Small Business Any Way You Like It

If you are an entrepreneur or small business owner you chose that path for several reasons – with freedom being high on your list.

Ironically,  that is often one of the first things you sacrifice.

Small Business Freedoms

There are many types of freedoms associated with running your own business.  If you are not careful, your quest for one will compromise some of the others.

Yesterday I read a book by Derek Sivers about how his small business prospered by maintaining a firm commitment to why he started it – serving his customers and having fun doing it.

What worked for Derek will work for anyone, because everything he did was about staying focused on providing the best possible customer experience in the simplest way possible. 

The book is Anything You Want.  It promises 40 Lessons For A New Kind of Entrepreneur, and it manages to accomplish that in 75 pages – and small ones at that.

It’s published by The Domino Project, a joint venture of Amazon and Seth Godin. The purpose of The Domino Project is to publish books worth sharing.

These 40 lessons in Anything You Want are delivered in an engaging story form.  Derek details how he grew CD Baby, an online fulfillment service for independent musicians, and how he succeeded by challenging the status quo about how things are supposed to work for small businesses.

I’ll share a few of my favorites.

Make Your Own Rules

When I started my landscape contracting business 25+ years ago, I was so naive that I set everything up based upon the little that I knew.  Not only did we do very well, but we were having a lot of fun.  It turns out Derek did the same thing.

Before long, I was getting smarter about traditional business methods and started to build all kinds of complicated systems. Pretty soon having fun was a thing of the past. That was my biggest mistake.

Derek and others, such as Zappos co-founder Tony Shieh didn’t make that mistake and prospered as a result.  For Zappos the trick was staying true to their core values. For Derek Sivers and CD Baby it was a simple test:  “If you are not saying Hell Yeah! about something – say NO.”

There is a big difference between Hell Yeah and Yes.  Only one gives you the freedom to be yourself, and what follows is a more enjoyable business experience that energizes you, your staff, and your customers.

Saying no is healthy in life and in business, but it’s not always easy to do it.

My suggestion is to write those words down and keep them visible in your work environment. When opportunities come along, just apply that simple test and you’ll be sure to make better choices.

Do What’s Best For Your Customers

It’s easy to choose your needs over those of your customers, but it sends a dangerous message.  Certainly we all need systems in place to serve our customers. Just be clear that you communicate all of that up front – but be flexible when and where you can.

It’s all about the customer experience. If giving a little in a small way makes for a better experience that does not compromise your values, then why wouldn’t you do so to have a happier customer?

One very subtle way that Derek Sivers accomplished this was to run his business like he didn’t need the money.  According to Derek, when you do that your customers are more willing to pay you.

I’m working with a client now in this way.  He has not asked my consulting rate.  That will come up when the time is right.  In the meantime, I’m focused on how I can help him improve his online marketing and enhance the profitability of his small business.

Price should never be part of the discussion until your prospect determines that you and your products or services are right for them.  In fact, if you can prove that you will deliver far more value than the required investment, it should be nothing more than a formality that happens when the time is right.

Reading this book reminded me that this really is an exciting time for small businesses.

One in which you really can get Anything You Want.

Now it’s your turn.  What do you want from your life and your business?

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Until tomorrow,  Jeff