Monday, August 13, 2007

Building your business’s reputation

In the early days of Robeez, I remember telling people about my home-based business and getting puzzled looks in return. When you first your business, especially a home-based business, you need to build credibility. And this can take time. Here’s an email from a mom facing this challenge:

So this is my dilemma: My husband and I really need some business partners but our business is an at home based business and everyone is so leery of them, thinking they are "pyramid schemes.” Any advice on how to get the word our about the business and have people take a look at it?

My first question would be: why do you feel you need another business partner? Are you looking to share the workload or find financing? If you are looking to share the workload, you may want to consider hiring someone part-time or on a contract basis. Consider your skill set (and your husband’s) to determine where you need help. For example, I had experience in financial management but not in sales. So I hired a sales rep to increase distribution of Robeez.

If you are trying to find financing, you may need to consider other options. See my post “Finding the Money to Get Started” for more on this subject. I added two partners to the Robeez business in 1999, five years after I started. The business had reached a point where I could no longer manage it by myself. (Annual revenues were around $500,000.) I had about two or three full-time employees and a handful of sales reps but I needed to share the leadership responsibilities.

It’s difficult to recommend the best way to build your business without knowing more but here are a few more general tips I’ve learned over the years:

  • Generate referrals through word of mouth – Provide happy customers with a means to refer your business such as a referral bonus or personal thank you.
  • Find a mentor in your industry who can give you support – Find a local expert in your field who can offer their advice or experiences.
  • Join a local networking group for your industry – Talking with people who are having similar experiences often provides clarity. For example, I am a member of FWE, a group for entrepreneurial women.
  • Market yourself – See everyone as a potential customer. Always present yourself in a credible way. Voicemails, emails, anything you’re consumer “touches” is a reflection on your business.

I could write a book of all the tips I have. The more specific the question, the better I can answer it. Keep on writing. And don’t worry if you don’t see your answer posted yet. I take the question in the order they are received and will respond as soon as I can.

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