There’s no one thing all entrepreneurs have in common; there’s diversity in the type of mindset it takes to be a leader. However, there are certain qualities and traits that will certainly make the path to success easier for you, and everyone around you. Leading a company is for your customers and about your customers. You must be selfless and completely committed to that idea. This mentality is rare nowadays in large corporations, so showing it in your small business’s dealings with your clients is a fantastic way to get ahead of the big chain stores. With that in mind, let’s look at a few things you can be doing to win and keep a positive reputation, and a few to avoid.
DO Have Noble Intentions
Let’s get a big one out of the way right away- be transparent and noble in everything you do. Don’t try to manipulate your customers or have any sort of hidden agendas. This will always come out eventually, and you may have a crisis on your hands. If something is not in the best interest of everyone, including your customer, don’t push it. The best small business owners don’t have ulterior motives, they're committed to eradicating dishonesty, corruption, and unethical practices from the industry. Be the company your customers come to and feel comfortable with after being jerked around by your competitors, not the other way around.
DO Show Your Customers Respect
You want to be well-respected within your industry, but that respect has to be earned. The best entrepreneurs treat all people with respect, from the poorest to the richest, without any judgements. Franklin D. Roosevelt said “If you treat people right they will treat you right ... ninety percent of the time”, and that’s a great quote to keep in mind while building your customer base.
DO Communicate Tactfully
If you want to show that you have great character, integrity, and maturity, be mindful of the way you communicate. Successful business owners don’t speak just to hear themselves talk, they have expertise to share and know when it’s appropriate to do so. They have good manners and the ability to communicate with consideration and thoughtfulness. By communicating tactfully, you show emotional intelligence, compassion, honesty, and courtesy.
DO Stay Approachable
Your business is taking off- congratulations! Just make sure you don’t turn into a big shot that no one wants to be around anymore. The most successful business owners don't make it a popularity contest nor are they obsessed with their successes making the local news. The best leaders aren't arrogant and don't boast about themselves, they make themselves available to others and do what is needed to be done without accolades.
DO Take Risks
You may keep your doors open, but you’ll never reach your business’s full potential without taking some calculated risks along the way. You can take that to mean applying for another loan from the bank, but this doesn’t have to be only financial risks. It could be standing up against government regulations you think are unfair or refusing to stay silent about an industry-standard practice you know is hurting people. Don’t be afraid to be true to yourself, your customers will respect your character.
DON’T Waste People’s Time
This goes hand-in-hand with not turning into a big shot somewhere along the way. Every time you’re late to an appointment or meeting, it says your time is more important. Showing up 10 minutes late to a staff meeting you scheduled is no big deal, though, right? Wrong! How you treat people when it doesn’t really matter, especially when you’re a leader, says everything about you.
DON’T Ignore People “Beneath” You
Be friendly and approachable with everyone you come into contact with; you never know who a potential customer or evangelist will be. Here’s an easy rule of thumb: whenever you make eye contact with someone, smile and say hi. Just act like people exist and it’ll go further than you think.
DON’T Think Too Highly of Yourself
Here’s another easy rule of thumb: never say “ Do you know who I am?” Most business owners don’t make it that blatant, but many people whip out some form of the I’m Too Important for This card. Maybe the line is too long at the grocery checkout counter or the service isn’t sufficiently “personal” enough at the Apple store. It may be true, but it doesn’t mean your time and satisfaction are more important than everyone else in the same situation. People will always like you better when you don’t act like you know you’re somebody, or that you think it entitles you to different treatment. The last thing your company needs is stories being passed around about what a jerk the owner was at the grocery store last week.
Humblebragging is a form of bragging that tries to cover the brag with the appearance of humility so one can brag without actually sounding like a brag. This can be something like “ I hate how I’ve become so successful, now people are intimidated to talk to me!” or “ My business is doing so well that people are asking me for money, and it’s really stressful.” Instead of trying to figure out a way to brag without coming across rude, don’t brag at all. Just be proud of what you’ve accomplished and let others brag for you. If you’re doing as well as you think you are, they will.
DON’T Take Your Opinion for Fact
You know things about your industry. Important things, secret things, expert-level things! Awesome. Much of what you know about your industry may in fact be your opinions on the best ways to do it, not facts. Only share these opinions in appropriate settings. If you’re a mentor or a guest speaker, share away. If you’re just using it as a way to talk about everything you know in that long grocery line, don’t.
What you do and don’t do matters a lot. As the owner of your small business, you are often the public face of your company. A business owner who respects those around him and stays approachable will always be perceived better than those who act better than everyone else. Keep yourself humble, stay thankful, and don’t forget to take strategic risks to take your business even further.
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