What is the secret to sustaining entrepreneurial success?
As a mentor and business developer, I am often asked what the most important thing is in determining business success. Of course, there are many possible answers, depending on the size and nature of the business in question, it’s position in the business life cycle (start-up, emerging, established) and many other factors. Stock answers include things like focus, passion, determination, vision…and all of these are extremely important to the success of any venture. But there is something that, to my mind, is even more likely to result in success if implemented properly and consistently right across your organisation – and that is making it easy to do business with you.
Sounds obvious, right? And yet you would be amazed at how many capable, intelligent and even visionary entrepreneurs do not manage to get this part of the equation consistently correct. Some of us are too focused on the big picture to spot shortcomings at an operational level, others are blinded by hype or ego or quick wins, while some just fail to see the value in this most elementary of business rules – make it easy and enjoyable for people to do business with you, and they will – it is really that simple.
Making it easy
So what do I mean when I say you need to make it easy for people to do business with you? Well, let’s start with a few practical questions, and you should then start to see where I am heading with this:
- Do you have a simple, up-to-date and informative online presence, including website, Facebook page where relevant, LinkedIn profile etc?
- Do you have up-to-date price lists and other sales tools that contain all the information (and images, where relevant) that a potential buyer would need to make a buying decision?
- Are your goods and services self-explanatory, and if not, does your marketing material make it very clear what you do and how you do it?
- Are all your necessary legislative and regulatory documents up to date and available as needed – including tax clearance certificates, BEE status, company registration documents, any special permits or licenses required for your industry etc.
- Is your quoting and invoicing procedure easy to understand, transparent and efficient?
- Do your phones get answered quickly and professionally?
- Do you return messages timeously?
Starting to get my drift? While none of the above is groundbreaking or especially exciting from an entrepreneurial perspective, it separates the sustainable businesses with a long-standing, loyal customer base from the fly-by-nights. People vote with their feet (and their money) – if you make it difficult for them, or even worse make them feel stupid, you can kiss them goodbye as a customer.
My advice, in closing, is to do an audit of how easy it is to do business with your company. Ask a friend or two to run through your processes as a client would, and provide honest feedback on what areas need polishing up. Where are the roadblocks and bottlenecks? What processes, especially customer-facing ones, need streamlining and reworking? In other words, how can you make it easier for your customers to do business with you?
If you get this one simple areas right consistently, the only worries you will face are what to do with all the profit you are making…
Anton Ressel is a Senior Consultant at Fetola and has over 15 years experience as an entrepreneur, trainer, business developer and mentor in the emerging business sector. A published writer for Sawubona, Business Day, fin24, Entrepreneur Magazine and many others, Anton is a Director of the Fetola Foundation as well as co-founder of Streetwires, one of South Africa’s largest and most successful social enterprises. Follow @AntonRes on Twitter.