Running a business can often feel like going into battle.
Armed with a sturdy website and a polished logo, you let out a valiant cry as you charge forth into the horde of competitors.
And many business gurus would have us believe that the only way to triumph is to crush the competition, spy on their tactics, and build a dominating skyscraper on the ruins of their dusty fibro enterprises.
But battling your way to business success can be a lonely and exhausting approach.
I think there’s a better way.
Experience has taught me you can build a thriving, enjoyable business that your customers love and recommend simply by being a better business human.
By embracing competitors, giving back, treating others as you’d want to be treated and taking a less aggressive approach, you can achieve enviable results.
Here are my tips on how to be an all-round better business human, and how to avoid the muddy trenches of competitor conflict.
1. Embrace your competitors
When I started out as a copywriter about eight years ago the market was crowded, with oodles of successful copywriters selling their wordy wares.
It was enough to make a newbie like me shudder with terror. But instead of treating them like enemies, I decided to make those other copywriters my buddies.
I set up a community on Google+ and emailed about 30 other copywriters inviting them to join. In the end about 25 turned up and the community grew into a thriving hub of copywriting love. Five years later we still support each other and share tips, advice and jobs.
Of course some competitors were suspicious, and chose not to join our merry band. But they were in the minority.
The truth is that often the only people who truly understand your business are your competitors. So if you can take the view that there’s enough work to go around, embracing other businesses in your niche could be a real lifesaver.
Find out who else is operating in your local area or industry, and then pull them to your warm business bosom and hug them tightly. You won’t regret it.
2. Stop selling
Everywhere I look these days there are slick entrepreneur types pushing the ‘hustle’ approach to business. Apparently we should all be ready to sell at the drop of a hat, always looking for the next opportunity, and always trying to turn that casual conversation into the next big sale.
For me, this approach is just too damn stressful. It’s like heading out on a first date and trying to shove your tongue down your date’s throat before you’ve even ordered a starter.
So, instead of shoving business cards into reluctant hands at networking dos, and promoting your latest offer in every Facebook group you’ve joined, try to play the long game.
Offer genuine help and useful advice to others—without expecting a sale.
- Resist the urge to clog up people’s inboxes with sales emails, and send them resources and tutorials instead.
- Remember how it felt when you started out, and take the time to help a business newbie find their feet.
Over time, both you and your business will fill up a bucket of good vibes, and that vibe bucket will have people remembering you and coming back to you. Yes it’s more of a ‘woo, woo’ than a ‘hustle, hustle’ approach, but it pays off in the long term.
3. Create a business you can be proud of
It’s said that you can judge a person by how they treat those who can do nothing for them. So it’s interesting to think about how you treat so-called ‘time wasters’.
Each week I get countless emails, phone calls and messages from people:
- Wanting free SEO advice
- Looking for ideas on how to become a copywriter
- Interested in finding a copywriter knowing full well they can’t afford my rates
I could ignore them. After all, none of these people are going to help improve my bottom line. But instead I take a little time each day to help.
- I try to answer each email and every call—briefly, but politely
- I refer them to other copywriters and SEO types who can help
- I set up free Facebook groups, Q&A sessions and webinars to answer questions
Yes, all of this take time away from time devoted to earning money. But I enjoy helping, and I want to treat others the way I’d want to be treated.
Of course, some people will take advantage of your generosity. So it’s important to set boundaries and limitations. There’s a big difference helping a few folk out and being a slave to random tyre kickers.
4. Be a better customer
As part of running our businesses we often become customers. And every supplier we use has an opinion of us – that they will probably share with everyone they know.
Which begs the question: Are you a good customer?
- Do you provide clear briefs and communicate politely?
- Do you pay invoices on time? Or do you leave the supplier hanging until the last minute?
- Do you thank them for their services, and write them glowing testimonials?
- Do you recommend them to other businesses?
Treating other business as you’d want to be treated is an important part of the soloist infrastructure. Here in Australia, there are usually only one or two degrees of separation between you and every other soloist business owner. So how you treat others can really make or break your business.
I believe a solid reputation is built not just by being a good service provider, but also by being a good customer.
There are plenty of people out there who enjoy the push and shove of aggressive business tactics. But I prefer a more laid back approach. It has made me a happier business human, and helped me win my personal business battle.
And I’m sure it can do the same for you.
Over to you
Do you have any other ideas on how to be a better business human by building relationships and boosting your reputation? If so, share them below.