Your business is on the brink of opening. Everything is in place, or nearly in place.
You’re asking me: “Where do I get my clients from?”
These days it is much easier than 25 years ago. When I started up the only way of advertising was through newspapers – we had to advertise in the local papers, as well as national. Today you don’t have to go that route to advertise.
- Start marketing your business by telling everybody you know about your new journey. Literally, from the neighbour to the people at the church.
- Use social media – at a small cost you can place an ad on Facebook. You can choose
- your audience ;
- your location;
- age ;
- detailed targetting
- through demographics;
- and other categories
- Connections eg.
- People who respond to events that you’ve created on social media.
I mentioned before about my Women’s Ministry, where I offer Christian Lifeskill Courses and host women’s conferences. Facebook is my main source of getting women to attend these courses and workshops. There is no better way to advertise.
- When your business is on the go, the best referrals will be ‘by word of mouth’. It happens frequently that the phone ring and on the other side there is someone who says: “I’ve been referred by Mr. X – they are good friends of mine.
Here I want to add something extra. Wherever you go, take business cards with. You never know what opportunities you’re going to have to market your business. This was one of the first principles I have learned in business.
Smithland started its journey in 1992. In 1995 I was nominated as “Business Woman of the Year”, by the SA Council for Business Women. Not long after this, I and my husband decided to do a marketing trip to Namibia, in order to find new clients for the business. Remember, that was at a time when social marketing was something we never thought would happen.
About two hours after we left Cape Town, there was a talk on RSG, the South African Afrikaans radio station. The radio presenter welcomed the previous president of the SA Council for Business Women, Retha Nel- Rossouw, on the program and specifically asked Retha about how to market a business. This very useful advice came from Retha. My husband looked at me and said: do you want to turn back home. I think this advice is worth much more than all the potential clients you are going to see on your road to NA. Up to today, I believed I should have done it!
Two months later, I had to take my father to a family member’s funeral in the countryside. At this funeral, I spoke to my father’s niece and she mentioned that they visit Cape Town frequently and asked me if I can recommend any affordable and excellent accommodation. My hand immediately went to my handbag. They made use of our accommodation until their son educated and bought his own apartment.
- People, do not under-estimate the ‘BY word of mouth’ referrals. We travel a lot and due to our business interests in Gauteng, this is one of our main points to visit in SA. My husband grew up in Pretoria. At once, we were invited to an old school friend of Pieter (my husband). At the braai (barbeque) there were other friends of them, also attending the occasion. Someone asked me what my profession is and I obviously made use of the opportunity to advertise my business. The man looked at me and said: “Are you the owner of Smithland. We booked there for the coming school holidays. We were recommended by Mr. and Mrs. A.”
What if this man’s friend, Mr. A had a bad experience at my accommodation establishment and he would tell me: “Oh, a friend of mine, Mr. A stayed at your apartments and they were very disappointed with the service level of your business.” Therefore I want to emphasize it – and I will talk on that again – “ by word of mouth your business can be ruined or it can be built up”.
You had done your marketing and you’ve taken your first orders or bookings. Make sure that you are ready when your first clients arrive. Don’t disappoint your clients by being not on time to perform. My first apartment was ready a week before the first clients arrived. The second one was finished just in time – about two hours – before the clients arrived.
The above principle is part of your success story – I will call it Excellence.
Excellence is a subject very near to my heart. Today after 25 years in the hospitality industry I am still thankful for this principle that I invested in my staff.
Lack of excellence can cost you your business. After I started Smithland, many others (people whom I know personally) also decided to get onto the wagon, also having self-catering apartments. Many of them left the industry and I am sure in most cases it was because of a lack of excellence they showed towards their clients.
When I was interviewed for the Business Women of the Year Award, one of the questions the judges asked me was: “What is the most important factor that helped you to make a success of your business.” My immediate answer was the following:
- I appointed God as the CEO of my business. I, therefore, ask His advice before I make any decisions regarding my business;
- Secondly, I believe in giving tithes. Here I refer back to the book that I’m reading at the moment. Hobby Lobby, the USA’s biggest Hobby Chain Shops, owner David Green totally believes in this principle.
While I am writing this post, I am in NY. Last night my husband went to show me where the Hudson Valley’s Hobby Lobby is situated – wow – what a big shop – it looks like a Hypermarket. I’m honest to say that I would love to have a cup of coffee together with this man. He inspires me so much.
- Thirdly I believe in Service, Service, Service and what else is service than Excellence?
If you like more teaching about Excellence you are welcome to ask me for notes on this subject.
The last point for today is STAFF. In the beginning, you will probably employ a small amount of staff. After 28 years, I can tell you a lot of stories about staff issues.
- When you advertise for staff and someone applies for the position get as many references as possible. For many years I didn’t worry to do this, but unfortunately, there are too many crooks outside, looking for job opportunities and they are clever! In one case, it takes me two years before we realised that the employee is an experienced thief.
- If you feel comfortable employing the applicant, I will still advise you to get them on the premises for two days of training, before finally signing up a contract with them.
- Make sure that your contract is clear and understandable. Go through it with the applicant. Make sure that the applicant understands it.
- Make sure that all cons and pros are written into the contract, eg. Annual leave, sick leave, rules regarding working hours, public holidays.
See that you add your rules, regarding the use of cellphones during working hours, visitors, etc. Rather have too much info in the contract than too little.
- Register your staff with the Department of Labour. Don’t take chances. Chances can cost you money at the end of the day.
- In case of dismissal, make sure that you have followed the rules
regarding this matter. You can’t dismiss a staff member without them having three written warnings regarding the same violation. Thereafter you still have to arrange for a hearing, done by an impartial person from outside the company.
Any questions regarding the above can be addressed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tell everybody you know about your new journey;
- Use social media to market your business;
- Wherever you go, take business cards with;
- do not under-estimate the ‘BY word of mouth’ referrals;
- Make sure that you are ready when your first clients arrive;
- Staff :
- when hiring staff, get as many references as possible;
- do a two-day trial with them, before appointment as a staff member;
- Make sure the contract is clear and understandable;
- Make sure the contract is without faults;
- Register staff at the applicable government bodies;
- Make sure that you keep to all terms of the Labour Laws Amendment Act, 2018.