For the past 10 years or so, one of my best friends has been deemed the official Thanksgiving hostess for family and friends living close enough to attend. I’m always impressed not only by the amount of food she prepares, but also by how she accommodates taste preferences and dietary requirements for such a large crowd without uttering a grumpy word. In fact, she always seems excited by the challenge.
As a small-business owner, I’m used to the challenge of trying to please a lot of people with a lot of different idiosyncrasies. It’s the nature of business. But as I watch my friend prepare for her Thanksgiving feast this year, I’m reminded what I can learn to make me a better business owner.
- Flexibility. You might have started your business because you didn’t want a boss telling you what to do, but your clients are still in charge, so you need to be flexible enough to follow market trends. When my friend found out some of her guests keep kosher, she immediately did research on how to buy and prepare a kosher turkey. It’s the same with your customers. Give them what they want without a fuss and you’ll win their loyalty for years to come.
- Do your homework. I used to jump into a project head-on before thinking about it too much. Sometimes it turned out fine, but other times, it didn’t. Taking the time to learn all you can about a project before getting started can save a lot of back-and-forth and prevent costly mistakes. What do you know about your client? Has a previous vendor told you the client is never satisfied and requires a lot of handholding? That’s OK – I can handhold with the best of them – but it’s better to know in advance so you can allot an appropriate amount of time to the client and build in a cap on how many changes you’ll provide for the same fee.
- Try new things. The best part of being your own boss is the freedom to try new things. Keep the old favorites, of course, but also test new systems and products and see what sticks. I’m constantly thinking of new ways to improve or do more, and that’s what keeps my passion for my business alive.
- See and think from another person's point of view. Having a vegan turkey at your Thanksgiving table might seem like pure insanity, but once you find out how the vegan feels and why they feel that way, you might just learn a thing or two. Countless times as a business owner, I’ve been astonished at how much I learn when I take the time to really listen to other points of view.
- You can’t make everyone happy. No matter how much my friend finds about her guests’ dietary preferences, there’s inevitably at least one unhappy diner. It’s the same in business. I can do everything asked of me and still not get it right – but I can’t let it get to me. Either I’ll get it right the next time or I may have to decide whether or not a certain client is worth my time. As long as you can walk away from the relationship with a clear conscience, your business shouldn’t suffer from the loss.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at [email protected], follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva's free TrendCast reports.