The importance of business reputation

The reputation of a business is essential to its survival, but how do you create a positive reputation?

While intangible, having a good reputation can benefit a business in a multitude of ways including consumer preference, support for an organisation in times of crisis or controversy, and business value.

If an organisation has an excellent reputation; consumers have a preference for that company, it can enable a company to differentiate in highly competitive markets, allows for premium pricing, and can become the ultimate factor in whether a customer decides to choose one brand over another.

In my experience, there are ten components to reputation measurement:

  • Ethics: behave ethically, be admirable, worthy of respect, and trustworthy
  • Employees/workplace: have talented employees and treat your people well and have an appealing environment.
  • Financial performance: be financially stable and profitable with growth prospects
  • Leadership: be a leader and innovative
  • Management: the business has a high-quality management team with a clear vision
  • Social responsibility: recognise your social responsibilities and support good causes
  • Customer focus: cares about and be strongly committed to customers
  • Quality: offer high-quality products/services
  • Reliability: stand behind products/services, and provides consistent service
  • Emotional appeal: make consumers feel good

Knowing this, entrepreneurs looking to build reputation can do so in many ways:

  • Establish trust: keep your word no matter what
  • Be responsive: return calls and emails promptly
  • Resolve mistakes: never make excuses or place blame on the client if an issue is the fault of the company
  • Offer value: provide free services to loyal customers and pay attention to details and their preferences
  • Become tech savvy: proficiency in technology is critical to being perceived as a competent and capable business
  • Communicate efficiently and transparently: any correspondence should be direct and to the point. Check spelling/grammar and provide contact information
  • Maintain a professional website: having a clean, up-to-date website is essential for any business
  • Community service: generosity to local non-profit organisations can go a long way toward building and establishing a reputation

Before social media, businesses relied on word-of-mouth and campaigns by public relations and marketing professionals. But today, maintaining reputation through social media takes time and requires careful management. As an entrepreneur, you can establish a reputation by:

Assigning responsibility: as a leader, you must brief and trust someone to become the ‘voice’ of the organisation on social media.

Be responsive: the lack of a well-crafted, well-meaning response could cost you. Social media has given customers multiple options to voice their opinions. Taking ownership of your social media sites gives you the control you need to manage conversations and respond to feedback.

Establish your online reputation: when a potential customer searches online for your brand, your business should be on the first page. Creating a strong online presence is essential for an organisation to establish its brand and maintain its reputation.

Monitor conversations: use monitoring tools to find out what feedback your company is receiving; this is also a time-saver for the person in charge of social media content.

The reputation of a business depends on many factors, but being transparent, trustworthy and responsive are essential to the survival of any company. While an intangible asset, maintaining a positive reputation is fundamental to profitability, relevance, and existence of your business. Bad word-of-mouth, lack of response to a crisis, and lack of transparency can rapidly decimate the reputation of a company, so it is essential that entrepreneurs be steadfast in maintaining goodwill to their stakeholders.

Time management skills for entrepreneurs

We all have the same 24 hours a day to accomplish our goals, aspirations, and dreams. So how do we best utilise the time given to us with the millions of things we have going on each day?

Firstly, you can’t manage time; you can only manage yourself. As long as you focus on managing time – searching for systems, lists, and tools – you are ignoring the real issue: how to manage yourself.

Every time you repeat “Too much to do” and “Not enough time”, you are letting yourself off the hook for managing yourself. You are blaming circumstances beyond your control and playing the victim. Stop it! Of course, there is too much to do! Of course, there is not enough time! Get used to it!

Which leads me to priorities, you cannot have too many priorities. By definition priorities are the top few tasks that deserve attention next. If you have too many, you have none. So know your top few priorities because if you have two to three priorities, you will complete two to three tasks. If you have four to 10, you will complete one or two. If you have more than 10, you won’t finish any. The more items on your list, the more time you spend focusing on the list and feeling overwhelmed.

So here are my five ways to deal with too much to do:

  • Accomplish more – this is simply wishful thinking unless you actually find a new, faster method that makes a measurable difference. You won’t save significant time trying to be faster and more disciplined
  • Postpone – some things can wait. Push them out
  • Cut corners – cutting corners sounds bad, but it isn’t. Not everything has to be awesome or perfect. Before starting any task, always ask the question, “How well?” Those last tweaks are usually discernible to no one but yourself
  • Ignore – some tasks just don’t need to be done
  • Delegate/outsource – too many people are doing things that should never be on their plates in the first place. If you don’t know how to delegate effectively and confidently, you need to learn. If you are a control freak or simply unwilling to let go, stop it!

When you fail to manage yourself, establish top priorities, and make conscious decisions about what to do and what not to do, the stress is unbelievable and the results aren’t pretty:

  • Your inbox and meeting schedule starts to control your day
  • Important tasks are trumped by easy tasks that you can dispense with quickly in exchange for the feeling of progress
  • “Fun” tasks, those for which you always have time and energy, somehow get finished
  • Short-term initiatives beat out long-term efforts.

And every week you copy and sort those to-do lists hoping they will magically become feasible.

It’s time to bite the bullet, narrow your top priorities list to two to three items at any one time, schedule time on your calendar to tackle those items and devote the rest of your energy to focusing and getting them done. Quit wasting so much time and energy listing, managing, and prioritising the things that deserve to fall through the cracks.

The role of a mentor

Ask any successful business person, and they will all admit to having benefited from the advice of a mentor at some point. Many people have achieved great things because someone else believed in them and help them along the way.

Any entrepreneur can benefit from having mentor. The knowledge, advice, and resources a mentor shares depend on the format and goals of the mentoring relationship.

A mentor may share with a mentee information about their own career path, as well as provide guidance, motivation, emotional support, and role modelling. A mentor may help with exploring careers, setting goals, developing contacts, and identifying resources. And as time goes on, the mentor’s role may change with the needs of the mentee.

Some mentoring relationships are part of structured programs with specific expectations and guidelines: others are more informal. But formal or informal, the concept of mentoring is simple, but successful implementation can be challenging. The key characteristics of an effective mentoring relationship in my mind, include the ability and willingness to:

  • value the mentee as a person
  • develop mutual trust and respect
  • maintain confidentiality
  • listen both to what is being said and how it is being said
  • help the mentee solve his or her own problem, rather than give direction
  • focus on the mentee’s development and resist the urge to produce a clone

The first step in finding a good mentor is coming to terms with the knowledge that you can benefit from having one. Understandably there’s a lot of ego, nervous energy and pride involved, but speaking from experience going it alone is admirable but foolhardy and highly flawed approach to taking on the world.

Steve Jobs’ had former Intel manager Mike Markkula. At Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin brought in Eric Schmidt (formerly of Sun Microsystems and Novell) who was appointed CEO when they realised the company’s explosive growth was exceeding their ability to manage it.

So, no matter how incredibly brilliant you think you are, every start-up needs at least one good mentor. Someone, somewhere, has already been through what you’re about to embark on.

Considerations for starting a business

You may well have the characteristics to be an entrepreneur, but there are three large, practical hurdles to overcome:

Do you have the requisite skills to do the primary work of the business?
I’ve known many people who have charged headlong into a venture without having thought this through clearly. It’s unusual for a startup to succeed if an owner lacks the ability to do the primary work of the business, so if you can’t do it all. Find a partner who can.

Have a plan for performing the ancillary functions
If you are going to start a company, you had better want to run a business. That means you’ll have more to do than just the primary work of the enterprise. You will have to do admin works such as accounts receivable and payable, payroll. You’ll probably need some sort of IT infrastructure. The list goes on…

Getting ancillary functions right is critical for your business to survive. Yes, some functions can be outsourced, but you’ll need a plan to do each of them.

Growth means you will have to let go
You might be going into because you are passionate about doing the primary work of your startup. And you need that passion. But if your business is successful, it will grow and one day you will face a choice: delegate doing the primary, stop growing or hire someone to run the company while you continue doing the work.

Before you launch your new venture, know which path you’ll take and be prepared to handle success.

Starting a new business is exciting. But as with anything planning can help you avoid disaster. Make sure you have thought through the three critical issues above.

Mistakes to avoid as an entrepreneur

Being an entrepreneur is a place of risk and reward, and the benefits are well documented. But, there are a number of pitfalls to avoid so you can keep the level of freedom that having your own business affords you:

Chasing the wrong success
If you are not careful, you can start to believe that certain material items make you “successful” and happy. You cannot buy your way to success or happiness.

Avoid this trap by thinking about and writing down what success means to you. Be conscious about what you are aiming for, and take consistent steps to reach it.

Poor communication
It’s easy to feel confident and assume that you are communicating properly with employees, contractors and mentors. But very few of us do communicate correctly.

Think about what you intend to say, and the impact you intend to have when communicating.  Use facts and leaving out any emotion linked to them. Get to your team and know how they like to be communicated to. They may need more detail than you usually provide or less. But knowing holds a lot of power for effective communication.

The customer is always right
A common misconception that can leave you worn out and exhausted. If you were to run your business as if every customer is ‘right’ can confuse your marketing messages and almost train your customers how to treat you and your staff. Instead, take on the mindset that the customer is always honoured. Customers should be treated with honour and respect.

Chasing money not freedom 
It’s easy to think that money and freedom are synonymous, but chasing money can lead to an unlived life. Money should be a byproduct, not the focus.

If you focus on short-term monetary gains, and you will never have true freedom. Rather, focus on the strength and growth of your business, and you will have money. You will also experience freedom and finances through growth and the right training.

Your background: the reasons to share your hardships

Your background, what you’ve gone through, your hardships, your triumphs and your family make you, you. So if you have gone through tough times, don’t be afraid to share them. Life isn’t made up of a stream of achievements, big wins and success.

We bury our struggles as deep as possible, and place our failures under the rug. But that’s not being real. So share your stories of struggle, there are so many reasons to.

Shine a light for others
Your hindsight can be another’s foresight. Sharing your moments of struggle can help other entrepreneurs and make them realise that they not alone. You can be that light at the end of the tunnel.

Be courageous
It’s uncomfortable admitting failure and moments of weakness. Yet allowing yourself to be vulnerable is surprisingly gratifying. Pull on your courage, and open up about your life and your business. And be honest, talk about the good and the bad. You’ll be amazed at the positive reaction you get.

People will back you
We all love a good comeback story. So share the ways in which you’ve faced adversity and bounced back. Not only will you inspire and help others, but you will be surprised by how many people will back you and your success. Think of fairytales, and how Jack fought the giant: if no one knows your struggles they’ll never know what you’ve overcome to achieve the success that you enjoy.

Reminds you of the lessons you’ve learnt
Another great reason for sharing your story is that it helps you to analyse your past. What went wrong, what went right, did you handle a situation the best way possible? What have you learnt?

Understanding what happened and how you handled situations can provide clarity about how to do things better. And share these ‘aha’ moments with others who can learn from you too.

It keeps you humble
When you realise where you’ve come from you can gain greater perspective on how hard you’ve worked to achieve what you have today.

Feeling grateful for the moment you’re in is a rare gift and a great way to keep everything in perspective. You’re always going to want more, but be in the moment and be grateful for the experiences that have led you to this point. Just the right amount of humility is important for your future success.

Characteristics of an entrepreneur

Being your own boss is an exciting prospect. However, owning a business isn’t for sissies. To be a successful entrepreneur, you must have or need to develop certain personality traits. Here are some characteristics an entrepreneur should ideally possess to start and run their own business.

Entrepreneurs are enthusiastic, optimistic and goal-oriented. They believe they’ll be successful and are willing to take risks, and have huge levels or energy. And often impatient (just warning you!). Are you self-motivated and can remain so? And do you have ‘bounce-back-ability’?

As an entrepreneur, you are in the driver’s seat, so you must be proactive in your approaches to everything. Are you a doer — someone willing to take the reins — or would you rather someone else do things for you?

Creativity and persuasiveness
Successful entrepreneurs have the ability to recognise and pursue opportunities, and this entails being a little creative. Entrepreneurs possess strong sales skills and are persuasive and persistent. You need the energy to promote your business tirelessly and look for new ways to get the word out.

Employees of an organisation usually rely on team members to provide support. As an entrepreneur, you’ll typically start out alone.

You may not have the luxury of hiring straight away, so you’ll wear several hats. Ask: am I mentally prepared to take on all of these tasks from the onset?

Business acumen
Successful entrepreneurs rely on their business skills, know-how and contacts. Evaluate your current talents, skills, network, and experience – are they readily transferable to the business you want to pursue?

One of your responsibilities as founder and leader of your company is deciding where your business will go. For that you need vision, without a vision, you will lose direction and become lost.

Flexibility and open-mindedness
While entrepreneurs need a strong vision and direction, there are many unknowns. Go with the flow, tweak plans and strategies as needed. Always, be open-minded and flexible even as an established entrepreneur.

As an entrepreneur, you won’t have time to procrastinate and hold up progress. Be decisive and seize the moment.