Appearance and Perception is Everything
It is extremely difficult to start a small business, and often many home based businesses start their inception from converting a hobby into a money making activity.
Unfortunately the lack of proper planning, and costings ensure many businesses do not make it past the first two years. How you present yourself and your business has a large impact on the perception of your size, and quality of the services that you are providing. You need to ensure that you present your business as being larger than it is, as many customers do not wish to deal with unprofessional home based businesses.
It is imperative that you invest money on setting up the areas that the public have access to, such as a showroom, or website.
It is extremely difficult to separate your small business from your personal home life particularly when you are using the same phone number. There is nothing worse than a small business owner answering the phone with children screaming underneath your feet or obvious household noises coming down the line to you, it appears to the customer that you donít care about them.
Several suggestions that can make it appear your business is larger than one person.
- Obtain a separate fax line Ė this is a separate number but is not a new line and will cost around $6.00 per month to your account. These numbers are supposed to be for a fax but utilise it as your business number, they are set up to have a different ring from your normal phone.
- Train your family that if when that phone line rings they cannot answer it, go to your office / showroom and answer the call.
- If you require a fax then list your home number, this gives the appearance that you have two separate lines. Having one line for phone / fax always indicates a small business.
After hours phone calls:
- Make sure you have an answering machine, if you do pick up the phone after hours, let the caller know you are only the cleaning lady, you can take a message or they can ring back in the morning.
- Set a budget and stick to it, set up an annual expense budget and review it every three months, put in actual figures as well, then you can compare what you planned to spend and what you have spent.
- Decide how and where you want to advertise.
- Obtain quotes from everyone and then sort out what is going to give you the best exposure.
- Once you decide where you are going to advertise put it into your expense budget.
- Often you will be approached by local papers, new publications and the shonky publishers posing as charity organisations.
- Ask everyone who approaches you for advertising to fax, email or post out a proposal.
- Our spiel for advertising enquiries:
- We plan our advertising budget annually, and until the end of the financial year when we do our next budget forecast we do not consider advertising proposals. All applications for adverting are reviewed and then taken to our heads of marketing and finance for a final decision. Once an application is received we do not respond and we will contact you if we require your services.
- They don't need to know that the head of marketing and finance and final decision maker are one person.
- Under no circumstances accept advertising proposals over the phone. Make sure all advertising has a form that you have signed off for proof that you have agreed to use their services.
- It always pays to keep a record of where your sales and leads are coming from so that you know where to spend your advertising allowance for the next year.
- Believe me, we made a few mistakes in the first year, and have become a little wiser through both good and bad experiences.
It does cost a considerable amount to ensure your website has a professional design that reflects the quality of your services.
- Have your website designed professionally and obtain the best quality you can afford.
- Make sure you have your own domain name
- Ensure you have a security certificate in your business name for credit card transactions
- List several email addresses
- Do not list names such as felicity@, always put felicity.ashman@ or f.ashman@. This gives the appearance that you may have more than one person with the same name. e.g., my last office at one point had 4 Davidís out of 7 staff.
- Do not let customers know that you get all the emails, you need to keep up the appearance that you have more than one staff member.
- Other ideas, when you ask for quotes have addresses that reflect the quote you are asking for if your website allows that many email addresses. e.g.
These suggestions are only a few of the many you can use to raise the perception of the public that your business is larger than it is.
Remember: The choices you have made so far have brought you to where you are: The choices you make today will affect the results you will have later on. To ensure a great future make the right decisions today.