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Top 10 must have elements to any successful business

Posted on: August 12th, 2007 by afoxsiteadmin

Many factors come into play when one sets out to be successful at design, programming, or any business. Here is a list of what I consider to be the most important aspects of running a successful business.

1.) Knowledge Is Power. Feel free to become an expert in your field. Whether it’s design, web developing, programming / coding, construction work, whatever… know what your doing. Your clients will come to you because you are the expert. Don’t disappoint them. By becoming an expert, you will shine in comparison with your competitors. And that, from a business perspective, is the best light to be in. So take the time to learn everything you can about what you do.

2.) Treat Your Customers Right. I once had a boss who told me on a daily basis, ‘Alfred, these customers pay our salaries.’ He was absolutely right. Without customers businesses are nothing. One of the most important factors in business is servicing your customers properly. By taking care of your customers you not only make a really good name for you and your business, but you become someone your clients can depend on. Once you reach this step, you will find that word of mouth becomes a valuable source of new clients. It can get to the point, if you’re doing it correctly, to where you becomes almost viral. That’s the goal, and if you service your clients right, it will happen.

3.) Set Proper Expectations. This can fall under the Expert and Customer Satisfaction sections. It is of the utmost importance. Clients can be a lot like children sometimes. Not in a bad way, but often they don’t understand what a job might entail, the scope of work, etc. Set proper expectations. When you quote time or cost for a job, they are going to hold you to that, as they should. You are the expert, take the time to give a proper quote and by doing so you’ll give the customer what they are expecting. No additional costs, large amounts of extra time, etc. Those make for very unhappy customers.

4.) Take Control. Once again, you are the expert. There is a reason your customers come to you. Sometimes you need to take control of a situation and guide your customers to completion. I find that in the design / website business many customers are really anxious to get started, but they may only have partial or vague ideas about their final product. This is where you step in and help them piece the rest of their project together. Ask viewpoint questions, try to really ascertain what your customers are hoping to accomplish. Remember, they’ve come to you looking for answers and solutions, be there to provide that.

5.) Provide Quality Work. This one really goes without saying, but you can be the best businessman on the planet with great customer relations, but if you are unable to deliver a quality product it won’t take long before your customers spread the word. You know the expression that it’s better be really good at one or two things than be ‘so so’ at many. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Do what you know and do it well. It will pay off.

6.) Honesty Is The Best Policy. Never lie to your customers. Do not be shady, always be honest. 100% on the up and up as they say. There is no better way to ruin your business’ name than lying to your customers. Do not take them for fools. They may not understand the process it takes to build their site or code their application, but most human beings can see through BS. There is never a good reason to lie to your customer, cheat your customer, or do anything dishonest. They are trusting you with their business, don’t do them wrong.

7.) Do The Grunt Work. I come in contact with so many designers and coders who think life should be like this: kicking back, working when they want, projects flooding in because they’re so awesome, etc. I’m not sure what planet they’re living in, but that simply isn’t reality for most. So many designers, coders, web developers get into the field because they want more freedom. While this field does provide many freedoms and advantages, most find in a very short time that unless they work really hard, they’re not going to get very far. If you are self-employed, you will especially have to do a lot of ground work / grunt work to line up clients, spread your name, etc. Believe me I’ve had a lot of experience in this area and it is truly is hard work. This type of work is so hard that I’d confidently say it is not for everyone, but it does pay off. If you work hard, you get to play hard. Eventually you get to a point where you don’t have to pass out business cards everywhere. Dig through the phone book and sell people. There comes a time when you become a successful businessman/ woman and business comes to you. But for most, that’s a ways off and it takes hard work to get there. So don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.

8.) Be Consistent. Your clients expect to be able to depend on you. Unless they can, they won’t trust you with their business. Many things fall under this category. Be consistent in your services, pricing, the works. If you build a 5 page website for one client for a lot of cheap price but do the same scope of work for someone else for triple the price because they can afford it, your not going consistent. Word gets around, and when people discover that your noting being consistent, you will have a much harder time getting what your worth from your websites. Even I, on occasion make an exception or two for a small business, mom and pop site, or a personal website. But it is very important to be consistent across the board. Not only in pricing, in everything. Time tables, quotes, pricing, quality of work, you name it.

9.) Be Professional. One thing I notice a lot of people doing is ‘leveling with their customers’. That’s a good idea on a few number of circumstances. But your customers aren’t looking for a buddy to do their project, they’re looking for a professional. I’ve become friends with many of my clients and it’s a great thing, but overall, its very important to conduct yourself accordingly. This can go so many ways. If you sign a new client and they happen to see you in a bar that night getting completely thrashed, how do you think it’s going to reflect on you and your business? Sure, it may be off hours, but that’s not going to stop the thought of, ‘Geeze, this is the guy thats going to build my website? I’m trusting him to help make my business successful?’ from going through their head. Sure, thats a little extreme, but it’s something to consider. Your dress, grooming, grammar, attitude, and overall demeanor can speak more about you and the type of business you run than many realize. Put work into yourself and your business to reflect a clean studious business atmosphere that allows your clients to put trust in you.

10.) Love What You Do. This last point I think is very important. It’s incredibly difficult to be motivated for very long if you’re not actually interested or enjoy what you are doing. The thought of making money can only carry one so far. (Granted, some further than others). It’s really important to love your job. At the very least, be very interested in it. If you don’t like what you do, it can completely kill your enthusiasm. It’s only a matter of time before others see how completely un-enthused you are about your work. The quality of your work will start to depreciate, your customers will be put off by your slacker attitude, and you will hate going into work every day. So make sure your doing what your love. Every job has ups and downs. You’ll have months where you make a killing, and probably months where things don’t go so well. But this shouldn’t kill your enthusiasm for your career of choice. Everyone deals with these things.

Conclusion… You probably noticed if you read through the entire list that most of them focus on customer satisfaction and your relationships with your customers. I find this is of the utmost importance. You’ll find that people are more than willing to talk about really bad experiences. If you leave a bitter taste in your customers mouth, guaranteed they will tell someone about it. However, if you treat your customer right, make it a pleasure to do business, they will reward you by returning and also referring their friends and anyone else they come across who may be in need of your services. Word of mouth is a fantastic source of new business opportunity.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment. There are a lot more things that go into being successful in business. There are the basics / core elements that I find keep me on track. Feel free to share yours.

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