Having a reputation as a professional can be crucial in attracting and keeping customers for small business owners. No one wants to do business with someone who is unprofessional, but what does it mean to be professional? It isn’t enough to have a stellar skill set or an abundance of knowledge in your chosen field. There are plenty of people who are experts at what they do, but lack the characteristics of a professional. Professionalism is a way of life. To be a professional, you need to be self-aware, have a firm grasp of time management and be respectful of others. I was reminded of this at a recent workshop I attended at the Forsyth Small Business Center. Here are a few tips I picked up during the worksop:
- Don’t overdo it! It is better to have a reputation as an expert in one area than being known to do many things but not great. Doing too many things leads to mediocre results. Prioritize what you are good at and what will be beneficial to moving you forward. Don’t allow yourself to be tempted to capture everyone’s business. It isn’t possible, so know your audience, know your strengths and focus on them.
- Keep a calendar. It doesn’t matter if it is on your phone, computer or paper. Use what works for you and what you can always have readily available. Be ready to schedule meetings when opportunities arise. Not having your calendar easily accessible could mean missing out on an opportunity to lock in a meeting with a potential client, mentor, or investor. If you aren’t ready, you better believe someone else always is.
- Commit to being timely. From time-to-time life happens causing us to be late. That is okay, but do not let tardy be your brand. Plan ahead and arrive to your destination early even if you don’t go in right away. Use the time to gather your thoughts, reply to emails, or eat a snack so you can focus on your meeting and not your hunger. Whatever you do, do not be the reason something does not start on time or someone has to stop and start over to fill you in.
- Show respect for others by respecting their time. When you manage your time and the time of others well, you are showing them they are important to you. If you don’t have time to give someone your full attention when approached, let them know the best way to contact you (i.e. email, text). This way, you can eliminate long wait times and interruptions.
- Get organized. Time is always moving. How will you move with it? Organizing your days will help you to be more productive. Figure out when you have the most energy and focus and plan to tackle tasks then. Don’t schedule meetings or events during a time when you can get a lot done. Identify where you are most productive and plan to work there.
- Don’t be afraid to say no. Sometimes we have to say no to people close to us or to potential customers because you have already committed to something else. Be ready to offer alternatives that can work for you. It can also be helpful to explain you are not saying no to them, but you have already said yes to something else. Don’t allow yourself to over commit and get pulled away from previous commitments. Sometimes saying no is necessary in order to avoid overextending yourself and failing to fulfill commitments.
- Say yes to your health. No one knows what your body needs like you do. Prioritize your health. If you need to rest, rest. Incorporate workouts, meditation, yoga, etc. into your schedule. Even if it means saying no to others. Self-care is important. Stay healthy and ready to take on opportunities.
- Follow-up! Follow-up with potential customers, recent customers, current customers. Following-up can be a way to update customers or to collect valuable feedback. Especially if you are off-schedule or need to obtain information to complete a project.
- Write daily goals. Small goals can help you stay focused and on track. Plus, you can get a little motivational boost knowing you accomplished something. Having daily goals can also provide you with information to share with customers during updates.