The #1 Secret to a Successful Small Business

When starting a small business, many entrepreneurs focus on creating a great product or an eye-catching business plan. They work to build something their target market can’t possibly resist, and that investors can’t wait to throw money at. While building your product can certainly seem paramount, the real number one secret to small business success lies in who you hire to be a part of your team.

When starting a small business, many entrepreneurs focus on creating a great product or an eye-catching business plan. They work to build something their target market can’t possibly resist, and that investors can’t wait to throw money at.

While solving a specific problem in a specific niche is a key element to establishing a small business, the number one secret to small business success lies in who you hire to be a part of your team.

That’s right – it’s really all about people. Whether you run a service-based business or sell products online, the people you hire to join your small business team are the same people who can make or break your business long-term.

Gigantic companies like Google, Facebook and Apple all say the same thing: hire amazing people and get the heck out of their way. That means investing in top talent who are ready to hit the ground running to make your business a success. This has been a key principle in growing Shoeboxed from an idea to a thriving business, and we’re immensely proud of the awesome team we have.

When hiring a startup team to support your small business, it’s important to keep your current and future needs in mind. Right now, you may need someone to do your books and manage your social media accounts. But what about five years from now?

When you hire based on the projected growth of your company, you’re far more likely to make that growth a reality. Building a team based on where you want to go, as opposed to where you are now, will allow the people you hire to directly participate in your company’s success. Retention rates will remain high because each and every team member will feel personally invested in the company, and personally rewarded as it grows.

Choosing complementary personality types is also key to building a successful small business team. Just as a winning football team can’t be comprised of all quarterbacks, your startup team can’t be made up of all gregarious leaders, or all stoic followers. Look for a mix of different talents and abilities that will be able to solve a variety of problems and think creatively in group settings.

In order to ascertain how a potential candidate functions in a group, be sure to hold a round of group interviews late in the hiring process. Once you’ve determined those candidates that you’re highly interested in, bring them together in a dynamic group setting and observe their interactions as a team. You can even bring in multiple candidates for the same position and swap them out accordingly to see how each interacts with the group.

While having a stellar product or service to sell is certainly important, it’s nowhere near as important as hiring a great startup team. According to Devin Mathews, Managing Partner at Chicago Growth Partners, small business owners are “better off working with a great team and a mediocre product, than a great product and mediocre people.”

What is the most important quality you look for when hiring top talent?

How to Keep Clients Happy

Instead of spending tons of money and resources attracting new client after new client, it’s much more efficient and beneficial to cultivate the relationships that you already have. Take these steps to ensure that you keep your clients– and keep them happy.

Forget finding new clients or increasing conversions – if you want to grow your small business to astronomical heights, you have to learn how to keep clients, and how to keep them happy.

Here at Shoeboxed, we believe that instead of spending tons of money and resources attracting new client after new client, it’s much more efficient and beneficial to cultivate the relationships that you already have. Doing so will dramatically increase your passive income and the stability of your business.

You’ll also find that by taking excellent care of your current clients, the number of referrals you receive will increase exponentially. By taking great care with each customer interaction, you’ll be the first person each client thinks of when offering recommendations to friends and family.

Go the distance

With each interaction or transaction, you have the opportunity to merely meet your clients’ expectations or exceed their expectations. When you engage in the latter, it’s like offering an unexpected gift, and clients won’t soon forget the feeling of delight with which you provided them.

So how do you go the distance?

Let’s say you’re in the plumbing business, and you’ve given your customer a three-hour window for when your service team member will arrive at their home.

Unlike most other companies, who show up at the very tail end of that window, your service team member arrives five minutes early, finishes the job with expert speed and precision, and calls the next day to follow up with the customer and make sure everything is in working order.

None of those efforts cost your company a dime, but they are sure to secure a reputation for excellence. Because you went above and beyond what is considered the norm for your industry, your customer now associates your brand with surprise and delight. You can be sure that the next time one of her friends mentions a plumbing problem, she’ll eagerly share her story and her recommendation.

Remember that people want you to be outstanding, and not simply because they enjoy getting their money’s worth for goods and services. When you succeed at providing excellent service, your clients get to feel savvy and in-the-know. They feel like they’ve made a wise investment and feel smart every time they patronize your business. It is this feeling – even more than your product – that will keep clients coming back time and time again.

keep-clients-happy-1Manage Expectations

Before you can exceed clients expectations, you have to know what those expectations are. Besides having a firm grasp on how things are normally done in your industry, you need to educate your clients as to how you do business.

At the beginning of the relationship, set clear boundaries and offer a firm set of policies and protocols. For example, if you run a service-based business like tutoring or coaching, make sure your policies on cancelled appointments are crystal clear. Help your target market learn what to expect from you, and why you’re different from the competition.

Once customers know what to expect from you under normal circumstances, they’ll be able to appreciate when you go above and beyond. By creating specific expectations, you’ll be able to easily surpass those expectations, improving customer loyalty and trust.

Remember that your goal is to create positive associations for your customer – when they think about you or your business, you want them to have a visceral reaction.

In the above example, you could create this feeling by making a one-time exception to your cancellation policy. Because the customer already knows the rules as they apply to everyone else, this exception will make them feel extra special and indebted to you. They will feel that they are getting service and treatment above and beyond the rest of your clients, which in turn will prevent them from missing future appointments and keep them coming back for more. (Use this tactic with care, however – there is a fine line between exceeding expectations and letting yourself be taken advantage of!)

Take advantage of mistakes

Speaking of taking advantage, be sure to make the most of your mistakes. You don’t keep clients happy by never messing up – you keep clients happy by solving problems in a way that exceeds their expectations.

Mistakes and problems are potential gold mines for your small business! They allow you to show what you’re made of, and give you an opportunity to truly wow your customer.

Think of a restaurant you always patronize. The service is great, the food is great, and you always have a good time when you go there. Now imagine that same restaurant making a rare mistake – not only did they get your order wrong, but the wine was bad, the soup was cold, and for some reason it took forever to get a table even though you had a reservation.

The owner of this restaurant has a few options. She can hope that because your previous experiences were positive, you’ll just let this one slide and keep coming back. She ignores the problem, hoping that will make you ignore the problem as well.

She could also buy you dessert or give you some sort of discount in typical restaurant-apology fashion. While this is certainly better than nothing, it’s also typical of her industry and may very well leave her customers feeling less than dazzled.

Or, she could go above and beyond.

She could begin by acknowledging the problem and directly apologizing for the fiasco. She could then go out of her way to make amends – not only is the customers’ entire meal paid for; they’re given a generous gift card for their next meal, which will also be on the house when they return.

This way, when the experience is related to friends and family, the focus is no longer on the cold soup and bad wine. Instead, the owner’s customers have a wonderful story to share about how the problem was handled.

Shoeboxed Around the World: Our Recent Trip to Romania!

You might know that Shoeboxed has an office in Sydney, Australia, in addition to our HQ here in Durham, North Carolina. But one little-known fact about Shoeboxed is that we have a few team members working from Romania!Shoeboxers Taylor and Anjana in Romania

We’re always trying to find the best fits for our team regardless of where they’re located, and we found a great pool of talent in Bucharest. Every year, our Romanian team makes a trip to Durham, or some of our team from Durham heads to Bucharest for some team building, brainstorming and coworking. This year it was the Americans’ turn to visit Romania, and we wanted to share some cool tidbits from our trip!

Taylor, Shoeboxed founder and CEO, and Anjana, our product manager, spent a week working in Bucharest with the Romanian team, Ionut, Dorel and Silviu. We’ve always been able to see the quality of their work and dedication to Shoeboxed, just never from up close! It was fantastic to be able to work with them face-to-face, as well as bond as a team while sightseeing around Bucharest and the surrounding areas.

The Shoeboxed Team in RomaniaThe Romanian team is a crucial part of our development department and they contribute in an enormously significant way to all the Shoeboxed features you know and love. They’ve helped build our awesome Evernote integration, the Shoestrings API and more, and we can’t wait to tell you about all the new features they’re working on now!

The best part of the trip? Getting to spend time with our co-workers from afar and being just as productive as if we were in the office, just from another country! Make sure to stay tuned since we’ll be announcing some amazing new features — joint efforts from our American and Romanian development teams — very soon!

Stay Organized,

The Shoeboxed Team