by Yuwanda Black
Many small business owners fool themselves into thinking that they are "in business", when what they are really doing is playing at a hobby.
Right off the bat, I want to say that there is nothing wrong with what I term "playing at" being a small business owner. If the business meets your needs, then by all means keep doing what you're doing.
This article is for those who want to make a serious go at building a self-supporting biz -- you know, a business that brings in enough income so that you can quit your job, or at least work your business full-time and your job part-time.
Listed here are three indicators that will let you know which road you're on.
1. It's all in your head: Do you think about your business on a daily basis? Are you consumed with ideas for growing, marketing, expanding it? Do you do something, no matter how small, toward growing your business at least every other day.
Then you have the fever -- the desire.
If you are constantly thinking about your business and taking some type of consistent action -- no matter how trivial -- then that means that it is a part of you. This is the most important part of growing your business. Why?
Because motivation is a desire that can't be taught. You can learn marketing, advertising, web design, product design, etc. But, you must first WANT to do what it takes. That has to come from within you -- no one can teach you this.
2. Work for free: What I mean by this is, do you work on your business even though you know that there is no immediate return to be had?
For example, I spend a lot of time writing articles, searching the Internet for publications to pitch my products/articles, searching for new products to carry, etc. Much of this is done late at night or on the weekends. During the normal work day, I'm usually filling orders, paying bills and answering customer queries -- in short, performing activities for which there is a direct payoff.
BUT, it's the behind-the-scenes, "unpaid" work that produces the paid work. This is where many small business owners fall short. If you're not putting in unpaid hours, then it's highly unlikely that your business will ever grow to become a self-sustaining entity.
3. Show me the money: This perhaps is the hardest pill to swallow for most small business owners. Do you spend money from your job, savings, inheritance, etc. to promote your business?
If you believe in your idea, you must promote it. And although I'm a big proponent of free and low-cost marketing, there comes a time when every business owner must plunk down cold, hard cash to put a professional face on their venture.
Many entrepreneurs give up on their business before they put out their own money. But, if you don't believe in your product/service enough to promote it from your own pocket, why should a customer/client trust in you enough to buy what you are selling? And believe me, customers can tell the difference. How?
For example, your website may look amateurish BECAUSE you didn't want to pay a professional to do it. Or,
Your promotional material may have grammatical errors, fuzzy graphics, be printed on cheap paper BECAUSE you didn't want to pay professionals for their services. Or,
You may not get back to customers in a timely manner BECAUSE you don't want to pay for an answering services/get professional email software.
Putting a professional face on your business doesn't have to cost a fortune, but it does cost -- and many times the funds have to come directly out of your pocket.
Reading the Signs: Do You Want to Play or Get Serious?
Only you can decide if you want to play or get serious. But, if you decide to get serious, then you must, at a minimum:
a) take action on a daily basis -- or at least every other day (write and distribute articles; research new product ideas, update content on your site -- notice that all of these are things you can do that don't cost money, only time);
b) put a professional face on your business (eg, get professional email software, make sure content on your site and all promotional material is grammatically correct and visually appealing, etc.); and
c) provide timely customer service (it's critical that you get back to customers within 24 hours at least -- sooner if possible). Otherwise, they may wonder if you are a "real business."
Now, shall I meet you in the boardroom or on the playground?
Yuwanda Black is an Author/Instructor/Speaker,
and small business expert who advises others on how to achieve the
dream of working for themselves. She has written and published
numerous small business articles and press releases
in promotion of
her ventures. Her current venture, EthnicVendors.com is an
online shopping portal and catalog distributor for ethnic goods and
services. It is a subsidiary of EthnicHomeDecor.com.
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