I never imagined myself eventually becoming a small business owner. Growing up, whenever someone mentioned the word "business," all I could picture was mountains of paperwork, boring meetings, and long to-do lists. None of these things appealed to me. Except, of course, the one thing that sucks us all in-the promise of complete creative control, and not having anyone tell you what to do. Now that I have spent a year cultivating my own business, I don't know if I could ever go back to working under someone else. I have strange and wonderful hours; my patients can see me until 10:00 at night, if need be. I can take a mental day if I need to, without clearing it with anyone first. Most importantly, I can practice the way I want to. I know what works for my patients, and I can do what gets the best results without having to conform to someone else's ideas or rules.
All this being said, owning a business isn't easy. In fact, it's the hardest thing I've ever done. I must love it, because I never get bored with all the insanely long worklists I create for myself in order to keep my business afloat. And, I am still learning everyday. I doubt that the learning process will ever end. So, for all of you out there who are heading into the daunting process of running a small business, this is for you. Today is part one of a two-part series on a ten very valuable lessons I have learned about running a small business:
- If you aren't comfortable with the internet yet, you need to be. This is how people find things, including you. No one uses the Yellowpages anymore. Three years ago, I could barely figure out how to use facebook. Today, I have a website, a regular blog, and postings all over the internet. As a result of all this, people can find me when they are looking for acupuncturists. Don't make the mistake of disappearing into the abyss. People have short attention spans; if you don't get into their heads immediately, they are not going to go out of their way to find you.
- Don't give away too much at once. Time and again, I have made this mistake. I come up with a wonderful offer that is too good to resist, and get excited about all the clients who are going to come pouring in. And then...nothing. If you come up with offers that sound too good to be true, people become distrusting. Also, if you lower the value of something to the point where it is almost free, clients start to view this item as lacking in value, so they don't want it anyway.
- When you start a business, you will want to hold on to every client as if they were crafted of chocolate and $100 dollar bills. You will judge yourself according to how many clients come back, and when one doesn't, you will be devastated. Stay away from this type of thinking. Once you are in business, you will start to see a natural ebb and flow; you will have one insanely busy month, followed by a month when you might need to invest in mass quantities of Ramen for sustenance. You will see people disappear for months, then start coming back on a weekly basis. And of course, you will also see people who come in once, never to be seen again. This is life, and there is nothing you can do to change it. Just relax. It's not all about you.
- Get really good at what you do, and then get good at other things, too. The more you have to offer people, the more successful your business will be. And if you want to stay focused on doing or selling just one thing, develop a nice little referral network so that you have a way to find things for your clients that you cannot provide. They will appreciate it, and you will earn some karma points.
- Spark things up with the unexpected. Send out cards at random times to remind clients that you exist. Give a free service or product out of the blue to a loyal client. But don't make it a habit, or people will start to expect freebies on a consistent basis. Make it feel like a special gift, a token of appreciation, and people will leave feeling validated, but not spoiled.
Check in tomorrow for part 2!