Thursday, November 8, 2012

Three rules of alignment as a small business owner

If you have your own agency – PR firm, marketing consultancy, graphic design agency, career coach, etc.) – there are three practices that must be in alignment. Before I tell you what my best practices are, think about what’s most important in your
business and let’s see if we are on the same page.
Photo by Liz Cezat. Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids, Mich.
In my practice, I have determined that these are the most important trio of traits: discipline, focus and making connections. Talent is a given. If you didn’t have talent, you wouldn’t be pursuing a small agency model because no one would hire you.
Here’s a rundown of the trio.
1. Discipline. If you have your ducks in a row – business plan is set, client base is steady, office systems are up and running – attend to client work first. Whether you do it yourself or assign it to a partner, associate or freelancer – get the project in the works and manage it. Take care to produce the results that the client has specified. No surprises. Fulfill the need – on time, within budget and meet expectations.
2. Focus. There are so many distractions in a day. If you are focused on what you do best, then you shouldn’t have a problem getting the work done. Focus can make the hours seem like minutes. Work on your most challenging client projects at prime time. Are you most productive at 7 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. or 5 p.m.? Know your cycle. Once you can accomplish your client work in a focused manner, try to use that strategy for the work that you don’t like to do. Establish a specific time to do billing, make prospecting calls, and organize your projects, and then focus solely on that. It then becomes routine.
3. Connections. Set aside time daily, weekly and monthly to fortify your connections and meet new people. How can this be readily achieved? Reach out on social media – that can be a daily practice. Attend one to two meetings a week to get the word out about your business and forge new partnerships. Make calls – no robocalls please – or send personalized e-mails. Attend meetings that your clients and prospective clients attend. Learn what matters to them and what they want from your company. Follow up with a LinkedIn invite or ‘nice to meet you’ note. Then, stay engaged. Be pleasantly persistent.
Set up appointments based on interest and the need to see clients face-to-face before they sign up for your services. If you can build trust via your brand (website, white papers, blog, collateral marketing pieces), a phone call or e-mails, a meeting may not be needed.
Follow this triad of business practices and your agency or solo practice will be humming along.