For the Professionals In the Midst!
Reprinted From GCM Magazine
[For those of us in business there was a point where we made the decision to stop working for someone else. Some of us moved up the ladder to become CEO's and Administrators; some of us went off on our own to become independent consultants and business owners. Whatever route we have taken, we find ourselves immersed in the lives of people who need our services and/or products.]
After 15 years in the long term health care system, I founded a private geriatric care management firm. Leaving the comfort and security of 9 to 5, I was off to explore horizons whose vastness I couldn't comprehend at the time.
Now, two years after filing my DBA, I am more aware, more assertive and more involved in the community than I ever thought possible. Designing and implementing my care management practice has been my greatest and most rewarding learning experience yet.
All of us are somewhere along this continuum of learning. If we are just beginning, we have the excitement and fear of wondering "What's ahead?". If we're established, we can look back and see that this career that we have embraced has helped us to grow in ways we never imagined.
Most of us possess a human service mentality. That mentality can get in the way of running a successful business. Developing a business mentality is just as important in the service professions as it is in any other endeavor. Set limits. Establish priorities. Say "no" once in awhile. You can't be everything to everyone. Develop and maintain a business mentality and you will be a more effective service professional. You can do this in the following ways:
1) Immerse yourself in programs, books and magazines that will feed that mentality. Read magazines such as Fortune, Success and Entrepreneur. Subscribe to FORTUNE Magazine and your local business journals. If you incorporate these motivational materials into your life, you will internalize them and they will become a natural part of who you are.
2) Surround yourself with successful, ethical, growth-oriented people. They will provide you with role models and increase your expectations of yourself as you create your future.
3) Find a mentor -- someone who will objectively give you feedback, guidance and constructive criticism. There are no qualifications for this person except to be honest and forthright with the desire to see you succeed. Sometimes a mentor who is in a totally unrelated profession can be most helpful and objective. Look for chemistry and mutual respect in this relationship.
4) Regularly Update Your Business Plan. Set realistic goals for yourself related to your business and how you will accomplish those goals. Focus not just on a mission statement but on how you plan to meet your budget based on your earnings and how you plan to market your services. Measure client satisfaction and offer continually improved customer service based on this feedback.
5) Be organized! Have a good filing system. Don't waste time looking for phone numbers or sorting through piles of paper to locate something specific. Pay someone their hourly rate if you need help getting out from under the paperwork. It's amazing how much more organized your whole life will seem when your office in order.
6) Throw out the answering machine and get yourself an answering service. This improves your professional image and makes it easy for potential clients to feel welcome. If you shop around, you should be able to find a service that is friendly and reliable.
7) Hire a good accountant and seek other professionals when needed. Don't scrimp on financial or legal help. These professionals are all part of a healthy plan for your business to succeed and grow. Remember to plan for your own financial future. Don't lose this priority by your tendency to take care of others first!
8) Make yourself VISIBLE! Good marketing is the #1 reason businesses succeed. Much of this is done by becoming "known"; your person, your company, your logo, your name. Do this by public speaking and networking. Get your name in print by writing articles, press releases, even letters to the editor. Remind everyone as often as you can that you exist!
9) Network like a fanatic! There is no better business builder than being active in the community. Continually expand your referral base and nurture your best referral sources.
10) Have the discipline to balance work, play and family. Take time for physical activity and spiritual fulfillment. Balance is the key to lifelong success. Take care of yourself at least as well as you take care of your clients.
Most of us are in our preferred business for the same reason. We want to make a difference by creating a product or service that helps others. If we become successful by doing so, that's wonderful. If we become financially independent by doing so, that's wonderful too!
Many people will want to try to tell us how to run our business. The day will come when each one of us will realize that our profession isn't about running a business. It's about having a mission. That is the day we will find security in the knowledge that if we keep our heart in the right place, we will be given the tools to succeed. This is called leverage and puts us in the most enviable position of all.