If you’re an entrepreneur, owning a business can be one of the most exciting, challenging and fulfilling adventures you could ever take. Along with my wife, we’ve been managing our consulting companies for 17 years. You can’t be in business for that length of time without learning a few valuable lessons along the way. Here’s the top lessons we’ve learned through the years:
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
The surest way to antagonize, alienate, or lose a client, is failing to communicate. Frequent and clear communication should be a core value for every start-up business owner. You have at your fingertips multiple options to electronically communicate with your customers (i.e. text, email, Instagram/Facebook messaging etc.). You can even go old school and directly call customers for that extra human touch.
Regular communication is key to establishing and keeping great business relationships. As owners we need to speak with our accountants, suppliers, employees, and especially with our customers. We have to talk, and talk often, to keep the channels of communication open if we expect success. This is particularly true in service oriented businesses like consulting. If you don’t keep in contact with the client they will find someone else that will.
Consistent communication with customers will pay dividends. You will notice greater levels of customer satisfaction, fewer misunderstandings, and often an increase in your business revenues.
We were given this advice at the onset of our business career, “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing with someone in relationship”. In other words, avoid trying to do everything on your own.
We learned early on, collaborations with industry peers was one of the best strategies we could have adopted. Although we could have viewed these businesses as competition, we chose to view them as partners. We were able to build relationships with numerous consultancies in our first decade of operation. These business arrangements allowed us to sub-contract and offer our unique skills to their client base, and vice versa.
Business collaborations have proven to be a cornerstone of our business longevity.
Consider the Cycles
When we launched our first consulting company we possessed a great deal of optimism. We were certain we’d surpass our yearly financial growth targets. In truth, we didn’t always hit our goals. This was partially due to our failure to consider the external factors that impact businesses, such as economic cycles. In time we discovered the world of business can be quite unpredictable. We were not always successful at shielding our company from every cycle, trend, or pandemic.
Downward cycles can be tricky if you own a service oriented business like consulting. Consultants become a luxury item for companies when finances become scarce. You need an extra amount of courage to navigate these periods. On occasion, we’ve had to sharpen the pencil and lower our consulting fees to remain competitive in down cycles. We've also needed to be more creative with our marketing strategy. For instance, during the pandemic we’ve pitched our services more aggressively online instead of relying on traditional face to face interactions.
If possible, draft a contingency plan for the skinny revenue seasons. This plan should include a marketing strategy to keep your business in front of prospective customers. You may need to lean on your collaborations more often during challenging times. Finally, ensure you place aside a cash reserve when your business is flourishing to assist you through the bumpier parts of negative economic cycles.