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  • Writer's pictureSteve Carrigan

Never lose sight of the Fundamentals

by Steve Carrigan - MU Business Advisor

During the early stages of starting a small craft business, the skills you need to learn can be divided into two groups.

The first is what I would call the ‘the hard skills. Not ‘hard as in difficult (although to many these skills might seem difficult at first), but hard as in areas such as turnover, profit, loss, cashflow, marketing and so on. All essential of course.

The second is what we call ‘the soft skills’, equally important and ones that might seem obvious to most of us but is surprising how many of these either get ignored or put to one side. However, they are in fact the skills that many of us adopt in our everyday lives as part of building successful relationships with the people we value and whose friendship we want to grow and protect.

In business, this is no different. Think of ‘customers’ as potential ‘friendships’. There is a saying that customers want to deal with people they like, whose attitudes, values and behaviours are ones that resonate in a positive way across everything they do. I call these the ‘fundamentals’ of business.

So here are my 6 suggestions for the soft skills or actions that I believe are fundamental to running a successful business.

Be proactive and responsive

Always deal with customers quickly and efficiently and in a professional manner. People today feel more cash-strapped and time -poor than ever before and they want to deal with businesses that understand this. This is an essential component of excellent customer service.

Own the actions across your business

The ‘customer is always right’ is a famous slogan which exhorts companies to deliver a high priority to customer satisfaction. This doesn’t necessarily make it true. Of course, customers can be wrong. However, taking ownership of an issue in a sympathetic, friendly but fair way will reap dividends for you and your business. And remember in today’s world, customers are armed with social media and can use it as a tool against you.

Listen to what people are telling you

Upon starting a business, it is natural to have an unwavering belief in the product you are selling and the success you are going to achieve as a result. However, businesses should be prepared to take customer feedback seriously, even if its negative. Don’t assume that you know best. Be ready to adapt or change according to circumstances and don’t take this as a sign of weakness. It isn’t.

Be on time.

This might seem obvious, but it is amazing how many people think this is relatively unimportant. Every action, whether its arriving for an appointment or paying a supplier, should be punctual and meet expectations. People hate having to chase late payments, for example. Its time-consuming and reflects badly. Being ‘on time’ is not only professional but courteous. It’s about respect.

Be prepared to deal with disappointment.

Not everything in your business will go smoothly. As in life, there will be setbacks, even failures. But its how we deal with these that matter. Playing the victim rarely works. There is a saying that when you get thrown, you should ‘get back on the horse’, meaning that one must immediately confront what happened and try again. Resilience and determination will take you a long way.

Stay healthy.

Look after your mental and physical well-being. It is widely recognized that you are more likely to be successful if you feel good about yourself and are taking all the necessary actions to build and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Build an activity plan that suits your domestic and work schedule and stick to it, even if it’s just small incremental steps. Not so much a skill, more of an imperative.

  • Eliminate bad contacts. ...

  • Be proactive and responsive

  • Make it easy to contact your company. ...

  • Own the actions across the company. ...

  • Listen to what people are telling you. Don’t ignore advice, even if its negative…

  • Be on time. It’s not only professional but also courteous…

  • Remember people like doing business with people they like…

  • Pay suppliers promptly. People hate having to chase payments. Its time consuming and reflects badly…

  • Create great customer service experiences. Positive, friendly service will reward you…

Steve has been our mentor and business advisor since the beginnings. If you have any question or if you like to have a chat about your business, please let us know.

Until next time,


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