by: Isabel Graf, Ph.D., Co-founder, Insights2Talent, LLC
- Attitude. Being positive builds business. Positivity attracts others to you; people will want to be around you. Negativity pushes others away. Think of that one friend who always complains – you probably look for ways to spend less time with that person. So make sure you are not the “negative friend.” If you don’t know how to begin the change, read books and watch videos on positive attitudes, or ask your colleagues what you can do to improve.
- Listen. Listen to your clients and potential clients. Too often, business owners make the mistake of doing all the talking. Yes, you are the expert – but if you do all the talking, how do you know what the client really wants or needs? Ask questions and then listen (really listen) so you can identify what you can do to help. You will win and retain more – and happier – clients.
- Ask. Ask for advice or help. You cannot know everything, and it is dangerous to think you can do it all yourself. Find a small group of people you trust – people you can bounce ideas off of and learn from. Share your challenges with them and find out how they handled similar problems.
- Understand Finance. You don’t need an accounting degree, but you do need to know how to read an income statement and a balance sheet. It is important that you understand how you earn revenue and whether you are charging enough to cover all your expenses – fixed and variable. Remember that“Cash is king;” you must understand the concept of cash flow. There may be times when you show a profit but not have the cash to pay your bills or meet your payroll.
- Walk Away. Actually, run away – far away – from unethical people. If you associate with unethical people, your clients and potential clients will think the same of you. It is your reputation – guard it well.
- Be Honest. If you are asked about something that it is not your area of expertise, tell the person honestly that you don’t know, AND recommend someone who might be able to help them. This builds trust with the client and develops a network of people you can rely upon and who will refer business back to you. If you are concerned that a person you might recommend will steal your client, refer back to Rule # 5.
- Keep Your Commitments. Be careful not to over-commit. It is difficult to turn away business when you’re worried about making money and growing your company. So business owners tend to commit to everything and then worry about how we will deliver. Quality and deadlines suffer, if the work gets done at all, or we spend all our waking hours (and some of the hours we should be sleeping) stressed-out while trying to get everything done. This leads us to rule # 8.
- Make Time for Yourself. It’s easy to fall into the trap of working all hours of the day and night and the weekends as well. You feel productive, but you begin to hate your business. Your dream of entrepreneurship becomes just another “job,” and you start to wonder what you can do next to make a living. Set limits for yourself. Start by not over-committing and being honest about work you cannot do. Find time for your family, friends, hobbies, or simply doing nothing for a while. Women who are driven to own their own businesses often do not have outside interests – we are too busy managing our companies. Stop work at a reasonable hour every day. Take a day off as often as you can. (Radical thought: take a vacation!) Time away rejuvenates us and we function so much better after the break.
Follow these eight rules for a more successful and healthier professional and personal life.
Isabel Graf, Ph.D. is co-founder of Insights2Talent, a human resources firm specializing in leadership development, executive coaching, assessments and other talent management services. With more than 20 years of experience in the human resources field, Isabel has worked with several Fortune 500 companies as well as small to medium-sized companies, as an internal and external consultant. Isabel has a Ph.D. in Human Resource Management and an MBA in Accounting.