While entrepreneurs are certain to face challenges from clients, one of the keys to being successful in business is the ability to face problems fearlessly. The three most common problems in business are managing deadlines, managing expectations, and dealing with a changing marketplace. Below, I’ll share with you some of the most common obstacles facing small business owners and some tried-and-true secrets and solutions.
Problem 1: The Late Project
Business is more or less about multitasking. Especially as an entrepreneur, us businessmen (and women) inevitably juggle a lot of things at once — whether it’s juggling advertising work with filling client orders or juggling the many obligations we have in our lives as a whole. With this in mind, one part of business planning is crucial: Having a “game plan” for when something comes up.
For example, let’s say you have a translation job. You also know that you have a meeting with a PR representative, a few advertising-related errands, and a family event that same week. Or let’s say you don’t know about all of them, but you can easily estimate some setbacks — even if it looks like an easy project. If you have a translation job, and you need three days to complete it, tell the client it will take you five days.
Another example: Have you ever noticed how an airplane always manages to leave late–and arrive early? Very simple. It’s just a matter of playing with the math. If they tell you that are going to leave at 8 o’clock, and arrive at 4 in the morning, and really, if you left at 8 and landed at 3, by simply playing with the numbers on the slip of paper that come with the ticket, you are happy that you got in 15 minutes early instead of annoyed that you came in an hour late.
The Solution: Overestimate how much time it will take you to complete a project. Give that date to the client from the beginning.
Problem 2: Attaining Perfection
While your client may be asking for perfection: it’s all about setting expectations.
Have you ever been to the passport office? When you go, there is always some reason they can’t give you what you want. You are missing this paper, that paper, postage stamps — whatever inconveniences you the most. I went to get a new VISA and they told me I was missing some form. I came and waited an hour and a half, and then they told me I missed my turn. The passport office makes it virtually impossible to meet their expectations.
One of these visits I observed something brilliant from a very enterprising man. This man had everything with him — everything but his marriage certificate. After they went through his papers, they said,
“You have everything but your marriage certificate, so you’ll have to come back.”
He asked, “Let me get this straight. Is that the only thing I am missing?”
They said yes, that was it.
He said, “Good!” and pulled it out of his pocket — and told them that they had no more excuses and that they would have to give him what he asked for.
Your clients, whether you like it or not, are similar to the very enterprising man. So don’t give them any excuses! Especially if you’re providing a service and not a product, make sure the client knows that your service is not only 99% done, a “draft.” Label your document or your invoice that way, even if it is already done!
The Solution: Always present your final product as 99% finished; this way, the client feels in control and you may not have to achieve perfection.
Problem 3: Dealing with a Changing Market
Businesses change, people change. People used to sell ice blocks before refrigerators were so popular, but when refrigerators became affordable enough for families to have in their homes, suddenly the ice merchants entire business was down the drain. It wasn’t their fault. They didn’t do anything wrong, like give bad service. But slowly, fewer and fewer people needed to buy ice every day.
If you were selling ice, there were a couple of things that you could do to salvage your business. If you sold ice at the corner, but you also had set people to whom you delivered ice every day, every week, then you had a customer list. You can now sell them refrigerators.
Make a deal with a refrigerator salesman so that you’ll get a commission from every person who is on your list. You know something he doesn’t know. What do you know? You know which people in this building don’t have a refrigerator yet.
The Solution: Adapt to the market and always have a backup plan! Client lists are a great way to ensure that you have someone to call when business is lacking.
Have you faced problems like these before?
Rabbi Issamar Ginzberg is often called “the marketer for marketers”, a strategy and marketing advisor, ideas generator and action planner, experienced mentor and friend consulting to independent professionals and businesses large and small worldwide. For more info visit: www.issamar.com or reach him on Twitter at @RabbiIssamar . Find secrets like these and more at his blog: www.issamar.com/strategy