June 13, 2008.
I collect tips, tricks and secrets on business like others save recipes. I have binders, folders and yes junk boxes (though they are pretty and covered with fabric or something glittery) with little nuggets of inspiration for that mom that owns a business, or wants to start one. I share most of them here, others I share in private.....or for a fee, kidding - but great idea. I started thinking why am I saving some of them? Why must I pick and choose what to share and what not to share?
So.....here goes, I am giving away the farm. Yep, that is right I am rolling up my sleeves, and giving my secrets away. Okay, maybe not the farm, maybe not all my secrets and maybe I will throw out some of my opinions. I am taking the gloves off and since it's summer and all (and hot as all heck in Northern California) I may as well let it all hang out.
So, I am starting with the basics of starting a business, it may sound redundant, and it may sound simple to most. I think though I will start with some of my pet peeves, and those things that are the cornerstones of any great business. And if I missed one (you know I probably did, or will touch on it later) please let me know, or ask....I am in a givin' mood, so take, take, take!
Be Honest or Go Home
I have never admired secretive people, especially secretive entrepreneurs. You do not need to be as honest as I am, but if you are interviewed - share the wealth. The amount of women entrepreneurs is astonishing, and it grows on a weekly basis. I crave information, I like to share information and I lose interest in people who hoard it. And while we are on the subject I don't really appreciate the secretive blogs. I mean come on - give me something to chew on, to mull over.
Another thing, while we are going over pet-peeves I don't like entrepreneurs that claim that everything good they ever got (sales, contracts, press, hype) they were contacted by the other company. First of all I don't believe you, second of all, there is something to be said for working for something. Not that that bluebird is not fabulous, but the fact that you busted your butt to get your products into Nordstroms - good for you! It is not fair to those little guys....er gals that are working their tails off at home and wondering why they have not gotten their big break.
If I may burst a few bubbles and tell a little bit of a "hidden truth" about product placements in magazines - these people have hired a publicist. The publicist is someone you hire to get your products in magazine, on TV and in celebrities hands. That is right - pay to get them to take your products. This can be expensive - think maybe $5000.00 a month expensive. I actually got a huge blue bird this past month and when it is finalized I will tell ya all about it. But....most of our big "deals" are from pounding the pavement (or my keyboard) or making 43 phone calls - no one will know about you unless YOU tell them!
Treat Others How You Would Like to Be Treated
I have said this before, and I feel it has to be said again. It is just plain good manners to reply to phone calls, emails or requests from people. Even if you have a canned response that thank you very much but we are not interested (which we have) it is good manners and it makes the other person feel a little better. I know this is hard, and sometimes we get too many requests, sometimes emails (or phone messages) get deleted - I can not be perfect all the time, but I try. I think that trying to give a quick "thanks but no thanks" sends a better message than ignoring the request.
I try to follow this letter of the law all the time, but sometimes I screw up. Just last week we got a voice mail from a website and I sort of pushed delete instead of save....and I can not find the darn site anywhere. I feel awful about this and hope this company calls back.
Respond to Your Peeps
And, while we are on the subject, if you have a blog and IF people leave you a comment, link to your site, list you in their blog roll, send you an email or respond with a well thought out comment.....you should acknowledge them. Blogging etiquette is real, just like business etiquette, there is an unspoken word to acknowledge your readers. I read many a blog and sometimes a writer will complain about no comments, or call out that they get hundreds or thousands of hits a day and no comments.....so then I leave a well-thought out comment. And you know what - I get no response. Um, duh - that is why you get no comments. I never go back, I never reference it, I mean come on people! Your mother taught you better than that.
When I started the blog I had no idea the rules, or that you were supposed to respond to people (mind you I had like zero readers so I tend to think I only offended a handful). Now though - you (me) have no excuses - if you don't believe me go here and read about it from a pro, or here another pro - and both of them respond to comments and emails, they responded to little ol' me.
Processes Make Life Easy
I would be no where without my processes, and one way of doing things. If you need a kick in the pants go read this book, it will help and explain why to succeed you have to do things one way. I am not saying squash that creative streak that is blasting it's way through your veins....but um, try and invoice and ship your products the same way every time. As my husband used to say, "Denny's always open, and it is always bad" - you know what you are going to get - the same every time - right?
Your customers, your accounts, your employees - everyone will have a heavy sigh of relief when they know what to expect. It is like giving your children structure, they need structure to thrive - your business needs structure also.
Have a Plan
You need to have some sort of plan, some sort of idea of what you are doing with your business, your product line, your business. It makes perfect sense to change direction, add new things, delete others - but stick to a plan. Your core business is what? What is your goal? You do not need to write (though a good idea) a 34 page business plan to start selling widgets out of your garage, but you need a plan. I used not be so great about plans - if you saw the first line of products I sold you would laugh, and probably point, and laugh some more. Here is what I had to sell that first 6 months:
- Name Tiles
- Ceramic Trivets
- Wood like Platters
- Wood Plaques
- Topiaries (yes I made them)
- Bundles of Wheat (uh huh crafty gal over here)
- Painting murals (what didn't I paint?)
I had to get a grip on what my company was, on what I was making and what my message was. At the start I was venturing off in two, three different directions, home decor and then children's products. I had to make a break, I had to make a decision and I had to go with my passion. Without a plan I would not have had a business, I would have had a hobby....or many hobbies.