In my role as the owner of a professional writing business, I come across small-business owners and sole traders all the time. In fact, my client base is exclusively made up of this demographic.
These small and micro-businesses span an enormous spectrum of industries. In the last month alone projects going through my Word Salon have included Pest Control, Ductwork Manufacturers, Executive Coaching, Financial Planning, HR Consultancy, Construction company, commercial photography and a luxury Whisky Store.
It struck me today, as I came out of yet another fascinating meeting, that all these professionals, and their businesses, have a few things in common.
- They work their socks off.
There’s no two ways about it. Not one of these clients reports to me in the brief that customers and clients drop in their lap, their workload is manageable, slotting neatly into a 9-5 and that they see a nice steady trickle of new business month in month out.
Er no. They all struggle to balance the day to day workload with focusing on new business. In busy times, working round the clock to deliver; at quiet times, trying to get on top of marketing, networking and building the pipeline. Most of these companies are too small to have marketing departments, HR managers, IT support. These functions will fall to them unless they outsource, adding to an already challenging workload.
The days are for delivery, and the evenings and weekends are for admin, management, new business quotes and proposals. Long hours and sheer hard graft.
- They are absolutely passionate and driven by what they do; motivated, positive and inspiring
One of the reasons why I love my job is the briefing process. Speaking to small-business owners about their businesses is not only intriguing, but inspiring. Quite obviously, no one is going to start up and run a business in something in which they are not interested. So, these clients’ descriptions of what they do are filled with passion and enthusiasm. They are ambitious and driven to make a success of their business for themselves, their families and their staff if they have them.
The fact that they love what they do so much is what sells their business. If they put their heart and soul into catering, coaching or construction; it’s down to us to convey this passion in their marketing, leading customers to seeing the benefits.
- They offer excellent products and services, knowledge and expertise
As they live and breathe their businesses, my clients’ knowledge of their industry, products and market is phenomenal. I come out of some briefs feeling like an expert myself; having been bombarded with a cascade of thorough, detailed, insightful information.
And every single client I see wants to offer the very best possible service or product. To have delighted clients and customers whose expectations are exceeded. To build and maintain a reputation for excellence, quality and service. They take immense pride in their work, take feedback personally and genuinely care what people think. It is this that drives them towards the highest standards that they can possibly attain, always going the extra mile and never cutting corners.
- They are all creative.
By creative, I don’t mean arty. I mean solutions providers. Able to find a way around a problem. Thinking differently and having ideas. After all, small-business owners do not have big teams with whom bat around ideas or ask for suggestions.
Creativity will have been present right from the beginning. From the inception of an idea or invention of a product. In the development of new product lines or services. In the exploration of ways to fulfil customer expectations and generate more income and profit.
- They have taken risks and stepped out of their comfort zone, overcome challenges and carried on.
Many of the SME owners or sole traders in my client base or network have walked away from stable and/or senior roles in established businesses. They may have swapped this stability for adventure; out of passion for doing what they love; a change in circumstances or lifestyle, to seek independence or the opportunity to earn more money.
Whatever the reason; there’s always risk, hard times and investment involved. Some clients have had to entirely retrain and gain new qualifications in pursuit of their dream. Most will have had to learn new skills, adapt to an entirely new working environment, manage with far fewer resources and pick themselves up after a tough time and dust themselves off ready to try again.
It takes determination, patience and above all else, resilience, to do all these things.
Quite possibly, these five qualities are the winning combination for a successful business, although there’s almost certainly more. I am constantly surprised, impressed and in awe of the commitment and successes made by many of my clients. And I’ll give myself a little bit of credit, as a micro-business owner myself, I’m also proud of what I’ve achieved.
But it’s the small businesses that provide the inspiration and passion that enables me to create the great content, so this blog is a tribute to them.