Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Boot Camp For Dummies

As we are all "entrepreneurs" now and by that I mean self employed via 1099 agreements with former employers or trying to make it work by having home based businesses, or just working odd jobs "temporarily" we somehow fall into the category of perhaps the most overused word in the current lexicon "Entrepreneur".

The tech industry is busy having boot camps to teach the new nerds how to create some useless app or site that they can in turn sell to a larger more established company that really is doing it as a way of hiring the staff. Yes that is really what all that is. Rather than actually go out and read resumes, interview and screen people its just easier to buy their fake company. Human Resources is less about human and more about resources. Again hiring is a people skill and know many people with said skill?

This new economy is creating a new type of economy the single shingle entrepreneur - the handyman, the computer guru, the car detailer, the cleaner or any other individual that often comes to your home to assist you in the things that you can't fix or simply need help on. This used to be relegated to pretty much the Trades - Construction, Plumbers, Electricians. Those dudes had a monopoly and so hence their attitudes, attire, behavior, etc were often overlooked as they were "necessary" so it was excused.

Not any more. Simply there are too many people with the skills to do many of the types of work needed to assist you in being an Entrepreneur too. When I was in the remodeling business and trying to build that business I was very concerned in the belief "appearances matter." Timeliness, prompt response, personal attire, business materials and simple courtesy was essential for me and my partner/crew when in someone's home to do our business. Its a matter of respect and professionalism.

I do less personal visits now as I do mostly research and when I do meet, greet or network that has not changed. I have T-shirt with my business logo printed across the top. Its identification and advertisement and I often give one to others I do business with, its a much better statement than a business card. As a woman who often deals most often with men I want anyone whom I do business with I want to feel safe and secure. Clear identification with introductions and clear boundaries, rules and expectations for both parties are essential.

I have had of late a myriad of home professionals in my home. And its clear that we need a boot camp for the home business professional. Understanding that when you walk up to a home clearly identifying yourself is the first impression and essential. The next is appearance. Clean and properly attired with all the appropriate tools needed. Then asking the home owner where these things can be placed and any other issues that need to be addressed prior to entering the home is the key. Booties people booties. If you need to have your shoes on bring some. A firm handshake, a pleasant greeting and inquiry are also essential.

I always ask anyone in my home if they would like a cup of coffee/tea/beverage. I think that is polite. And its perfectly okay to accept by the way. You are in my home if you don't want that or have something of your own to eat/drink ask permission first.

Write down, list or note everything that needs to be done. In Construction I lived off a punch list and daily task list. This is the same for whatever work. If there are pass codes or keys needed get them and mark them so you know what is what and for where.

Review the list and what needs to be done. I frequently estimate the times and usually I am right but I also know that depending on who actually arrives in my home I could be wrong so its a good opportunity at that point if you think your estimation vs the homeowner is incorrect - politely adjust it and offer to prioritize that list so to ensure what is essential gets done versus not if that is an issue.

Keep conversation to a minimum. Not personal and not political. As it appears few know the art of small talk - learn some. Ask about a book you see on their bookshelf or some other observation that is generalized. "I see you have a tennis racket do you play?" Its nice to show that you are observant.

And finally when it comes down to it offer options or choices that enables the homeowner to decide if this avenue is worth choosing. Saving both your time and their money. I had a computer guru in here to diagnose my Mac for problems. I used to physically take it to the Mac Store (no not Apple but a competitor) but due to my injuries I cannot. So this young man came into my home and frankly I ended up standing at the front door the entire time he was here watching him. Did I think he was up to something? No. He was frankly so annoying that I employed an old technique that I do in these situations; I find when you stand over someone watching them work they have a tendency to realize they need to move it along. He did what I needed barely, I had other things but it was clearly mutual and he had another appointment. I was relieved.

Follow up. Did this young man call to find out if his efforts worked? No. You should. You should always if not call drop a card or email, whatever works to ensure that the customer is satisfied. No one likes a callback as they are usually gratis but if you initiate it you do fewer of them.

Being a solo-preneneur is not easy. There are no boot camps nor schools that teach you the ins, the outs, the challenges on what that means. Yes you can learn to market, network, do the bookkeeping but the customer skills is what I see as the biggest challenge in making a business work. Be it a mobile or a shop its more than the stuff or skills you have in order to make it work.

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