I wanted to add some thoughts on how the philosophy we learned in the military can carry over into a successful business career. When running a service oriented business, you have to create a professional atmosphere for your clients in order for them to really become invested in you. The professionalism and standards that we strive for in the military can be a useful guide.
Before I get into specifics, for me the most important policy to remember is that clients are to be treated with the utmost respect. When your customers sense that you like them and respect them, they will treat you well in return. To succeed in business, you must create an environment where clients look forward to working with you!
It is human nature that the grind of operating a business can wear you down. But for your clients, they deserve your best efforts always, regardless of your current circumstances. So even on the days when you are physically and mentally exhausted, you have to muster up enough motivation to interact positively with your clients, without showing any indication that you are disengaged.
Your clients should come to depend on your continuous presence, day after day, week after week, and year after year. If you anticipate being away (due to illness, emergencies, etc.), it is imperative that you coordinate with a qualified person to stand in, so that your clients get full coverage. Temporarily closing your business (at any time, but especially at the last minute) is not beneficial to your brand.
The key to building a successful business is the dependability of you.
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You must carry yourself in a professional manner at all times. Setting the proper image includes not being seen smoking, dipping, chewing, or being under the influence of alcohol or drugs while in the presence of clients. Maintain a clean, crisp, professional appearance. This helps build your brand in your community.
Very few things damage the business atmosphere and morale more so than negative attitudes, whether it comes from you as an owner or your employees. You must lead by example and ensure that everything you do and say in the presence of clients is positive. You cannot expect your clients to always be happy. So it is your job to interact positively with them, even when they are not in the mood to do so.
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Operating any business takes a lot of time and effort. It is not easy. Responsibilities to your clients, suppliers, distributors, employees, city government, state government, and the IRS will take up a lot of your time. Always carefully observe the spirit and letter of all laws and regulations, as well as have a scrupulous regard for the highest standards of conduct. Your success depends upon the trust of your clients and in general, the use of good judgment based on high ethical principles.
Many times you will be faced with situations where you can take shortcuts to achieve a particular result. It may even be tempting to take the easy way out because it often seems that those who do so get rewarded. Over the long term, this is a bad strategy. Eventually, taking shortcuts will catch up with you.
A lot of people make promises that they have no intention of keeping. In business, these types of people are often identifiable by their unwillingness to sign or put anything on paper. Your job is to carry yourself with integrity in all your business dealings. If there is something you are unwilling to put on paper, don’t agree to it in the first place.
The news is full of stories about people who were supposed to fulfill a responsibility or a promise, but end up weaseling out based on some technicality or obscure detail. Don’t be that person. Run your business with the highest of integrity, even on the days when nobody is watching!
I found it quite interesting how much successfully operating a business relates back to the Marine Corps Leadership Traits. At some point, you will find yourself in a position where the temptation is enormous to shortcut around justice, judgment, dependability, integrity, decisiveness, tact, initiative, endurance, bearing, unselfishness, courage, knowledge, loyalty, and enthusiasm. It is easy to feel that these Leadership Traits cease to be applicable after leaving the military. In actuality, facing a world where a lot of people don’t believe in these integral traits makes them even more important.