December 14, 2016
Out of the blue, I received an e-mail from the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce one day notifying me that we were nominated for a 2016 Business Excellence award.
Once I got past my shock and disbelief that they must have the wrong Susan… it began to sink in that someone out there thought we were worthy enough of this nomination. Wow, what an honour!
Part of the nomination process consisted of a 30-minute interview in front of a three-judge panel. Imagine being forced to actually brag about yourself for a half an hour! Talk about squirming in my seat.
Fast forward to last week where the awards ceremony took place. Much to my relief, our category was up first so I could relax the rest of the evening.
To be honest, I wasn’t all that anxious — I knew the odds of winning was only 1 in 7 so I waited patiently for the winner’s name to be announced, not at all expecting it to be us.
But it was. We were declared the winner.
Shock and disbelief once again came over me as I took a moment to grasp what just happened. Walking to the stage was quite the blur but I managed to do it without tripping up the stairs to get our award.
In the aftermath of winning this wonderful recognition, I reflected some more about that judge’s interview and how they deemed us the winner from the other worthy nominees in our category.
With that in mind, I wanted to share some of the attributes I feel helped us win this prestigious award. Without further ado, here’s what it took for me to create an award-winning business:
1. Be Passionate About What You Do
We are not the first business I’ve created; there’s been plenty others ranging from creating craft pieces to faux finish painting. But no matter what I did, I was very passionate about it.
Don’t waste your time trying to run a business just to make money. You’re going to tire of it very quickly and it will be harder to make sales.
But when you’re passionate about what you do, others will immediately see that and will be drawn to you like a magnet.
2. Love Working With the People You Serve and Offer Exceptional Customer Service
One of the truest joys I receive is the knowing how much we are able to help a new business owner get their online presence up and running. Being a part of their joy at seeing their dream materialize into something tangible gives me just as much joy.
If you avoid answering the phone or responding to e-mails because you dread having to talk to a client, then you need to adjust your marketing so you attract the right people to work with.
If you don’t love who you’re working with, then it’s hard to establish a successful business that needs to cater to your clients by making customer service a No. 1 priority. And that means answering the phone, responding to e-mails in a prompt manner, and treating every person as if they were your only client. And when you’re attracting your perfect ideal client, then this should be easy to do.
Make your business about them, not you. Just remember, if you had no clients, then you’d have no business.
3. Know Your Stuff
Before even thinking about starting a Web development/digital marketing business, I ensured I got the education I needed first. I attended the Vancouver Film School in their Multi-Media program and then later earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a concentration in computer information systems (with an A+ GPA).
I’ve also taken countless online courses over the years to ensure my skills are kept up-to-date with this ever changing industry.
Sadly, I see a lot of entrepreneurs wanting to start a business with not a lot of skills or experience under their belt and then they wonder why they’re struggling.
Reading a book or taking one online course is probably not enough to reach award-winning status. But if you’re passionate about building a successful business, you’ll find a way to ensure you become as qualified as needed.
4. Be Committed
Is working 15-hour days, six to seven days a week committed enough? Yep, that’s what Daniel and I do every week. We have to in order to fulfill points No. 2 and No. 3 above.
It takes a lot of time and effort to ensure your clients are taken care of properly. You also need a “do whatever it takes” level of commitment.
You might not need to work such long hours as us and trust me, we’re continually working toward lessening that kind of volume but until then, we are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure our business is successful. Are you?
5. Be Consistent
Consistency shows up in many forms when running a successful business. For me, it’s being consistent with my message, my brand, my social media presence, my newsletters, my team management, and the level of quality we bring to our clients.
Do I miss sometimes? Absolutely. But being consistent in these areas are very important to me, and I do what needs to be done in order to show up the best I can for my team and our clients.
Without consistency, it’s hard to create brand ambassadors (such as the ones who nominate you for an award), loyal team members, and a steady flow of clients.
Whatever you have decided to commit to, be consistent at it and you’ll be amazed at how things start to flow your way.
6. Surround Yourself With a Dedicated and Knowledgeable Team
I started off as a one-woman show. Because of my educational background, I was able to do the design, build and marketing of a website quite easily. I’m what you would call a “generalist,” someone who knows a lot of about a lot of things and is a specialist in a few areas.
But my one-woman show was not going to create a successful business. Especially in this technologically-driven industry. It quickly became apparent my skill-set was only going to get me so far.
So my first hire was someone who could offset my biggest weakness. Warren was a student at UFV and applied for my part-time programmer position. He was a perfect complement to our company and the moment he came on board, I was relieved of having to do all the site builds myself. I could then take that time and focus on building the business instead.
It’s tough to try to do everything yourself when it comes to running a business. Sure, there are expenses involved in hiring but if you hire smart, keep an eye on your bottom line, and know when to let go of those that aren’t serving you best, your business will escalate far quicker than if you try to struggle with everything yourself.
7. Have Honesty, Authenticity and Gratitude be a Part of Your Daily Life
It’s sad I even need to list this as an attribute but I’ve been in business long enough to know not everyone adheres to these principles.
To me, this is a no-brainer — I’m not certain I could live any other way.
But judging from the stories I hear from new clients about how they were treated by their previous Web developer, it sounds like many people need to be reminded of this.
No business will thrive without honesty and integrity. And a little secret: gratitude will not only make your business thrive, but your whole life too. Give it a try and see what I mean.
Every business, including ours, has its ups and downs. The key to success is to not let those “downs” overcome your enthusiasm. Pick yourself back up, learn from whatever lesson there was to be learned, and keep moving forward.
If we had quit when we only had $20 credit left on our credit cards at Christmas time just a handful of years ago, we wouldn’t be award winners now.
9. Invest in Your Business
Building the company has been one investment after another. It never ends really.
There’s always something that needs to be worked on. Here’s a short list of my recommendations on where you need to invest in your business:
a. Branding & Website
d. Building a Team
10. Understand You’re Running a Business, Not a Hobby.
I think this is an important distinction to make and one many entrepreneurs aren’t differentiating.
I’ve always looked at our company as a business and that’s mostly due to my business mind and having a business degree.
But for those that simply are passionate about something and have a dream to make money off of it, it’s hard to know exactly HOW to turn that dream into a business.
They end up blindly doing what they think they should be doing, all by themselves, in order to save money (or not spend money they don’t have) and hope for the best.
If this sounds familiar, I’m adding another business investment to consider as your top priority: A business coach or mentor. ASAP. Otherwise, you’ll probably end up just running a hobby.
11. Set up a Systemized Business Structure
I’ve worked with a lot of clients over the years. Some amaze me at how organized and systemized they are. And others, well, not so much.
Having a systemized business structure in place is the only reason I haven’t gone insane with my daily workload.
Here’s the tools we use to be more organized, efficient and less stressed.
12. Get Comfortable With Sales
Sales. It’s a dirty word for many entrepreneurs and business owners alike. Me too. I hate to think of myself as a “sales person” but at the end of the day, if we’re not selling our wares, we don’t have a business.
Now that’s not to say you need to become a pushy, in-your-face predator. Far from it.
Remember attribute No. 1 about being passionate? That’s what you need. People will trust your passion and will respond to it. But be careful, sometimes passion can be too intense and will turn people away.
Find your sweet spot as to what resonates with your ideal clients and keep working at it. But do embrace the fact you’re selling your wares and learn some strategies that fit with your personality and comfort level that will work.
13. Give Back
Giving back is an imperative attribute to have when building a successful business. We give back in several ways, here’s some ideas to consider that we do:
• Offer discounted prices for non-profits
• Volunteer your services to community groups
• Send cash donations to worthy charities you believe in
• Make purchases that support worthy causes
• Donate door prizes and/or silent auction items for fund raising activities
• And support your own clients whenever you can
14. Be Accessible
When new clients approach me due to being disenchanted with their existing web developer or marketer, the most often complaint I hear is they can never get a hold of the person. Either they take forever to respond to an e-mail or never answer their phone.
I think I’m going to write a book on how NOT to run a successful business based on this alone. It boggles my mind when I consistently hear stories like this. How are these people keeping a business going with such poor service and accessibility?
I have a policy to answer e-mails within a day of receipt. I often exceed that policy but sometimes the volume is too much and I get delayed in responding. Same thing with the phone. If we’re available to answer, we do so. If we’re not, we’ll call the person back right away.
Being accessible provides peace of mind to our clients; they know we care enough about them to take care of their needs in a timely manner. ’nuff said.
There you have it. My honest take on what created the company to be an award-winning business. Maybe I need to write a book about this because, honestly, I could have added more but, it’s coming into the 15th hour on this Sunday night of working so I’ll leave it at that.
What about you? What would you add to the list? Please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!
As the founder, Susan Friesen brings a unique advantage to eVision Media clients by having earned a Bachelor in Business Administration degree with a concentration in Computer Information Systems through the Thompson River's University. Her experience in the Web development industry since 1999 has gained her much insight and knowledge in how to effectively brand a business and then translate that to a user-friendly, search-engine friendly, custom designed website. She is a graduate of the Vancouver Film School multi-media program and also earned several certificates in technology through the University of Victoria and Athabasca University. She won the 2003-2004 Governor General's Bronze Academic Award for achieving the highest academic standing in a diploma-level post secondary program. http://evisionmedia.ca