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Blog posts tagged business advice

Six ways to avoid being branded a “business bandit”

May 04, 2011 by Chris Barling

A while ago, a complaint appeared on the SellerDeck customer forum about a third party who was spamming our customers using somewhat dubious methods. We got in touch with the offending party and they were totally dismissive: “All’s fair in love and war” seemed to be their attitude.

A few days later, the tone had totally changed. When anyone searched for their company name on Google, the first result returned was the thread on our customer forum. And it wasn’t good for them that every mention was a howling complaint. Swallowing larger chunks of humble pie than I had ever seen before, they promised to reform their ways and begged us to remove the comments about them. It was hard not to feel smug.

But the point of this is not the humbling of one company, it’s that things have changed. It is now much harder to be a bad boy (or girl) and get away with it. In fact, with Twitter, Facebook, review sites and online forums, you can guarantee that your dirty washing will be aired within minutes. Taking an ethical approach to all aspects of business has never made more sense.

So here are my six top tips of some of the things to do and not to do to if you want to avoid being branded a “business bandit”.

  1. Don’t lie when selling. It will come back to bite you. People expect a sales pitch to push hard, but they hate it when they are told something that isn’t true. In the worst case, they will take legal action.
  2. Act on all feedback and fix problems. It’s cheaper not to have problems in the first place, but when they occur, the quicker you fix them the less they will damage your reputation. Fixing things quickly will enhance your standing, because we all understand that things go wrong sometimes.
  3. Be easy to do business with. It’s worth looking at every touch-point with your customers to see if you can make their lives simpler. It’s not just for their benefit, because this tactic should also increase sales and grow brand loyalty. Just look at Apple. In general, treat your customers how you want to be treated.
  4. Treat your suppliers with respect. This is one that’s easily missed, yet there are a number of reasons for taking this line. Firstly, don’t we all want business to be more pleasurable? Why should we expect our customers to treat us well if we don’t do the same for our suppliers.

    Secondly, companies get a reputation within an industry and once you’ve got a bad name it’s hard to shake it off. Then you may need a favour from your suppliers one day. If you’ve always behaved badly, they will be strangely unavailable when needed, or particularly hard to negotiate with on contract renewal. What goes around comes around.

  5. Communicate responsibly. When you send customers emails or other communications, or participate in forums or social networks, be rational, avoid ranting and behave with integrity and honesty. I have caught out competitors several times over the years masquerading as independent commentators. It’s humiliating for them when it comes to light, and their dishonesty is then on record. It’s not the way to build a business.
  6. Accept cancellations gracefully. Sometimes your customers don’t want your service any more or wish to return your goods. You won’t retrieve many sales if you are aggressive, but you will ensure that they never return and also tell their acquaintances not to do business with you. If you accept the situation with grace, you can earn a friend.

In the early days of my company when we were desperate for sales, one of our few customers returned his purchase. We handled the situation courteously and quickly. The customer turned out to be a journalist, and they sang our praises in print for years afterwards.

My final thought is this. Most of us want to do a good job for our customers. If we stick to these points, we will not only run a more successful business, but we’ll also feel better about it.

Chris Barling is Chairman of ecommerce software supplier SellerDeck

Happy birthday to us!

July 29, 2010 by Anna Mullinder

Three colourful donuts in a rowThis week we're celebrating the Start Up Donut’s first birthday - and what a year it has been! With a new roster of great sponsors, popular content, a much-improved blog and some 30 enterprise agency partners now on board as syndicators, the site continues to go from strength to strength.

My personal highlights are:

Successful use of social media and blogging

Our followers on Twitter continue to grow but, more importantly, we’re having more and more conversations with start-ups and more established small businesses. By being able to speak to you directly, we can find out what information is most useful to you and tailor the site accordingly.

We’ve recently improved our Facebook page, too, so there’s more interaction with and between our users. Recently we asked what your favourite things about being a small business are and we got some excellent responses ― come and join the conversation.

A few months ago we integrated our blog into the main site (it used to be hosted on Wordpress), which has fuelled growth in visitor numbers and boosted content on the Start Up Donut. We now have a larger number of blog contributors including many of our experts. We add a new post every day or so, keep checking back regularly to see what’s been added. If you’ve got something you’d like to share or get off your chest then send us your blogs.

A large number of case studies

What better way to learn about starting and running a business than from people who have been there and done it? We’ve added a large number of case studies covering topics from “How I set up a business in my 50s” to “How I attract customers”.

More recently, we’ve been adding sector-specific studies, which provide a step-by-step account of how to set up everything from a café or restaurant to beauty business.

The Business StartUp Show

In May we took a stand at the Business StartUp Show in Excel, London. It was great to be able to meet our website users and Twitter followers face-to-face, as well as get the opportunity to tell even more people about the Donut project.

“Mumpreneur” week

In the week leading up to Mothers’ Day we celebrated mums in business. We discussed the term “mumpreneur”, looked at the issues surrounding running a business when you have children and posted a range of interesting guest blog posts. The week was really interesting and we learnt a lot about the different challenges young women face when starting up. My summary blog post captured the highlights.

What have I learnt?

The main thing I’ve learnt is that a project manager’s work is never done! There are always ways to improve the site, different types of article to add, forum posts to reply to, blogs to write and people to speak to on Twitter.

I’ve also learnt that there is such a vast range of start-ups and small businesses out there that are looking for need-to-know information and advice that can help them to start and run their own business more successfully. Please let us know if there’s anything we should be doing to make www.startupdonut.co.uk even better. Here’s to the next 12 months.

  • What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in the last year? What have your biggest business successes been? Please add your comments.

Words of wisdom from entrepreneurs who have made it ...

November 06, 2009 by Mark Sinclair

If you're starting a business, or you've already started one, this is four minutes worth investing.  The video below features some of this country's most successful entrepreneurs.  Their words of wisdom could save you a lot of time and money - or even your business!

What do you think of the advice they give?  Please share your thoughts. startupdonutbannerbutton728x90

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