I personally blame the educational system for a complete lack of education in business space. We learn maths, languages, biology, physics and many other subjects for many years of our life. However, (correct me if I’m wrong) I haven’t seen any school up to University that would teach kids the basics of business. And I’m not talking about economy or marketing, I’m talking basics of business. Budgeting, hiring, value proposition etc, those are terms that only business school at University would teach you. That is why the majority of small business owners fail within the first 5 years, because they have to learn as they go.
Running a business is really hard. Let me give you a perspective. I recently talked to a guy who sold his business and went for beautiful holidays with his wife. When I asked him how was it he said it was amazing. The country, nature, the people… oh and he didn’t take his phone for holidays first time in 20 years. Having a business is like having a child, you can’t just leave it alone and hope for the best. It will always be there and you will always be a father or mother. It will never forget about you and it will never let you forget about it. But for me, this is not the hardest element as a business owner.
The toughest job as a business owner is sales. With a very few exceptions if you create a business it’s because you’re good at something. You love fixing cars – you create a car workshop, you like putting computer parts together, you create an IT service business. So you’re good at what you’re doing but now you have to sell it. Over the last few years, I’ve learned the hard way so much about sales that I believe there should be a compulsory course for any person starting up the business on it.
Let me start with the hardest part – you have to be nice to people. The world is small and I don’t mean New Zealand, I mean the entire world. People know each other, people talk to each other and the word goes out fast. So if someone is being a complete jerk during the sale whether you’re selling flowers or planning to fix their teeth, you have to take it no matter what, because if you’ll be a jerk for them, they’ll tell all of their friends and their friends will probably tell their friends. The bad reviews online, the articles in papers “how bad restaurant treated the customer” all of that negative feedback works really bad for you. The thing with humans is that they are much more likely to share the negative feedback than praise you and our attention is much more likely to focus on something negative than positive. It’s sad but true.
Example: When I go to a grocery store and have some really bad experience at the checkout, I can go to the shop manager and tell them – this person probably has a bad day cause they have been really unpleasant. The manager pulls out the complaints book and makes a note. He will also caution the employee. I will probably tell my wife about it and my friends how badly I was treated at that store. On the contrary (and this is a true story) if I have a good experience at the checkout, the person is really chatty and helpful, I would go to the shop manager and say – listen, this person made my day and is a really good employee. They said “ok, thanks for letting me know” and moved on with their daily tasks.
Now if you put it into a business perspective – it is much easier to build negative feedback than the positive one. I’m not saying it’s not possible, the majority of businesses will have a good opinion. But once you get one bad review you have to deal with it and you have to remedy. And that’s just a beginning. The sales consist of price negotiation too. Say what you want but if you are a small business and you don’t have a monopoly, a lot of people will ask you “how much” and “I’ve seen it cheaper”. That’s where the value proposition comes into place but how many times one can listen to people saying “You sell it for $1000 but I’ve seen it for $999”.
Did you have enough? That’s not it yet! Here come human relations into sales. You have to talk to people and you have to listen to people. No matter how good you are at what you do, you will have to convince your customers to buy. And that is usually through a chat with your customer. You see I don’t particularly like all the humans but I am forced to like them all for the “sale’s” sake. If someone would be an avid Trump supporter but would like to buy my product I will suck it up and sell it to him too. The rules of the economy are simple – if you won’t sell it, someone else will. And if you won’t sell, you won’t have food on the table.
I wish there was a simpler way, a club of “good buyers” and “good sellers”. In a way this is something I want to focus on in the future, but this will never work. If you are big enough and known enough every now and then you can reject a customer for being an egg but when you start up you really have to put up with everyone. But don’t worry, there are so many other rewarding things for the business owner that in total it is totally worth it. You can’t describe the feeling of a parent looking at the first steps of their child as much as you can’t describe the feeling of a first sale, of a first job completed, of a first employee hiring, first profit, first bonuses and so on. Having a business is a tough job, if it wasn’t everyone would have done it. But it is an amazing and rewarding job. So I’ll keep selling whether it’s in my current business or in my future one. And I will keep enjoying the difficult journey 🙂