inspires my home business

Sometimes being a home-business owner can be a lonely profession.  That solo-ness may be one of the key advantages to having your own business based from your home, but it can also be lonely.  You have to be at times your own pep squad, both standing there holding the line, and standing on the sidelines cheering yourself on.  You have to find inspiration from somewhere.  Sometimes you find inspiration from your dreams and goals…they are why you are doing what you are doing day-in and day-out.  But at other times inspiration hits you from outside yourself.

One day while sitting here at my laptop working in the comfort of my home office/studio – I’m both a writer and a mosaic artist so this room in our house is both a writer’s office and an artist’s studio – I glanced out the window and saw a hummingbird flitting around the colorful wind spinner my husband had put in the front garden next to one of the hydrangeas.  The toddlers in the neighborhood love to run up our front lawn and watch the colors whirl as the wind catches the spinner.  Seeing the hummingbird playing around the spinner…well, it was one of those perfect moments in time.  I get inspired by such moments.

At other times I get inspired by the work of other people.  I’m fascinated by the businesses other people apply themselves to…especially in the creative industries like motion pictures and television.  A somewhat risky industry…you never know if someone will like your work or not.  I can relate.  When I enter a painting into a show or set up my booth at an art festival, there is that “I wonder if people will like my work” feeling.  In other businesses I’m not sure if that is the case: does an accountant wonder if his or her clients will like their work as long as the numbers add up?

I’m an unabashed fan of science fiction…whether in novel form, television story form or motion picture.  I love outer space and alien species stories.  I like the whole “what if” of storytelling.  Joss Whedon, who had the wildly successful “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” television series, had a one-season wonder with “Firefly.”  I’m actually more inspired by “Firefly” than with the other two.  Why is that?  Because it demonstrates:

  • not resting on your laurels…just because you are successful with one thing, don’t stop there; keep the creative juices flowing
  • don’t be afraid to try something new – “Firefly” was new and for that industry, risky.  Personally I loved it.  I’m one of the many who purchased the series on DVD and watch it over and over.  It was creative, innovative and had the brilliant idea of mixing two entirely different cultures: East with West.  It had a “cowboy, old West” flavor aboard spaceships.  It had good guys, bad guys and a mixture – the character of Jayne was definitely in that category.
  • fight for your dreams – I love that Joss Whedon fought to get the story of “Firefly” concluded in the motion picture “Serenity.”

I’m never going to write a television series or pitch a motion picture, but I appreciate the work of those who do.  My business may be different than others, but I can be inspired by the work and success of others.  Sometimes to get our own business over a creative bump in the road, it’s helpful to take a look at what other people are doing in other industries and take ideas and lessons from them and apply them back to our own.

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