Business

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WHAT I’VE LEARNED FROM RUNNING A BUSINESS – PART TWO

I previously wrote a blog on what I’ve learned from running a business but due to the fact that I continuously learn and things continue to change and grow, I thought I would write a part two.

If you would like to read the previous post, you can find it here.

VALUE YOUR EMPLOYEES

Your employees are the lifeblood of your business. When they feel valued and appreciated, they will give more than what you ask. It’s important to remember that people who work for you, also have lives, families, other responsibilities and its important to take these things into consideration when making decisions.

LEARN NEW SKILLS

It’s always important to learn new skills when you are a business owner and especially when you are just starting out. Skills that are important to learn are marketing, communication, human resources and financial management. There are a ton of books available on these exact topics.

DEAL WITH YOUR CLIENTS’ GRIEVANCES AS SOON AS POSSIBLE AND AS GRACEFUL AS POSSIBLE

Your clients are just as important as your employees. Your clients or customers will not always be happy with you and there will be times when grievances are brought to the fore. It’s important to take note of all the issues your clients / customers are unhappy with and deal with them as soon as they come up. Letting issues fester will only cause it to get worse.

YOU NEED TO PUT IN THE HOURS

Yes, you get tired. It’s easy to veg out in front of the television and tell yourself you’ll do that thing tomorrow or later but when later comes, something else will take priority. When you’re building a business, especially in the beginning stages, its vitally important to put in the time and work on and for your business, even when you are exhausted. I have a day job as a news producer and when I get home, I am a mom and a wife but once the kids are down, then for a couple of hours, I need to be a business owner and work on building my company alongside my husband. We do have our days when we procrastinate but we always regret it. It’s better to put in the hours today so that you can see the results tomorrow.

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STOP TALKING ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT TO DO AND START DOING IT

As business owners, we all have things we want to do for our business to make it better, to grow and to make more money or gain more clients. It’s easy to speak about these things but much harder to put it into practice. It’s important to try new things and to attempt new strategies. Even if it fails, at least you know that you tried.

TAKE RISKS

We all know the saying, “No risk, no reward” I’ve found that to be very true since starting this entrepreneurship journey. You will never know what’s on the other side of this journey if you don’t take a few risks. It doesn’t just have to be financial risks but it can be putting your trust in someone and hoping against all hope that they won’t cost you your business.

SEARCH OUT OPPORTUNITIES TO SHOWCASE YOUR BUSINESS

For us as a music school it can be competitions, showcases, events and networking opportunities. It’s important to put your business out there so that people can be made aware that you exist. It also helps you to make connections and network with other people in your industry and we all know that your network equals your net worth.

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DON’T BE AFRAID TO FAIL BUT DON’T PLAN TO FAIL

As I said before, you will fail and you will make mistakes and it’s important not to be ignorant of that fact. Don’t plan to fail but be prepared in any event. Failure is simply part of the journey.

INVEST IN YOUR BUSINESS

Invest time and money into your business. This is especially if you’re building something that you want to last for a lifetime.

KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR COMPETITORS AND WHAT THEY ARE DOING AND THEN DO IT BETTER

I’m not saying stalk your competitors but visit their websites and check out what they are doing. What do they have that you don’t . What are they doing that you aren’t and see if its something you can implement or even do better.

INVEST IN YOUR EMPLOYEES

This is an important one. Your employees are your capital. Invest in them, train them and encourage them. Let them know they matter and give them room to grow. Make them a part of the business and involve them in the growth of the business.

LEARN TO LOVE THE ADMIN

This is especially important in the beginning stages of your company when you are still very hands on in the business. Eventually you will be able to hire people to do the admin but until that happens, learn to love the admin side of the business. It’s hard and tiring but it helps you to see where your business is going and how its growing.

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FORGIVE YOURSELF FOR YOUR MISTAKES

This is a hard one, especially for someone like me. I can be very hard on myself and I hate making mistakes in the business because I know I work with clients, I work with people’s children and their money and time and it’s important for me to do it right but I am flawed, just like everyone else and making mistakes will always be a part of the process. Once you see the lesson in the mistake, forgiveness will come.

STAY CALM WHEN DEALING WITH AN ANGRY OR UPSET CLIENT

Again, like I said in the previous point, I work with people, their children and their time and money and clients, especially parents don’t want to waste their time and money on something that will not be worth the investment. Sometimes you will upset your client and it won’t always be your fault but be gracious about it. Be understanding and always remain calm. Exploding on a customer or client will never help the situation.

POLISH UP ON YOUR COMMUNICATION SKILLS

Communication is key in everything. Again, this is important when you are hands on in your business and you deal with clients, customers and investors directly. It’s important to know how to speak to people, how to articulate yourself and how to relay messages. This is one of the reasons my husband and I decided to put me in charge of dealing with our students and parents because between the two of us, my communication skills are better. It also helps that I work in a communication orientated industry like Journalism. Communication skills are also important when you are trying to sell your product to a potential client or customer.

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READ MORE ABOUT YOUR INDUSTRY

I can’t emphasize this enough. Knowing what is happening in your particular industry and staying up to date with events and announcements will always be important and will help for conversational topics when you’re networking. It’s important to stay up to date with the latest news in your industry so that your business doesn’t fall behind and out of touch.

As we continue on this journey of running and owning a business, a music school to be more specific, I’m certain that we will continue to learn and grow. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll write a book.

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WHAT I’VE LEARNED FROM RUNNING A BUSINESS

STARTING A BUSINESS

Last year my husband and I registered our company Fray Music Academy. In April it will be a year that we celebrate the establishment of this school that has become our baby. It hasn’t been easy but it has been fulfilling.

I’ve always admired entrepreneurs and business owners but until I became one, I never knew what went into a successful business. Fray Music Academy has done well in this first year and I do believe we’ve been successful but we’ve definitely hit some bumps in the road and I imagine we will have many more going forward.

Running a business is not easy. You have to be on the ball and you have to be proactive. Especially if you are building something that you want to continuously improve on and something that you want to last. A legacy.

I co-own the school with my husband but, I am also the manager. I handle schedules, book new students, handle inquiries and our social media. I have found myself running and managing the school when I am on the bus or the train to my day job as a news producer. I think about FMA all the time when I’m making dinner, writing, or getting the kids ready for bed. 

I dream of growth and I envision where we will be in the next 5-10 years. I constantly think about ways I believe we can improve, I always have ideas playing around in my head and I always try to find ways to keep our clients happy. I love it, even though at times I get frustrated, its always fulfilling when something we planned, comes to pass.

That’s how I know this business matters to me.

WORKING WITH FAMILY

My husband reminded me the other day that when we have a disagreement on something regarding FMA, we are not husband and wife. We are business partners. When we are discussing the school, we need to learn to keep our emotions out of it.

We don’t always agree on everything but its always important to listen to understand when the other person is raising a point. It’s not about who is right. It’s about what is ultimately good for the business.

My husband with one of our students.

Running and / or owning a business with a spouse or family member is never easy and you shouldn’t do it if you know that you cannot keep your feelings and bias out of it.

Here are some more things I’ve learned since we started Fray Music Academy. Just remember, I am not an expert, I merely write and share from personal experience.

YOU WILL MAKE MISTAKES

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Running a successful business takes time and every day is a learning curve.

YOU WILL LOSE CLIENTS AND YOU WILL LOSE MONEY

Don’t get discouraged. There will be financial highs and then there will be financial lows. Again, its all about understanding what works and what doesn’t.

YOU NEED TO SPEND MONEY TO MAKE MONEY

You have to invest in your business. For us investing in our business means buying instruments and learning material for our students so that we can provide a good service.

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THINGS TEND TO CHANGE IN A GROWING BUSINESS

Every day is different for us. Schedules change on a weekly basis and that’s okay. We just learn to adapt as we go.

YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL ALSO NEED TO CONSTANTLY LEARN AND ADAPT

This goes hand in hand with the previous point. Don’t panic when things change. Grow with the change.

YOUR CLIENTS ARE YOUR CAPITAL

Without your clients, there is no business. Always remember that.

COMMUNICATION AND TRANSPARENCY ARE KEY TO A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS

Always be open with your clients. They will appreciate your honesty and transparency and will most likely stick with you till the bitter end.

MARKETING IS YOUR BEST FRIEND

No one will know about your business if you don’t market. Learn what works for your business and implement it.

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ALWAYS FIND INNOVATIVE WAYS TO MAKE YOUR BUSINESS RUN MORE EFFICIENTLY

As your business grows, the way you do business must also grow.

GET RID OF PAPER AND GO DIGITAL

This was a painful point for me to write because I love my pen and paper but doing things digitally is more efficient and you don’t want your clients to waste time filling in paper.

DON’T DELAY WHEN IT COMES TO MAKING DECISIONS ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS

When you delay making decisions about your business, you delay its success.

LEARN FROM OTHERS AND LEARN TO TAKE ADVICE

There are many other business owners who have been where you are. Learn from them.

LOVE WHAT YOU ARE DOING

If you don’t love what you do, you won’t put in any effort in what you’re doing and it will filter through every part of your organisation.

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THE BUSINESS OF MARKETING AND ADVERTISING

Advertising and marketing have been around for ages. What has changed throughout the ages is the methodology that is used to advertise and in its evolution, it tends to follow where the masses are.
Before anyone could afford a car, most advertising was based in the market area where business activities are taking place. Then there came an era where most people are on the road and billboards came to place.

No one would have imagined back then that one day an American could advertise a business to an African while miles away and there could be transactions taking place without having to meet face-to-face or verbally speak to each other.
Marketing requires a budget and it is unfortunate that most entrepreneurs spend less than 1% in marketing and 99% on products and act surprised when their products are not sold. You need to make a special announcement about your product before even selling and that will require a substantial budget. Through marketing, your products can move faster and marketing should be intentional.

Only a shrewd entrepreneur will look at innovative and creative ways that will help bring sales to the business. 

EFFECTIVE WAYS TO SELL

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  • Don’t get stuck on one way

Suppose when you started your business, you were distributing pamphlets on the street corner and you would print “Bring this pamphlet for 30% discount” what happens when the street gets closed by the municipality? Would you continue to wait there hoping that people will still drive by? No. As an entrepreneur, you need to look at different advertising means. If one way of advertising brings you 20% of the sales, then two ways will bring you 40%. 

Use platforms such as online advertising and billboards if you can afford them.

  • Don’t be complacent

Many entrepreneurs get to a comfort zone; they have no passion to double sales but are happy with what they get to pay the bills. They get stuck in the same strategy of advertising, getting similar results always without thinking of taking the business to another level. Step up and read new trends that will advance your business.

  • Don’t focus on getting new clients only

Your advertising should not be one-sided where you promote or advertise only when you have to introduce new products. 

You need to bring balance by also promoting existing products.  

Remember: We advertise not to sell products always but to also make those who already own the products proud. They smile when they see the product and they spontaneously tell others that they own the advertised product. In your advertising, aimed at attracting new clients and also build customer confidence by advertising what old clients already have.

  • Don’t just rely on your website when advertising

Today there is a heavily congested road and that road is the internet, which is a platform you need to look at when advertising your business. Many business owners end up getting a website designed and think they have the market at the palm of their hands.  

You can design a website and have 3 visitors a month on that website. You need to advertise your websites online via sites that have a high volume of traffic. When you advertise you just have to mention one product and direct them to your website for details on the product. Your website alone is not enough to create the sales you expect.

STRATEGY FOR SOCIAL MEDIA

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This question has become more prevalent in a business circle than the business card question. You need to optimize your social media presence by promoting your business and service also. You are the number one ambassador of your business and do not expect someone to talk about your business better than you can as the business owner.   

I hope that this will help you make sales easier by advertising your business on all platforms and avenues available.

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Derrick Ndzavi is an Entrepreneurologist, a founder of Mentors Without Borders. Ndzavi is also a Certified Business Advisor with the Institute of Business Advisors SA which is SAQA regulated. 

You can find him on Twitter and LinkedIN