When we started in freelancing, clients came to us. The Internet was young and the rush for websites had begun. I still remember seeing my first TV commercial with a URL and wondering why a car dealership would want a website, but they did. With demand growing, it wasn’t long before we watched our friends move from their corporate jobs to start their own businesses.
They all started well. Our friends were hard-working with solid skills, but as the businesses grew they started to falter. Like us, most weren’t trained in business. They had turned a hobby into a job, but tended to focus more on the work than daily business operations.
It seems few people want the challenges of running a business; they simply want to get paid for their hobby.
Ironically, success became the biggest stumbling block. Unfortunately, a successful product or service can only carry a business so far. If you want to continue to grow, the focus must shift from what you are doing to how you are doing it.
Those “how you are doing it” items are the core values of your business. (Some organizations like Zappos, Whole Foods Markets and L.L. Bean have even published theirs.) Check out what GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving had to say about his company’s core values:
Core values: What does your business stand for?
Here’s where you hope that along with financial planning, branding and marketing, you also planned out the values your business will operate under.
However, if you haven’t been paying attention or if you haven’t taken the time to intentionally establish a specific set of standards, you run the risk of others shaping your business’s public perception.
“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
I heard this quote the other day. It seems to be from the 1950’s and has ambiguous origins, but it struck me how applicable it still is today both in everyday life and in business. If the focus is too singularly on one aspect of the business, the reputation and personality of that business will be built outside of the owner’s control and be based on other people’s experiences and perspectives.
Those are powerful.
If people have had positive experiences, they will make your business stronger and bring in more clients. If they have had negative experiences, your business could crumble fast. Not only will you have trouble finding clients, you will struggle to hire quality workers and you could drive away other business wishing to advertise or collaborate.
In all the planning, have you put any thought into the standards or values your business is built on? Have you considered what your customers are experiencing when they contact you for support? Are your current clients trusting you enough to refer you to others? Are you leaving the personality of your company up to chance?
Be assured, it’s not too late. You might need to do some cleanup, but there is still an opportunity to take control of your company’s personality.
By taking the time to do some planning and soul searching, you can establish the core values that will shape the future of your business.
Be who you are
You created your business with specific ideas. That’s what matters. Don’t try to be someone you’re not.
Don’t waste time living up to anyone else’s standards. Other people’s opinions about your business should only be as relevant as you allow them to be. YOU need to be happy with the image and personality your business is presenting to the world at large.
Think through who you are personally. Use that to create the standards your business will operate under and the message it will communicate to the world. Once done, you regain control of your business’s future.
Be consistent in your core values
It isn’t about the specific values you pick. Some clients will like them. Some clients won’t. But operating consistently using the values you’ve set and communicated will build trust with your clients. They don’t have to like you; they have to be able to rely on you to be who you say you’re going to be.
Be willing to adjust
The values you choose will be based on who you and your business are right now. Of course, right? It’s all there is to work with. But as you change, so will your perspective on what matters. What seemed so important at one stage of development, can seem almost irrelevant at another.
Be flexible without sacrificing the core of who you are. Small changes can grow your business.
Regardless of what values you choose to run your business by, nothing drives clients and employees away faster than dishonesty. It might be seductive to market your business as something other/bigger/more than what it truly is. For a while, that might get you new clients. It might make money. But once they realize you can’t deliver on your promises, those clients, employees and business contacts will, most likely, be gone forever.
What’s the benefit to you?
Remember, your business exists because of who you are. Your idea created a product or service that clients want. Guard its future by being intentional now. Establish a set of core values that create a solid foundation from which you can build strong client relationships, determine the type of people you want to work with when it’s time to expand, and provide a framework for a concise message to market now and in the future.