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How to Make Your Small Business Stand Out

Keeping up with large competitors can be difficult for small businesses. However, it’s not impossible to play in the same league as your biggest competitor. In fact, small businesses have a lot of advantages that often go unrecognized, especially by the very people who run them.  Here are a few tips when it comes to playing in the big leagues, even if you have a small team:

Keep Client Relationships Your Top Priority

It’s easy for small businesses to gain a reputation quickly. The biggest element in gaining a solid reputation is to keep your clients loyal and satisfied with your work. This means keeping your client happy throughout the entire working relationship, from gaining their business and planning their project to presenting the final product. If a mistake or error arises, stay on top of things and fix it quickly while communicating the plan with your client. Negative feedback catches on quickly and is almost impossible to correct.

Engage With Your Industry

Yes, we’re talking about networking. It’s a dreaded word for many in the small business world, but if done correctly, it can help you gain the right attention at the right time. Try to find a networking group that meets your needs and fosters strong professional relationships—this means you’ll practice both giving and receiving work and recommendations. Social media platforms are always a useful approach to keeping in touch with industry professionals and perspective clients. Keep on top of your posts, respond to comments and questions, and try to engage with other small businesses—good entrepreneurs stick together.

Honesty Really is the Best Policy

It’s tempting to say you do it all, but that isn’t what cultivates good business practices. Be honest about your offerings, and be clear about your niche—it’s what people will remember about your small business. You don’t have to do it all; you have to do one thing exceptionally well. As it goes both in business and in life—lies are easy to spot.

Be a Role Model

People want to feel good about the businesses that represent their image. Once the word gets out about employee misconduct, race discrimination, or gender bias, your business has a name for itself—and not one to be proud of, either. Businesses that give back to their communities and to the world are more likely to be trusted.

Take Feedback Seriously

Avoid the temptation to put your customer satisfaction surveys in the bottom of your file cabinet. Read them, organize them, and address the most common concerns or complaints. As painful as it might be to hear negative feedback about your work, your business will become stronger because of it.

We know how challenging it can be to make a name for your small business. In fact, Quadrivium- Advisors is a small business. If you’re ready to stand out, we can help you get there.

Keep Your Clients Coming Back

As a small business owner, you’ve probably already realized how important attracting new clients is to maintaining a successful business. However, the value of strengthening your relationship with your existing clients is often overlooked. Losing a client, no matter how big or small, can impact your cash flow, work load, and even your reputation in the industry. Here are some simple tips on how to strengthen your existing client partnerships while encouraging new ones:

Reach Out

Connecting with your clients shouldn’t be limited to making a sale. Even after your initial sale, make sure to invest time in maintaining your client relationship. The sale is just the beginning; clients like to know there is someone on the receiving end. If you’re not leading a client’s project, don’t be afraid to send an email or make a phone call to check-in.

Be Accessible

This is a lot more difficult than it sounds! As entrepreneurs and business owners, there are always emails awaiting a response or a phone call that needs to be made. But, going the extra mile to stay connected to your clients is well worth the effort. As simple as it sounds, returning voicemails and social media comments, let clients know they are valued and important.

Be Prompt

It’s important to communicate with your clients before they even have to ask for an update. No one likes wondering where their project stands or if an existing problem has been solved. Clients appreciate being kept up-to-date!

Admit Mistakes

Mistakes happen, and that’s okay. The way they get handled is what matters the most. Instead of leaving your clients in the dark, admit your mistake and propose your plan to fix it. Clients are more likely to be understanding if a plan has been put in place to clean up the error.

Do Your Homework

When working with clients that come from different industries, it’s a necessity to get acquainted with the appropriate language and industry trends. This helps foster a better understanding of your clients’ needs—and they’ll be sure to notice.

Say Thanks!

It’s easy to get caught up on all the work we do for our clients. But, it’s them who choose to work with us time and time again. It’s nice to say thanks once in a while. In addition to sending cards during Christmastime or New Year’s, try sending a quick card or note of appreciation. It’s these small things that keep our clients coming back to our businesses.

What ideas do you have for maintaining client relationships?

How to Read a Room

Whether you’re in the business industry or tech world, or anything in between, chances are you’ve heard the term, “reading the room.” This coined phrase refers to the idea that when people are together, there are messages, feelings, opinions, that are shared but without using verbal language. These messages can be shared through body language, emotional empathy, or recognizing a subtle change in behavior. Reading a room can be helpful in many situations, because it gives insight to how people are feeling in certain situations—but, doing it correctly can be really difficult. Here are a few ways to improve your room reading at your next meeting or business lunch:

Practice Observance

Next time you’re in a room full of people, try to remember to take a step back and reflect on what’s happening in the moment. Pay close attention to who’s in attendance, where people are sitting, and how they react to what people are saying. A lot of the insight gained through reading a room happens when you pay attention to people’s body language and not just what they are saying. Try noticing eyebrow raises, smirks, and when people cross their arms or shift their body weight.

Check Your Observations

What good is reading a room if you don’t use it to improve people’s experiences? If you notice something obvious, like if some disagrees with a decision that’s been made, or on a lighter note—maybe someone is cold, it’s important to bring your observations to the table and offer them up for a discussion piece. No one likes being called out, so make sure to be gentle in your candor and always use “I statements” when discussing what you’ve noticed. Using phrases like, “Before we continue, I think we should pause and check in.” If you’ve noticed something about one person in particular, it’s always best do your check-in when in a private setting.

Take Control

If things are starting to get tense and people are beginning to feel uncomfortable, you can always lighten things up. Consider suggesting a 5 minute break, or even acknowledge how people are feeling and ask for any specific needs. Using phrases like, “I know this has been a tough conversation, how is everyone feeling,” will give people the encouragement they need to speak up.

Make Notes for Next Time

Try to remember the way people react to each other both in times of stress and celebration. This will give insight to the best way to connect with people during difficult or stressful moments. When reading the room becomes second nature, you’ll find you can learn a lot about people when tuning into their reactions and responses even during a one hour meeting.

When it comes to reading a room, what helps you the best?

Are You Contributing to a Toxic Workplace?

As leaders, or anyone who has ever worked under a supervisor, it’s very likely that you’ve encountered toxic work environments whether you noticed or not. While there are many different factors that contribute to workplace toxicity, the most common factor is poor leadership. Whether you’re a leader who manages a large team, or a team member looking to be successful in the workplace, it’s important to recognize when a team’s culture has turned toxic and what to do about it. If the following behaviors seem familiar, it’s important to assess your workplace culture immediately.

Conflict

It’s not uncommon for conflict to be present within the workplace. Contrary to some beliefs, conflict is actually a very healthy part of workplace relationships, especially amongst teams and coworkers. Conflict, when handled properly, can be a catalyst for creative energy, compromise, and even lead to greater trust between peers. However, when conflict remains unproductive it can cause resentment, dishonesty, and lead to a decline in efficiency and productivity. When leaders handle conflict with transparency and urgency, the outcomes are usually beneficial for all.

Unreasonable Expectations

There are many workplaces that set impossible working standards for their employees. Leaders who don’t recognize the importance of self-care and rest will soon find themselves with employees who aren’t productive and don’t feel proud of their work-related accomplishments. Leaders who show their employees what it means to set boundaries and take care of themselves will help create a workplace environment that cares for the person doing the work.

Unclear Values

When team members have a mutual understanding of workplace values and goals, there will ultimately be better communication amongst the group. When values go unnamed, chaos can and most likely will follow shortly. Unproductive meetings and circling conversations are common symptoms of teams who are unclear about their roles and their objectives. A team that is not cohesive will likely lose stamina and drive.

Failing to Provide Support

Leaders who are unable to give their team members the resources they need to their job will find themselves knee deep in a toxic environment. It is crucial for team members to feel fulfilled in their work, and having the resources to do so is their right as employees. Leaders- make sure to check-in with your team members to ensure they have what they need.

Toxic workplaces are incredibly difficult to mend. The healing process, for many teams, can take years of hard work. What helps your team stay on track and away from toxic behaviors?

Changing the Meaning of Being Productive

As entrepreneurs, finding enough time during the day is a reoccurring struggle for most. However, an article published by the Harvard Business Review suggests that maybe time isn’t the problem, but instead how we manage our own energy. When deadlines come up at work, or new clients get on board, it makes sense to put in longer hours. But, longer hours isn’t exactly equivalent to productive hours. HBR’s study suggests that the way we treat our own energy resources might be at the root of the productivity problem.

The Basics

Basic self-care usually falls by the way side when our careers (and lives) get busy. Eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep sound trite, but they are the foundations of working productively throughout the week. HBR highlights the story of an Ernst & Young executive who, when abiding by standard guidelines of sleep, nutrition, and physical activity, saw immediate results in his productivity as well as the connection with his wife and children. Re-evaluating the way we treat our energy resources seems like a big undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be. Start with the basics and make small changes. Not getting enough sleep? Not exercising enough? Eating the wrong foods? Identify the problem and slowly implement the changes for big results.

 

Quality Energy

As we encounter different situations throughout the day, our bodies are forced to do a lot of work. According to HBR, our bodies are constantly drifting in and out of fight or flight mode. Whether you’ve been asked a question you don’t know the answer to, or having to confront an employee or co-worker, work stress takes its toll on the body. Those types of situations can leave us feeling empty and drained. A quick and effective way to conserve this type of energy is to carve out pockets of time during your day for reflection. Walk on your lunch break, practice deep breathing exercises, or take a few minutes to journal.

 

Focus

It’s pretty amazing how much we get done on the amount of energy we have each day. It’s important for us to prioritize tasks and practice working without distractions. HBR reports that we can use as much as 25% of our energy resources in switching from one task to another, like answering a phone call or email in the middle of a different task or project. Practice setting aside 20 minutes to work without any distractions. This will help you increase your productivity while protecting your energy.

 

It always feels like there’s never enough time in one day! But, these helpful tips can keep your energy resources full and your productivity at a high level. You can read the entire Harvard Business Review article here.

 

 

Quadrivium: noun[kwo-driv-ee-uh m]

from Latin quadrivium, which means 'a place where four points meet"

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