As a new business owner, you are the company. Your reputation, your manners, your physical appearance all contribute to the impression you give potential customers.
“Customers buy your image just as much as they buy your products and services,” says Gene Fairbrother, the lead micro-business consultant for NASE’s Business 101 program. “If you can’t present a quality image, you need to go back to the drawing board before you open your doors.”
Image goes across your entire business, from your business cards, website and marketing materials to the way you answer your phone and the cleanliness of your office.
Use these tips to make sure you put your best foot forward.
Buy the best you can afford
You don’t need to go into debt when purchasing image products and services for your new business. But you do need to aim for the best quality you can afford.
“Don’t make the mistake of cheapening the image you present to customers,” Fairbrother says.
That might mean having business cards professionally printed rather than running them off of your inkjet printer. Or it might mean paying a graphic artist to create a business logo instead of drawing one yourself.
The same goes for services. You may be a talented writer who can churn out material for your company’s website. But perhaps it would be smart to hire out the design of your website.
Mind your P’s & Q’s
Etiquette is simply the set of social rules that help people get along. Whether in person, on the phone or online, practicing proper etiquette will improve your image.
Be punctual. It conveys respect. Return phone calls on time. Answer emails promptly. Arrive on time for business meetings or lunches. And most of all, deliver products and services when they’re promised.
Say please and thank you, just like your mom taught you.
At business lunches or dinners, be polite to the wait staff. Treating the staff with disrespect might prompt potential clients to wonder if you’ll treat them the same way.
Give people your attention. It’s the respectful thing to do. That means turn off your cell phone when you’re in a meeting or having a business meal. It means not texting while having a conversation with a client or colleague.
If in doubt, remember this: When it comes to business etiquette, courtesy and politeness are the bottom line.
Unsure about your social skills? Take a seminar or workshop to brush up on etiquette. You’ll gain confidence as you learn how to professionally handle introductions, table manners, small talk and other pleasantries.
Check the appearance of everything that comes in contact with a customer or potential client:
- Your vehicle
- Your house (if you have a home office)
- Your storefront
Everything should be clean, organized, welcoming and ready for business. After all, that’s how you want customers to see your new company, right?
Home-based business owners accustomed to an informal atmosphere need to be especially vigilant. Just because you work at home in your favorite faded jeans doesn’t mean they’re appropriate attire for the next Chamber of Commerce meeting. You can dress casually yet professionally—and command respect for doing so.
The NASE can help
Get more tips on polishing your image with these NASE articles: To print, click here to download the full Startup Kit.