Business Lessons I hope I’ve learntJuly 18th, 2012 | Posted by in social
I’ve been working with and for businesses and business owners for a little while now – in the past year, I’ve worked with a small publishers, a freelance marketor, an ethical organisation and a full-time blogger, as well as striking out on my own. I’ve seen friends start up their own businesses, I’ve watched both of my parents run their own businesses. I thought that I had a lot of knowledge about this, but that primarily came from watching people who ran successful businesses well. More recently, I’ve had the chance to work with, in and for places where I felt there was more mismanagement than business acumen, so I’d like to write out what I feel I’ve learnt from seeing it done badly.
My main tenets for business are Organisation, Clarity, Solvency and Action.
It’s possible to be organised, without actually going through all the lists and categories and doing something about them, and it’s possible to be solvent without being all that organised. It’s possible to be active without being clear, and to be clear without being organised. So they all work together to create a really solid working ethic. This is at least what I have seen from observing the opposite.
I have a list of things which I will try to implement in my business dealings, and encourage in the people I work with.
# Have a clear mission statement and style guide for my business
– Having this means that I know what, exactly, I’m doing in the first place, and what I want to achieve with the business. It also means that I can explain exactly what I do to clients, to colleagues and to potential hires. Anyone who works with me or writes for me is then aware of what they can and cannot say, or do, in relation to my business. I will explain this statement and guide to them clearly and early in the working relationship, if not before.
# Always be on the lookout for the next job/client
– Basically, never become complacent with my workload. As a freelancer, I never know when a client will cancel my services, or for what reason. If I’m not regularly applying for freelance/contract work, networking, advertising my skills and generally making people aware of what I do, then I might find myself suddenly at the short end of the financial stick. This improves my potential solvency.
# Have a concrete contract (or similar) to refer to with each client
– This should clarify several things. What I can do. What they expect me to do. The results we expect to achieve. How much time I spend on their project. Payment. This should be something physical to which we can both refer at any time to check whether we are being disappointed or not. (I currently don’t have this with most people I’m working with/for.) This pretty much improves everything, clarity, organisation, solvency and action.
# Meet deadlines early
– At least a week early. If something urgent comes up on the day of the deadline, or if there’s an important job straightaway after, you’re basically lost if you’ve left it until then. If something does come up, be clear with the client and request a change in the deadline. In general, aim at early deadlines. This requires organisation and action.
# Delegate early and clearly
– If a job comes up which might be a two (or more) heads needed project, get this organised early, and be clear with colleagues about what they are doing, how, and in how much time. Set their deadline prior to my own. It might not always be possible to delegate, or ask for help, early, but do not make last minute asks and delegations the problem of your colleague. This improves action.
# Don’t be cavalier with other people’s time
– Be organised and set a schedule. Be clear about this schedule with everyone involved, and let them know what actions you expect from them. If timings do change, ask if that still works for them.
# Accept my mistakes
– If I mess up, that’s my problem. If the mistake results in me having to ask other people for help, then the onus is still mine and they should not be made to feel responsible, or stressed, about the problem. Passing the shit down just means they’ll stop holding their hand out to you. I should also take responsibility with the client, and come up with fixes.
So, Organisation, Clarity, Solvency and Action.
Maybe this all sounds like incredibly basic, well-duh, stuff, and it should. As far as I’m concerned, these are the basics of running a business, but I did only come to realise them clearly when I saw all of them just not happening. These things are the oil which greases the gears. You don’t really notice them when they’re there – Oh, a contract, of course, sign, send back, carry on – but when they’re not there, you sure do start to see sparks and smoke and hear all sorts of weird grinding noises – Where’d all my clients go? Why isn’t this piece of writing what I asked for? What do you mean you can’t spend an extra hour on this, I need it by tomorrow…