If you’ve started a business or are thinking about starting one, you’ll no doubt have done a lot of research in your market. You know who your competitors are. You know what you want to achieve. You have a business plan. Great. These are all basics. But aside from getting it up and running there are areas of your life that contribute to a healthy business. Some concern your business—like marketing—but others concern you personally. It’s important to keep both aspects in mind because you are your business and vice versa.
For businesses that don’t have a lot of money to spend on marketing, networking is crucial. Whether in person or vitually, you have to get in front of an audience (your market). Join your local chamber of commerce and attend its events. Membership and a plaque on your wall isn’t worth much and keeps you invisible. Make the most of your membership but appearing regularly at events.
Similarly there are other networking organizations such as BNI. While these are chapter-based networking groups (one person per profession, etc.) you can establish relationships with fellow members and spread the word about your business.
With both, attendance/visibility is the key.
While not an in-person form of networking, sites like LinkedIn can be great, too. Connect with potential clients and others in your market. Be active and share information. Keep active with your connections even if it’s an occasional message. As with the in-person networking above, you want to (as far as its possible) establish relationships with your connections. By sharing information you become the expert in your field to those you’re messaging. They’ll remember your name and face. And avoid coming on strong and asking for business right away. No one likes to be hustled, especially right after connecting. Keep sharing your expertise and after a few communications then ask for business or a referral.
2. Ask for Advice
You’re not going to know everything so be open to advice from others who’ve been in business for a while, even if it’s a different business. They’ll have made the same mistake you will and can help you avoid some pitfalls. On the other hand, some people love to hear themselves talk and want to be the expert on everything. Trust your instincts and take away what you think is good and ignore that which you really question.
3. Learn to Spot Trouble
Make your life easier by finding good people to work with. If you do get inquiries, some research may be in order to find out about the people who may work with you. Do your collegaues at the chamber of commerce like this person? Have the worked with him or her? What was it like? Sometime you can tell just by speaking to a person or by what they write in an email. Problem people are going to be grief down the road. Avoid them. Especially when starting out. Find good people you can work with and work with them.
4. Take Time for You
You can’t do good work if you’re sick, worried or stressed. Find the time—make the time—to commit to a workout schedule. Even a walk around the block each morning is better than forsaking all exercise just to work on your business. Exercise helps deal with stress and clears the mind.
In a similar way, you also want to disconnect from your work. As they say, don’t take your work home with you. We’re all guilty at one time or another of burning the midnight oil but the mind needs rest just like the body. While easier said than done, try to shut out your business in the evenings, especially before bed. A rested brain will be better able to cope with whatever comes its way. And the mind has a way of working out problems subconsciously so give it a break. It will thank you for it.
And coupled with rest is fun. You need to have some fun. Oft repeated, but certainly true is that “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!” We need to see new sights and experience new things to keep us at once both stimulated and distracted. If you’re a sole proprietor, make sure you spend time with friends on a regular basis.
Don’t forget that “you are what you eat” so keep an eye on what you’re eating. Take stock of what’s going in you. Is it healthy? Great. If not, make a commitment to eat healthier. This along with exercise is going to contribute to overall well being and without that, the amount of work you do won’t mean much.
This last part isn’t so much about business as it is about living life well. But without taking care of yourself, you won’t be able to do the others effectively. And really, life is not just about business.
5. Keep Going
Remember the words of Winston Churchill: “Never, ever, ever give up!” The only sure way to fail is if you stop trying. You will fall. But you can get up again. Continue to learn, to communicate with others, to improve your health, life and business, but keep going. Remember the adage, “Ninety percent of success is just showing up.”