My Common Law Wife!
Do Everything You said You would Do.
Become a Professional Sitter by sitting in on meetings and negotiations
Are Corporations messing with your world?
Patrick Murphy, DBA "The Small Businessman"
Many of the world's great disagreements have been because somebody didn't do what they said they would do. Those disagreements often led to horrible death and destruction, which in the least, was not good for most small and micro businesses.
One of the biggest reasons any business fails is that they don't do what they say they are going to do.
Starting Your Day off on the Righteous Foot
One of the best ways to start my day is to look at my calendar. I ask myself, "Who do I owe? What am I supposed to do for somebody else?" The calendar is there to remind me. Electronic calendars do this well because I don't have to rewrite "times" and "todo's."
Before I begin taking action, I do one more thing. I answer my email. Those two projects, checking my calendar and then my email, are very important and I like to do them before my customers start calling.
Next, I like to return phone calls. All of this tells my customers that they are my first priority and lets me discover what I might have missed. If someone has problems with me or my company, by now, I should have discovered what they are.
Resolving Common Law
Next, its time to act on problems. Always act on them before you work on "new and exciting" business innovations. The later will incur all more time that might cause you to become over loaded.
As I said earlier, most problems stem from breaches in common law. In that regard, a small business is like your common law spouse. (some wives and husbands may actually feel the competition with your "other" spouse.). I ask, "Would you lie to your significant other?" Your business IS your customers. Would you lie to them? If your answer is yes in either situation, you have a big problem.
Years ago, I had the fabulous opportunity to hear Harry Browne, author of "How to be Free in an Unfree World" and past presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party, lecture at McGeorge University in Sacramento. His subject was "Common Law." He broke it down to two specific features, the first being that we respect each other's person and property, the second, that we do everything we say that we're going to do. Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it?
Reality is Never the Issue
Of course, most of us have experienced the purchase of products that made outrageous claims of simplicity and ease of use with dramatic positive consequences. Computer software and operating systems come to mind. We know the frustration and anger that can result when we are short changed. Unfortunately, we are presented with plenty of opportunities to feel that way. We are so accustomed to being short changed that we almost expect it going in, especially from large corporations and government programs. We simply try to limit the losses we expect. Then we see the Worldcoms' and Enrons' and set an even lower bar for our expectations of "big" business. We are learning to expect "bread lines" and shortages.
But small and micro businesses are supposed to be different–or are they? Small business is all about passionate service and customer commitment. It's about word of mouth and loyalty. You don't have the giant "economies of scale" marketing budget of the big boys that more often market over public opinion. One example that comes to mind regards Southwest Bell being so confident that they chose to take on the most horrific name in the communications industry, AT&T! Why? We can only assume that the branded name recognition was more important than the poor reputation AT&T held with its customers. It was a reputation of dishonesty, political bribes and poor customer relations. What company would ever take on the sins of the father for their own?
On the other hand, you can't afford to have disgruntled customers because you don't have the marketing budget of AT&T. Remember, a customer that loves you might tell a few folks, but those that are really upset will tell a lot more people.
The number one reason people get upset is that you didn't give them "perceived value." You over hyped your product. You didn't do what they thought you said you would do. Reality is never the issue. I tell my clients, "Sometimes two plus two equals seven! Your idea of value is not necessarily their idea of value.
Nip Potential Problems in the Bud
As the day wears on and you wear out, focus on your customers emotions and not your own. We are emotional creatures. We follow our feelings 99 times out of 100. They know they shouldn't spend money in these troubled times. They know when they go home, they may have a spouse to answer to about the purchases they have made.Yet here they are in front of your cash register. Perhaps they are buying something discretionary for themselves, a sin in today's economy. Now I ask, "Are you going to short change this person?"
As the economy begins a downward spiral, it is more important than ever to satisfy the customers' perceived value. Don't deceive. Don't overstate or over hype. Simply do everything you can to honor our system of free trade that enables small business in the first place. You are not a corporate store that relies upon customer apathy and ignorance. You are a small business owner. You stand tall and strong and fearless. You are America's defender. You are your customers best friend.
Success is not Necessarily about Becoming Big, but about Becoming Permanent
In your zest to become more successful, remember that success is not necessarily about becoming big, but becoming permanent. Nothing will help you become permanent more than having the support and loyalty of your customers. So please do all that you say you're going to do for them.
At the end of the day, check email and phone messages again. Make sure that the day really was a success! One day, you'll wake up and realize that you too, are a success!
Michael Patrick Murphy is the author of two books. The Greens ISBN 13: 9780595133055 and The Government, ISBN 0-595-30863-5. Both are available online or from your favorite bookstores by special order. Mike also ran for the California State Assembly in 2006.
Mike can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org