Thursday, May 8, 2014

Promises Delivered! (Get More Clients, Bigger Clients & Hiring)

Promise delivered? Well, almost. ;)

My actual promise from the survey that many of you completed a few weeks ago was a live Google hangout to share with you my thought about how to gain traction on the feedback I received on the survey – including how to get more clients, how to get bigger clients, and how to hire. So today I am definitely going to give you action steps to start moving towards these important objectives, but please forgive me because  I'm going to do it in this less than sexy, but nonetheless effective, written post. Sigh.

However! As soon as I have time to get confident about doing a hangout without a million technical glitches (which have been downright excruciating for the participants AND the presenters I have witnessed), I promise to invite you to be my first attempt… but buyer beware!

Alright, let’s jump straight into my number one best strategies to get more and bigger clients, and how to hire. Here we go!  {You might want to print & save this one!}

My Number One Best Strategy to Get More Clients
Partner with non-competitors
that have the same target market.
When I grew my brokerage firm, I had 1 to 3 networking lunches with accountants and lawyers weekly to introduce my business and see how I could support their marketing efforts as well. Now, as I grow The WELL online, I am building similar relationships by offering my content to other online companies that have women entrepreneurs as clients but specialize in a different area or a specific area within my knowledge scope that they have deeper experience on.

For example, in my accelerate program, I am partnering with Pinnacle Business Services, a cloud based bookkeeping company, to provide monthly training lessons for our Money Module.  While I know my way confidently around financial statemenst, Elizabeth Whitehouse is a 10-year Certified QuickBooks Pro expert, so I am  thrilled to have her lead that section and also provide an opportunity for her to market her services.

Partnerships are a win-win if structured correctly and can put your business in front of a new and qualified audience much faster that you can attract on your own. But even beyond getting introduced to potential new customers, that introduction will come with an implied or direct endorsement from the partner which will move your relationship with that new customer from ice cold to very warm (and even hot if you do a great job!) in an instant.

My Number One Best Strategy to Get Bigger Clients
Determine how your products or services can be
sold to corporate and government clients.
The first step to working with corporate clients is to start with their diversity supplier departments to learn their requirements for getting on their preferred vendor list.  They may need you to be certified as women-owned, show your financial statements, demonstrate your capabilities in the area you are proposing to sell into, and prove that you have the capacity to fill the order without delay. All companies will have difference minimum requirements, so make sure you are clear about what they are before making any contact.

In addition to knowing what they will require to consider you as a supplier, make sure you do your homework on their current initiatives, so you can show that you understand their needs and that you are ready to partner with them to achieve their goals- basically what's in it for them.  To know exactly what they are currently focusing on, read the press releases posted on their website for the last 12 months. In those releases you will discover critical initiatives, success stories and shortfalls, and who the high-level decision makers - all things that when included with your pitch, will show that not only are you willing to be a supplier, you will go the extra mile to be a partner as well.

You can find the link to many corporations that want to do business with women entrepreneurs by searching “supplier diversity” plus the name of the company that you would like to work with.  You can also get certified as a women-owned company, through many agencies, so search “women-owned certification” to find the certifiers closest to your location.

When trying to win a government client, similar to securing corporate contracts, you need to visit the online portals of your municipal, state and federal procurement pages to learn what that "agency" is currently seeking, and how you can submit an RFP (request for proposal) to bid on the opportunity. While I haven’t sold to government agencies, many of my peers have grown multimillion dollar firms as suppliers to local city government as well as the federal government. If you decide to pursue this sales channel, know that it requires determination and a thick skin. There is an art to completing RFPs and there are even companies that specialize helping you complete them.  Also be aware that until you are proven entity, you may not be able to secure a contract on your own, but rather become a sub-contractor, supplying to an existing larger contractor that is already in place. This is an excellent way to get your foot in the door to establish yourself, and then later begin bidding on larger opportunities on your own.

With both the corporate and government markets, the application process can be challenging and the decision cycle long, but if you are fortunate enough to match what you offer to their direct needs, you can literally grow into a multimillion dollar company overnight.

My Number One Best Strategy for Hiring
Go deep and wide before adding to the org chart.
We hire when we run out of bandwidth or when we are pro-actively planning to grow. Hiring can be one of the most exciting, yet also terrifying activities we do as a business owner. Suddenly being responsible to someone else in terms of attention and income can feel scary, but as I have said many times, you have to let go to grow, and that means putting on your big girl pants on and start welcoming new people (not just your BFF, sister-in-law or some other low-risk person) onto the mother ship!

One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given on hiring was “hire slowly and fire quickly”. When deciding to fill a position, be sure that you do your thorough due diligence on that person, including checking 5 year of references (yes five). I’m not sure why business owners always want to skip this step and just go on their “gut instinct", because unfortunately, hiring is not a place to trust your tuition.

When it comes to people, most women entrepreneurs naturally believe that most applicants are good, good enough or trainable. But quite frankly, as a small but growing business, good, good enough and trainable are the worst people you can hire!  You don’t have the time or money to babysit or pay for someone to learn on your precious, hard-earned dollars.

You need staff that has experience in what you need them to do, is open to trying it your way as well, can ramp up fast, and has EXCELLENT references.  And yes, you can absolutely find that person in your price range. If you can’t afford to pay them the base salary that they want, propose a profit sharing program based on new results. Having transparency around financial goals will be great for everyone involved because they can see the path to success and added income, and you will be forced to map it out (instead of shooting from the seat of your yoga pants!) which will make it clearer and more attainable for you too.  Yay!  But wait a minute! What if they don't work out? Remember that advise I shared at the beginning? Let them go QUICKLY. If you've re-reviewed your expectations, re-trained and re-observed them in action and they still don't get it, it's time to free them up to find something that will be better suited for their current skill set. No judgment. Just not a fit. Bye bye.

And there's one last step before making your first or biggest hire. Make sure you sit down with your accountant to review your cash flow so you can feel confident that you will be able to pay them without waking up in the middle of the night in a panic the day before payroll is due. There’s nothing worse than adding someone and then having to lay them off because you didn’t do your homework in advance.  Same thing applies to independent contractors; although if your contract is written correctly, you should have an easy separation, but just in case, understand your cash before adding a big, new, painful to getrid of, expense.

So that’s the scoop!  Of course I could go on and on about getting more and bigger customers and hiring, but that’s plenty for starters! But as always, if you want to take your business to the next level, take a test drive in our accelerate! Business Growth Program for free and I’ll be there personally to help you zooooooooom to the next level!

Until next time, Be Profitable & Be WELL!

XO, jgw.

P.S. Here are some quick links to get you going and growing faster!

{Grow Faster!} accelerate! Program 14 Day Free Trial

Get Inspired!} Where is Julie Speaking Next?

{Rock Your World!} Book an Exclusive Private Acceleration Day with Julie

{Cash Out!} Thinking of selling in the next 5 years? Check out
my bestselling book, “EXIT!” in Kindle or Paperback


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