Friends! Let me introduce you to the fabulous Bianca Sansosti of Bianca Sansosti Artistry. She is here to help us kick off our latest series – Get Your Sh*t Together. If you are like me, constantly running around with a never ending to-do list, this series is all about helping you get your life together from business to beauty to health to career, it’s all in there & it’s going to be awesome!
After 10 years of working for other companies, both as a traditional employee and then management, and now starting & owning my own company, I’ve learned a ton about running a small business. I’m also a firm believer in learning from others’ mistakes, so I’ve also learned a lot of what NOT to do. I find that so many small business owners really have no idea what they are doing and are working blindly. Most don’t come from a business background, and that’s totally OK! So many don’t even know where to start, so I’m here to let you know that it’s time to Get Your Sh*t Together so you can start your journey to success.
1. HIRE YOUR CABINET
You are the president of your company, and every president needs their cabinet & trusted advisers. I’m talking about your lawyer and your accountant. These are imperative people in your business, especially if you don’t have a business background (and even if you do). Your lawyer is going to help you decide how to organize your business (sole proprietor, LLC, corporation) and draw up any documents you will use, like client contracts, and can go over your policies & procedures to ensure they’re legal in the state you’re operating. Your accountant is going to help you through the financial process of bookkeeping and filing your taxes. Don’t know which accounts to use to classify different expenses? Don’t know what a chart of accounts or a balance sheet is? Your accountant will tell you. It may not seem at first that these things matter when your business is small and operated solely by you, but they are crucial, no matter the size of your company, to protect you and your assets & success, especially as your company grows.
2. NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK
Go to local networking events for your industry, and even the networking events that aren’t specific to your industry (you never know who you will meet). 85% of my business comes from referrals, they are GOLD. The more people begin to know you, the more credibility you have. Credibility = Trust, Trust = $$$. There are also many events geared towards women entrepreneurs & women owned small businesses – women supporting women is a key to our success.
3. FIGURE OUT YOUR BRANDING
Your brand is more than just your logo. Your brand needs to be cohesive amongst everything you do and needs to be reflected in every way you run your business. It also needs to reflect your clientele and your mission. It is what you will be known by and associated with. Your branding needs to flow in every tiny corner of your business. The Ritz-Carlton is known for their chocolate chip cookies which welcome guests. This is all part of their branding and how branding applies to every facet of your business. A branding consultant can be an investment, but finding the right one will give you a large return in the end. I know I keep repeating the word “branding” a lot – because it’s really, really, important. When you have to make a decision about something, ask yourself which option reflects your branding best.
4. “FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION”
This was the most important principle they ingrained in us in design school. When we were designing rooms & buildings & furniture in school, it meant that the functionality of our design needed to come first before the aesthetic, basically. If it doesn’t work or make sense, it doesn’t matter what it looks like, because it’s useless. Guess what? That’s true for business, too. If you don’t have your internal systems, processes, and policies figured out, it doesn’t matter how good your product or service is. Those are the foundations of your business and what make up customer service. You don’t have to have it all figured out at first – it’s going to take some trial & error, and learning from mistakes that will happen. Have a beginning game plan, and go from there. It’s always going to be a work in progress, especially as your business grows and evolves. I still make changes to my policies and processes and contracts as new things happen. It’s never going to be 100% complete.
5. BE HUMBLE & KIND
Not to sound too much like Mr. Tim McGraw here, but it’s true. Your professionalism and the way you carry yourself leave a lasting impression on everyone you meet. Remember your manners, be gracious and nice to people. So many people I know in the creative world are amazing at what they do, but have egos bigger than they can manage, and just aren’t nice people to be around or work with. So guess what? I don’t refer clients to them, no matter how good their work is. Show your gratitude to clients and referral sources. An email is nice as an immediate follow up, but you’re a business owner now. Invest in beautiful stationary, with your branding, and take the time to write someone a thank you note and send it in the mail. That person took the time to think of you & your business. It will be remembered. Every time I see one of my biggest referral sources, she always brings up to me how much she loved the beautiful thank you card I sent her after our first meeting, a year later, and how she has it sitting on her desk. It left a lasting impression on her. Start with baby steps in your business. You don’t have to be perfect, and you won’t be. This advice doesn’t have to just apply to new businesses – if you already have your business, use it as guidance to re-evaluate what you’re doing, which we all need to do every so often. Like Steve Jobs said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”