Let’s face it, there are a lot of shoddy and unreliable businesses out there. I can’t think of a single person I know who hasn’t had a bad experience, from bad building contractors to being overcharged by retailers. Unfortunately these rogue traders have led to a general distrust of small businesses making it harder for entrepreneurs to compete against more established firms.
This is why it is of utmost importance that you, as a small business owner, build a good, solid reputation. A good business reputation will help you attract clients and keep repeat clients, while a bad reputation will send your customers running for the hills.
Forming your business reputation
There is an exercise that we do in life coaching which helps to establish what type of person you want to be and that is to ask what you would like on your epitaph. This works well for businesses too, think about your business epitaph. What would you like your business to be remembered for?
Base your business on your values
One of the first things you do when you start a business is to identify your business mission statement. That is stating what the values and objectives of the business. Many will come up with very honourable values like trustworthiness, reliability, honesty etc. however making a statement and putting into practice, especially if you have staff, are two very different things.
When deciding on what reputation you want to build, think about the values most important to you as a person. These should form the foundation for all your business activities from dealing with suppliers through to dealing with your customers. Remember that your reputation comes from your business living your values.
Make sure that you embed your values into your business culture. You need to make sure that all your staff understand and sign up to your values. Your processes should support your values and staff need to be trained on these processes so that they can put them into practice on a daily basis.
Building your business reputation
A good reputation doesn’t happen over night. It takes time for your suppliers and customers to get to know you. Be consistent in your approach and maintain a high standard in every interaction. Every time you interact with your suppliers and customers make sure you present your company the way you want them to see it.
Strengthen your relationships
Your relationships are what make or break your business. If you treat customers and suppliers badly then they will stop dealing with you. Think about it like a romantic relationship, if you don’t call your partner, if you ignore their calls or are disrespectful towards them, they will probably break-up with you. Well, it is the same for business relationships.
Nurture your relationships, if you say you will get back to them within 24 hours then do so. If they make a complaint about something, then fix it. If you really want to build strong relationships then go the extra mile, make your customers feel special and valued.
When customers, and suppliers, feel valued they will stick with you and they will only ever have good things to say about you and your business. The fastest way to build a good reputation is by being consistently good to your customers and suppliers.
A business that doesn’t have a good reputation will struggle to grow. If your business has had bad luck in the past you can turn it around. You can start by identifying the values most important to you and then train your staff properly. Make sure you consistently deliver good service and value to your customers. Always remember what you stand for, and make sure that your values shine through in all your interactions.