Small business characteristics. Are they yours?

January 10th, 2013

I am a member of a small local group of business owners who meet weekly to share marketing ideas, referrals and testimonials. The group is diverse – an electrician, a carpet cleaner, a plumber, a real estate broker, a jewelry shop owner, a permitting consultant, and so on. And of course me, a business attorney.

At a recent meeting, our leader asked each to explain what gave each member an edge over the business competition.

I listened intently as each took a turn. I was struck by the observation that notwithstanding how different each business was, yet there were innumerable common characteristics expressed as to how the owners maintained their perceived competitive edge!

It might be useful to share some of these with you. If you do the same, HURRAY. If you don’t, perhaps you should rethink the way your business operates.

· Answer your phone – A customer or potential customer wants to talk to you! Even if you know it will be unpleasant, “take your medicine early – it won’t get better.”

· Same goes for e-mails – And do it as soon as possible. Customers want timely response!! Indeed, several members said they never shut down for the day until every phone call and every e-mail has been responded to! A great rule!

· Listen carefully and be respectful – Customers/clients may have difficulty explaining their needs. They don’t always use the right words or lingo familiar to you. Take the time to be sure you have an agreement on the customer’s objective. And never smirk or belittle the customer’s efforts to explain! And it’s never bad to offer suggestions if it might enhance the customer’s objective.

· Be courteous – If a customer comes into your store be prompt in your greeting. Treat his purchases and property she may leave with you with the care you give your own things. If a credit card is used, notice the name and upon closing the transaction, say “Thank you, Mr/Ms XXX. People like to be somebody – not another nobody.

If your business takes you to a customer’s residence or work, be careful not to make a mess and clean up after yourself!!

· And finally [although there are others as well] if your customer has a dog or a cat, love the animal. The pet is always regarded as a member of the family, and if you love the pet, the family will love you! One business owner travels with “doggie treats” for just such reason.