When I was interviewing a business colleague who designs and makes websites, he reminded me of something I know very well but it was good to hear it come out of the mouth of another small business owner. He said that now he had been in business for six years he gets plenty of word-of-mouth referrals, enough to make a truly significant contribution to his business. He may even have said “of course”. Certainly that was his implication – that it was natural and normal and a fact of his business life now. And all he has to do to earn those referrals is do good work and show up every day and keep on doing it.
I say ALL he has to do, because this is so far removed from the story when one is a start-up. All anyone wants to know then is how long it will take to get enough clients to survive on, how to keep that flow coming and how long it will take to get a return on their marketing investment in time and money. I usually say “three years” and wait for a sharp intake of breath. Newbies know they haven’t got enough start-up capital to wait that long. Or enough patience. But I believe we can all find enough of both if we are serious about building a business of our own.
So it was good to be reminded that the secret of success in business is to show up. Day In. Day Out. Do what you know how to do and do it the best you can. Do a small handful of things really well and get even better at them, especially the service you provide to your clients. This is a strategy I call The Plod.
This contrasts starkly with The Hype which we see everywhere else. We are EXCITED. We say that everything’s either AMAZING or a NIGHTMARE or BIZARRE. We exaggerate so wildly that words lose their meaning. What we call a nightmare isn’t. It’s a small problem we are blowing out of all proportion to make ourselves and our little lives sound interesting. What marketers call exciting and amazing isn’t, it’s another yawn-making attempt to pique my jaded interest in what they’re trying to flog me today. Where’s our truth? Where’s our authenticity? Why are we over-reacting to everything? It’s a bad habit. I do it too.
There’s no need to exaggerate anything to achieve results. Yes, we are impatient to get “there” but there’s really still no substitute for The Plod, pounding the virtual pavements telling people we’re here initially and then reminding them we’re still here and doing what we do, giving smiling service three years, four years, five and six years later.
What happens then is that the sum of all the good work you have put in during your first years in business will come home to roost and it shows up as a fabulous return on all that hard work and an ROI on your marketing time and budget. So much so, you quickly start to take it for granted (don’t!) and you definitely forget the pain of the earlier years when you hardly dared hope all this would come your way.
And it’s true. Unless you are flogging a dead horse which no-one wants, then if you keeping putting one foot in front of the other you will eventually be OK. The other advantage my interviewee has on his side is that he hasn’t changed his mind in those first few vital years about what his small business does. He set out as a website designer and he’s become a WordPress Expert. His expertise comes from six years of making websites for people, learning about clients, learning from his mistakes but always being passionate about giving us all a good result.
He’s still there. He’s endured.
And there you have it. Judith’s Official Secret of Overnight Business Success. Show up. Do your work. Keep on doing it, day in, day out, with the best of intentions. And you will get there, you will amaze yourself and you will assimilate this until it just is a fact of your life too. It will seem ordinary though it is anything but.
Plod -v- Hype? Choose Plod every time; there’s no substitute for hard work. Inch by inch it gathers momentum and while you’re in waiting, you’re learning to be better at what you do. You learn to manage on less while building your business. You learn to price yourself right so you don’t have to continue to manage on less. You learn which potential clients are not a good fit and how to pay them forward elegantly to a colleague who will treasure them.
Keep your eyes on the prize, put in the work and you can’t fail. Eventually the marketing wave crashes on the shore and it’ll become easier. You’ll wonder where all this abundance came from “suddenly” and “out of the blue”. There’s no need to throw loads of money at it either. Its sweat, and it’s just this simple:
- Be good at what you do.