On a recent 7 hour flight, I found myself watching the Emoji movie. Perhaps it was out of boredom or maybe curiosity. Yes, I was aware of its overwhelmingly negative response from movie critics. While I watched, it became clear to me the writers had included some valuable life lessons. A few of which make a lot of sense if you're a budding entrepreneur. (Yes, I wrote this based on an animated cartoon. Work with me here.)
1. Don't Compete. Collaborate.
I can't stress this enough: If you're a professional, collaborate with other professionals in your field. What?! YES! Make friends with people, businesses, and agencies in the same field as you. Locally, nationally or internationally, whatever the case may be.
While working on my manicure, a nail tech once made a revealing statement: "There are PLENTY [clients] to go around, why be competitive?" She was right! In her case, she was speaking about other nail salons and spas in the area that provided the same services to tourists. But it applies to anyone, anywhere. Including highly competitive markets.
Chances are, if you're willing to reach out and network, you'll learn something. Ask them what works for them, what doesn't. Bond over "terrible client" stories. (You know you go home and tell your spouse). By doing so, you demonstrate you're secure in your own brand/product/service and not afraid to play in the same court! Potential clients don't like to feel like you're competing for them (even though you are), so for their sake alone, its better to "play nice!"
2. Always Be Yourself.
This one is a bit of a touchy subject. No one wants to be thought of as "unoriginal" or a "sell out." But I guess this is why everyone loves Taylor Swift so much! Huh? Well, she is an original and doesn't do anything that goes against her style. Anyway, back to being yourself.
The thing that makes your business special has nothing to do with your services or products. It doesn't. In fact, what makes your business special is YOU. Nothing else. If it comes down to it, customers choose what/who they like/know/trust over anything else. It's called brand loyalty and it's still a thing. If you're tempted to sell more or be more, don't do it at the expense of the original brand: YOU.
3. Honor Your Commitments.
This one seems like a no-brainer if you're an entrepreneur but it is definitely worth discussing. When it comes to dealing with vendors and customers: honor your commitments. At all costs! Integrity is HUGE when it comes to doing business. No one likes to be told one thing and have something else happen. Think about the last time you went out to eat. If the hostess tells you its going to be a twenty minute wait, does it impact if you'll stay to eat there or not? (Be honest..) What if she said it would be a two minute wait? Would you stay then?
Recently, I went to a community clinic in my hometown. The woman at the counter informed me I would be seen by the doctor in about 15-20 minutes. Ok, no problem. I'll take a seat. I busied myself reading and noticed 30 minutes had gone by. I went up to the counter and inquired. She said, "I"ll go check what's going on." Twenty minutes after that, she returned to tell me it would be ANOTHER 40 minute wait. (I had an appointment, by the way)
Don't be that woman employed by that clinic. If you give your customer a timeframe, honor it. (Always give a timeframe) If for some reason you feel you're not going to meet that timeframe, let them know as soon as possible. Had I been told there was a problem with the scheduling of my appointment beforehand, I would not have been upset about waiting longer. Most people are pretty reasonable, if you're forthcoming you'll most likely get their grace.
4. Popularity Matters. Get Social.
Now, I know what you're thinking: this goes against all common understanding of human relationships. You don't tell your children to aspire to be the most popular and you certainly don't tell your friends that's what you spend your time trying to achieve. BUT. When it comes to business and being an entrepreneur, it's the opposite. Popularity matters A LOT. If you're not already buzzing on Facebook, Twitter, or any other major social media website, chances are you're always going to be small potatoes. Sorry, it's true!
Everyone knows social media is the best place (hands down) to market and promote your business. Do you realize there are people who don't own televisions? Those same people have cell phones and are active on social media. Even my baby-boomer-parents have a Facebook account! My mom doesn't have a debit card and my dad got his first iPhone this year. Even THEY are on social media. If you're not actively monitoring and updating your business' Facebook page, you are missing out on a HUUUUUGGEEE opportunity.
The secret to mastering social media is learning to grow your following. If you don't have a bunch of extra cash for Facebook Ads, create content people want to read and post DAILY. Before you know it you'll be fighting them off with the proverbial [digital] stick! Again, people are exponentially more likely to do business with someone they like, admire and/or follow far above anyone else. Let that sink in and go update your Facebook page now.
5. It's OK To Make Adjustments.
At the end of the day, you have to do what's best for YOUR business and for your employees. You may reach a point where you have to make certain adjustments and regroup, reorder or renegotiate aspects of your business or services. That's okay! Remember, people are looking to do business with those they like. As long as you continue to provide great service, people will not notice if you make minor changes. What if you have to make a major adjustment? It happens! Don't be too hard on yourself. Continue to learn. Take courses. Get a mentor. Never stop growing and improving. That's the beauty of being a modern entrepreneur.