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Stick to the Basics to Stay Afloat in Hard Times

Morrow Bay, CA Photo by Linda C Smith

*My article first appeared at Technorati [dot com].  I did just a bit of updating.

Have you heard the news?  Economically speaking it’s tough out there!  But we all knew that.  The small business sector suffers just the same as Big Business…so what to do?  Stick to the Basics and do what you do best.

First things first:  be sure you know your business.

  • Have a dream and passion for the business that you chose.
  • Have determination to make the business work.  Show up every day and be the poster child for hope.
  • Give great customer service. Even if your business has slowed down, the very fact that you are still in business means that someone is paying for your business’ products and services and these customers and clients deserve your attention.
  • Offer added value. Go beyond just being in business…make your business different by giving the customer more than they expect.  Instead of merely selling your product or service, engage the consumer in a conversation about his or her needs and wants and how your product or service can meet or fulfill that.  In 2010 pure sales won’t be enough.  Added value will be key.

To weather the economic storm, you might think about:

  • checking and double-checking your current business plan; bring up-to-date your stated vision and mission statement; determine if you are on target.
  • checking and double-checking your current business strategies: are you in the correct marketplace for your products or services?  Are you actually and effectively reaching your desired customer-base?  Are you sure you’ve correctly identified your customer base and know how to communicate with them?
  • keeping your products and services clean, polished and ready to deliver…be proud to represent the products and services you have in your current inventory.
  • contacting your customers – have you shown your current customers that you appreciate their business?  It is not just a cliché saying that ‘happy customers bring referrals,’ it is a truism: satisfied and happy customers will often be a good source for new customers…have you asked your customers for referrals?

This is not to say that you oughtn’t to try anything new during an economic downturn; to the contrary, one thing you could do is experiment with new ways of communicating with your customers, find new ways of finding customers.  If you aren’t already, make internet marketing a part of your strategic communication and marketing plan.  You don’t have to get complicated to start, begin small:

  • build a web page...or do a little web page redesign and clean-up
  • tout your business on a few top social media sites like Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn
  • direct people to your website by writing articles
  • anything new or improved you do, write and submit a press release about it
  • start a blog, either as a part of your business web page, or independently [and have it point back to your business web page]
  • if appropriate for your business: (1) have classified and display ads in your local newspaper and regional magazines; (2) run radio and/or television spots; (3) arrange speaking engagements for yourself at local groups who might be interested in your area of expertise; (4) leave your business card everywhere and with everyone

I read a fantastic article in my local newspaper over the weekend that highlights a solo-preneur in my area who does stick to the basics and has built a successful business.  The article is written by David Morrill, the online title: One-stylist hair salon thrives on personal connections. Mr. Morrill wrote about hair stylist Jenny Mui, whose business is Zen Jen Hair Studio, and she has built her business on:

  • customer service
  • added value
  • word of mouth

…which builds her reputation.  According to the article Ms. Mui says, “…’How great is it to know that it’s your reputation that has built your business,” she said. ‘For me, it’s always been about making sure the customer comes first, and people appreciate that.’…”

The article describes how she marketed her business through personal service and word-of-mouth: “…When she first started in the profession, she would go to the nearby coffee shops and seek out the baristas. Mui would tell them that she’s going to do their hair for free. The only thing asked in return is if someone asks them about their hair, she refers clients to her. ‘I got many clients that way,’ she said….”

The present economy might not be the rosiest to look at, but you don’t have to let it ruin your day…or your business.  Just keep doing what is working and use the present climate as a time for continuous improvement.

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Home-based business owners are solo-preneurs

“Hey mom,” offered my daughter over the phone recently, “did you know you were a solo-preneur?”  I, of course, had no way of knowing if she hyphenated ‘solo-preneur,’ and frankly I didn’t know she was aware of the concept.  But I should have as both my daughters are extremely bright and brilliant young women!

A note about being a Baby Boomer and mom to two extremely bright and brilliant young women…it’s a challenge!  Kim, the older of the two, attended and graduated from Chico State University in northern California getting her degree in music.  She then taught high school music [this included classroom, choirs and marching band] for 5 years.  Then along came Matthew.  Now she is the busy mother of a 2-year old, teaches piano in her home and has turned her creative muse to mosaic art – something she and I share.   Jenn, the younger, is an actress, just building her resume.  She has some impressive Indie work already and she and I are looking to do some kind of collaboration regarding my fiction novel…more to come about that.  Jenn has a mind sharper than an ancient samuri sword and continuously amazes and humbles me with her keen insights into politics and world affairs.  Both girls have always given me worthwhile input in my endeavors.  So, to have one of them offer her opinion that I, as the owner of a home-based business, am a solo-preneur – well, I had to run to my laptop and look that up.

I found what I think is the perfect definition of solo-preneur. [I hyphenate the word…but that’s me.]  Abacus Coaching Ltd. [find their homepage here] defines it as:

  • “An entrepreneur who works alone, “solo”, running their business single-handedly. They may use Associates or Contractors yet they have full responsibility for the running of their business.”

I love what Bryan Leslie, owner this business consultancy in the UK says about the responsibilities of being a solo-preneur: “…you are responsible for the following activities within your business, either by doing the work yourself, or by outsourcing a combination of your businesses primary, secondary and support functions….”

He lists these as Primary:

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Operations
  • Customer Services

As Secondary:

  • Finance
  • Quality Control
  • Statistics
  • Continuous Improvement

As as Support Functions:

  • Research
  • Human Resources
  • Systems
  • Training and Development

This list seems overwhelming at first blush for the person who is going their business alone and does no outsourcing at all.  There are millions of small home-based businesses where every one of Bryan Leslie’s responsibilities are piled, one atop the other, on the lone soldier looking out over the battlefield of commerce.

However.  It’s do-able.  Being a solo-preneur requires certain gifts and skills:

  1. determination above all…the will “to do”
  2. diligence and discipline...keep at it
  3. a positive mental outlook that feeds the emotional engine…like the little train, tell yourself “I think I can,” then you’ll know you can and you will
  4. belief in your business and yourself…you had a big “why” that caused you to start your business in the first place; keep that dream alive and real and know that you are the best person to make it come to pass through the vehicle of the business that you chose to build

As a home-based business person, you can ask yourself:

  • Am I an entrepreneur? Someone who saw a need or an opportunity and through innovative thinking found a way to meet or fill that need or op?
  • Am I a small business owner? This is certainly so…you own and operate your business…there is no one else’s name on the dotted line.
  • Am I a business leader? Many business owners claim to be business leaders through the semantics of ownership…however, a leader carries the vision and sets the direction.  If you have given your business a vision and mission, then consider yourself a business leader.
  • Am I an innovator? Not everyone can see the possibilities of a home business; and not everyone can shoulder the responsibilities of being the leader, the manager and the worker bee all in one person.  So, yes, you are an innovator of your business.

Entrepreneur + small business owner + business leader + innovator equals solo-preneur in the world of the single-owner home-based business.

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