So you want to start a business. (2)
Letter writing (and adverts) are important. You need to ask yourself (a) what is your overall objective? With adverts and sales letters, there is an obective for each paragraph and that is to make sure the reader then goes on to read the next paragraph. Elementary but very few people consider this. If you are writing to get an appointment, for example, your overall objective is not to sell your product. Write with this in mind and you may fail. Your sole objective is to get an appointment. You will have a better chance of succeeding if you bear this strongly in mind.
When writing a business letter of any time, and advertisements of course, is that your last paragraph must tell the reader what action you expect of him. It is even better when writing to make an appointment if you take into account that the reader may not take action.
I have, in the past, successfully used the following ending, but please write it using your own words…
“I’ll contact you again in a few days so that we may make an appointment to discuss this in more detail, or perhaps you would like to pass this letter to your secretary so that she may make the appointment on your hehalf?”
I suggest he asks his secretary to make an appointment but also I am letting him know that, like Arnie, I will be back.
Also, with letters and literature, never forget the age old principle, your writings must be a joy to look at and read. Use plenty of “white paper” i.e. don’t bunch your message too tightly. Isn’t it better to use more space, or more paper, than have most people give up and move on?
Finally, your letterheads and business cards.
Bearing in mind that these reflect yourself to the company. They should be well designed and well printed. But remember, the criteria should be, not what you want, but what does your client expect to see.
Let me give an example – alright it might be to the extreme but it helps make my point.
One the one hand you have a top flight barrister, on the other a self employed ‘man with van’ van driver. The barrister has a cheap litho’d businesscard on the cheapest thinnest card – would you be confident about having him represent you in court?
You go to your van driver for a quote and he gives you a beautifully embossed businesscard on excellent ivory card. Would you think he was too expensive and hasten to make your excuses to depart?
Now give the barrister the embossed cards and the van driver the litho cards, and they will both do good business as that is what their clients expect to see.
First of all, E-Mail.
When you dictate a letter and your secretary types it out, you read it before signing don’t you?
It is surprising how many people write an e-mail and never bother to check it before sending it out into the ether! Check your e-mail carefully! If you have to send an attached doscument, save it as an RTF (rich text file) as there is less chance of your sending a virus with this method and nearly all word processors can read such files.
If research plays an important part of your business, consider broadband (ADSL) I am a journalist and being constantly on line is invaluable. Nowadays you can get it from £15 a month and this includes all phone charges and ISP charges.
Either way, get your own domain name if you are going to use the net. Check out http://www.123-reg.co.uk – owned by a major ISP and one of the cheapest prices in town.
Unless your business is truly international don’t get a .com address but a co.uk is ideal; or a ltd.uk if you have a limited name. It is a good idea to get your domain name before you finally chose your company name. “Finch Publications” found “finch.co.uk” had been taken so, before they had got any printing done they found that the old English version of Finch, “Fynche” was available so snapped it up. So now the company called themselves “Fynche Publications” and everything was fine.
There are two schools of thought as to whether, once you have decided on your web domain, you should snap up the name with all the endings, com, org, co.uk, org,uk, ltd.uk etc etc.
I do not subecribe to this if you are going to use co.uk as this is the natural ending people will consider in the UK and is the best in my opinion for this reason alone. Also registering more names will just cost more of your precious capital. Mind you, if I were talking about a huge Corporate I might suggest differently.
Pay on time
Your clients might take a long time to pay you, but pay your bills on time if at all possible. This is a powerful incentive for your suppliers to put you first, even though your orders are smaller than anyone elses. Remember, they also have a cash flow problem.
Remember, they, in turn, have slow paying suppliers, and are often strapped for cash.
Regular payers, no matter how small, are very important to them. Put it another way, they have 200 of an item, their largest customer desparately needs 250, and you only need 20. You can bet your bottom dollar that you will get your 20 in full and the large customer will have to make do with 180! You don’t believe me? Turn the tables around, what would you do if you had a quick payer and a slow payer? Who would you value most with your cashflow was low?
Don’t be afraid to chase for money, I was never afraid and never lost a client because I was tough on payment. I would give 8% for payment within 10 days and 1.5% for payment within 30 days. I did it this way because many slow payers often took the discount anyway! This way if they took two months to pay, then they would take the 1.5% rather than the 8%! Naturally I priced my products accordingly. Mind you, with ,y chasing that never happened.
On the very next day, after the thirty days were up, I would telephone – not send a reminder – for settlement. I would use a lot of humour with my credit control and would never get angry no matter how many broken promises were given. Initially I’d telephone every two days, but soon I would ring every day. But always in a friendly way.
Clients would have been told that quick payers always got a faster service at the expense of slow payers. So if someone complained who was overdue I would explain this but would always say that I would look into it and see if I could hurry things up for them. Your best weapon in credit control is to have their purchasing department on your side and do the chasing up with their accounts department for you.
You need to write down your goals and review them every month, updating them as you go along.
There are many ways of setting goals but I will just cover the simplest.
Write down what you want at the end of the first year of business, the second year and the fifth year. This is enough for the first twelve months. After this you may want to set longer goals.
Each month, update these three goal periods, based on the information your have gathered in during the previous month – also taking into account the information developing in your bsuiness plan, marketing plan, cash flow forecasting and what you have gleaned about the market you are entering.
It doesn’t matter what you write down for the first time as, over a ten to twelve month period, as you update these goals, they will begin to take on a more realistic shape.
Print them out and put them on your dressing table mirror so you read them every morning.
Everything you have to do should be written down in a daily todo list. a third of the way up the page draw a horizontal line. Place all the todos that fit in with the goals you have set above the line, and the ones which don’t feature in your goals below the line. Do all the chores above the line before you tackly those below the line.
At the end of each working day have a short meeting with yourself! Look at your todos, have you done all that is important? Transfer those not done to the next day, and look at those that need doing the next day. At this meating with yourself, go through your diary for the next day and check all the work in your in-basket to see what is still to be done.
You need a meeting with yourself on Sunday evenings as well, where you can set out the next week in detail, bringing in those undone chores from the previous week and plan through your fixed key a+reas of interest.
Ten Key areas
This is an idea I got from Time Manager. You divide your life into nine key areas, with no overlap between each area. For example, a general one could be:
1 Sales & Marketing
3 Curent Projects
5 Finance & Legal
6 Networking for business
7 Colleagues and friends
8 Self Improvement
9 Close friends and family
Once a week, go through the key areas, making notes on what needs to be done in each area and when. On your Sunday meeting with yourself, transfer all the things that need to be done during the coming week into your diary and Todo list. Item 9 may save your marriage!
The objective here is that you ensure that all areas of your life and business are covered and that nothing gets left out.
All this is to try and make it easy for you to organise yourself – a daunting task if you just say to yourself, I must get organised. Many readers will not be executives trained in organisation and, if any of you are reading this, forgive me if you have heard this true story from America.
I have forgotten names and places as this happened so long ago, but in America a management consultant was trying to tell the chief executive officer of this large corporation what he must do to expand the business. “We know what we must do” said the executive “but we just don’t know how to get the time to do it all”.
The consulatant said, if I can help here, what would it be worth to you – and was immediately told he could name his price within reason.
The executive was told – get a blank sheet of paper, take your time, and list the six most important things you have to do tomorrow. After the CEO had done this the consultant told him to then number these in the order of their importance.
The CEO was then told to come in tomorrow morning and start working on item one. When this was done, to do item two and so on, and try to finish the list.
At this, the consultant stood up, put on his coat and said, do this evcery working day for the next three months, and then send me a cheque for what you think it has been worth.
Three months later the consultant received a cheque for $25,000 – and this happened many, many decades ago!