So many solopreneurs dream of having flourishing business where they are earning enough to employ one or more people, perhaps that describes you. In this article Kate Griffiths explores the dangers that can come as your business grows and explodes one of the myths around successful business.
Connection and collaboration are at the heart of building a sustainable business. You know the adage people buy from those that they know, like and trust. And take heart it is not just those starting out in business who struggle to establish a flourishing business; those with much more experience make a similar mistake. Let me share two examples of what I mean.
This story is about being a landlord renting out a flat. When we first got into this we found a brand new letting agent in St Albans. We got to know the owner who was very personable and was always willing to go the extra mile. Not surprisingly he did well and so expanded and opened a second office in Harpenden, which he managed. This meant he no longer knew what was happening in St Albans day to day and his staff did not have the same level of commitment to clients. Not surprising really because they did not own the business and I doubt they ever got training in the owner’s way of doing business. Everything seemed to be going so well that I doubt it occurred to him that he needed to explain all that to his staff. Plus it came to him naturally so he probably assumed that it came as easily to others and perhaps thought they would be as motivated as him. Things came to a head and we had to explain our dissatisfaction to the owner who to his credit, stepped in and sorted the matter. The lesson here for small businesses that are growing is make sure that you either hire staff with similar values to yours or that you instil them into your staff through training once they join.
Here’s a much more recent example of disconnection for you to consider. Seven months ago I set up a youth club in our village. I believe passionately that this was needed for the teens in our village below the age of 16 because they have nowhere to go as there is a very limited bus service at night into the local town and limited local facilities outside the pub and the corner shop. As the Chair, my role initially was to be the interface between the volunteers and the parish council. More recently I have had to take a more active role. It soon became clear to me that we needed more structure and to find ways to communicate more effectively with the young people. Only one of the volunteers is a youth worker and the rest have been learning on the job including me. The county agency that support with basic training such as child protection and first aid no longer offer more useful training on the day to day challenges you face when running a youth club. As I was pondering all this, I remembered that one of my client’s husbands ran training aimed at teenagers and we have some real behavioural issues to deal with. So I reached out hoping to have a conversation with him with a view to asking him to run a bespoke session or something like that. Instead I had a reply from someone I had never met saying she was the business partner of the owner and suggesting that I come to a two hour session for anyone wanting to meet young people they had worked with.
This seemed so impersonal and alien to my way of doing business. The focus for me is always on building relationship. It just felt that I was being treated as a number. This example highlights the dangers of what happens when a small business grows and sees itself as “professional” and thinks that an event in a big hotel will impress potential new clients. People are not interested in status. They will buy from you because you are passionate about what you do. Yes it helps to be able to define the benefits of your service in language that is meaningful to them. If you don’t have that, believe in what you do and that will be enough especially if you cultivate people you know. Being human, real and authentic means far more than status and perceived material success.
Underlying all this, we have exploded a BIG myth here and that is that quantity beats quality. It is not how many FB likes you have or how many twitter followers you have that will determine your success. It is all about how you make people feel. We all want to be heard, seen, understood and accepted. So how important is connection in your business? Please share what you think below.