The key to business success is just doing it

Sunset on the beach
Free your mind and your body

If you want to run a successful business, or are thinking of quitting your job for a new life of independence, then start training for a marathon now. Or a Channel Swim, or a triathalon, or a 5k fun run or anything which pushes you physically and challenges you to aim for a long-term goal.

There is an intimate link between body and mind. When you step out of your physical comfort zone and start pushing through the pain barrier you realise that you can accomplish plenty of stuff you thought was impossible. Committing to a medium or long term fitness goal also gives you a massive sense of purpose and achievement which carries over into other aspects of your life.

In a teleclass I held last night about how to launch a new business in a recession, many of the questions I was asked in advance centred on issues of safety and security. People wanted to know how to find the courage, and the finances, to step out of their comfort zone and leave their job.

You only have to look at characters like Richard Branson, who regularly challenges himself with wildly ambitious projects, to see the correlation between those who are successful at business and those who never stay in their comfort zone for long.  You don’t have to attempt a round-the-world balloon race to reap the benefits, though.

Some of the world’s most successful traders, (people who have made millions from buying and selling shares on the stockmarket), advocate regular exercise as a mental and physical discipline,  an antidote to stress and a source of creativity.

 

Who knows, this discipline might also give you the courage and inspiration to change your life in other ways, too.

The secrets of running a successful home business

 

People who have “proper” jobs have a funny concept of what it is like to work from home, possibly because when they do have a day out of the office, not much “work” actually gets done….

 

If you are moving from an office-based job to a home office, here are five tips on how to make it work,

1. Have a proper office space

Don’t try to work at the kitchen table, in the living room, sprawled across the bed. None of that feels like a genuine place to work, and as a result you won’t feel like you are doing a proper job, which you are.

2. Open a work bank account

It doesn’t have to be a business account at first, as high street banks tend to charge extra for processing cheques, transactions and other fees just for businesses. An ordinary current account into which you pay your earnings and which is separate from your household accounts is free and a good idea. It helps you keep track of your money and allows you to demonstrate genuine business costs and expenses, which you will need to be able to do if the Inland Revenue comes calling…..

3. Keep records

The better your records, the fewer hours you will spend filling out your self-assessment form. When your business grows and/or you set up a company, you’ll need to do two sets of accounts – your personal accounts and one for your company.

4. Spend money wisely

You don’t need lots of expensive office equipment or a sophisticated accounting software package until your business is growing rapidly, but you do need very good anti-virus software on your computer or laptop.

What’s your price? Are you a commodity or a premium product?

Discretionary spending is down, people are dipping into their savings to maintain their lifestyle and the Age of Bling is behind us. In such a climate, only the brave would consider putting up their prices – or would they?

Pricing is one of the trickest issues for any business, but particularly challenging for a new or start-up business that is looking to establish market share and build a critical mass of customers to cover running costs. The key to deciding where to pitch your fees or price for your product depends on what you are offering to your customers. Here are the essential questions you need to ask yourself before setting a price:

1. Am I offering a commodity or a premium product? If you are simply looking to shift high volumes of basic goods where there is very little differentiation between your product and that of your competitor, then you are selling a commodity product and you will need to compete at the lowest price you can. Contrast this with a premium product like the Apple iPod. There are plenty of other great MP3 players on the market which play music as well as the Apple, but they are not selling the lifestyle image of cool and cutting-edge design.

2. Is my product unique? You can go a long way to making your product stand out from your competitors by looking again at your USP (unique selling point). What are the design, quality, service or unique customer experience that you offer that is not available from your competitors? What makes you special? Being able to identify and articulate this to your customers enables you to charge a higher price because you are delivering quantifiable value.

3. What is your brand? Are you going for top-end quality (bespoke furniture or clothing), mid-range quality, or budget fun? Can you offer a range of products to suit the demands of customers, rather than “one size fits all”? Can you offer a package that offers outstanding value while still making you a profit?

4. What is the ethos of your business? Look at a company like Smile, (the Co-op Bank) or First Direct. These are examples of businesses with a clear vision of how they wish to do business and treat customers. Smile takes an ethical stance while First Direct has invested heavily to ensure that it offers high quality customer service and responsive call centres. When you identify what inspires you and where the passion lies in your business, you can communicate this to customers in your interactions with them and your marketing literature.

5. How do you resolve problems? This is often the test of a well-structured operation and excellent staff training. Companies like Marks & Spencer, Lakeland, and John Lewis have all done exceptionally well in communicating that a positive customer experience is vital for repeat business. Given that clients and customers are now able to vent their frustrations much more publicly via social networking sites, it pays to have clear policies in place to deal with complaints. A customer who feels they have been treated well in the face of a difficulty is likely to become an advocate of your brand and your business.

In my next blog I’ll be looking at how to use social networking to market your brand and build customer relations.

Until then, best wishes, Marianne