The Basics of Best Practices
By Kim L. Clark
When small entities do business, they (we!) must try harder. Developing and maintaining a sterling reputation that creates a trusted brand that generates good word-of-mouth and referrals is how we succeed. Delivering excellent products and services every time is a must, but there are additional factors that play important roles.
Instituting the quality control procedures collectively known as “Best Practices” as the basis of our operations protocols is a smart thing to do. Because it is much easier to retain a current client than to find a new one, you may want to incorporate Best Practices into your business venture.
Keep your word
Credibility counts and that means you keep your word. If you are unable to meet a milestone or some other commitment, speak up as early as possible so that an alternative plan can be created and enacted. If you are transparent about potential roadblocks and obstacles, your forthright behavior will be appreciated and respected. In sum, under-promise and over-deliver.
Be truthful in every aspect of your business dealings. Avoid any and every temptation to misrepresent or exaggerate your expertise, qualifications, experience, or ability to follow a timetable or perform within a certain budget.
If half of life is showing up, then the other half is surely follow-up. If a client or prospect asks a question, follow-up with the answer. If someone makes a referral for you, or you promise to make the referral for a friend or colleague, then reach out (I recently did that for a client and sent his contact info to a VIP who asked to check out his work).
Admit and correct mistakes
Sometimes we drop the ball. It’s embarrassing and frustrating, but one must own up. Attempting to blame others is not cool (even if it is someone else’s fault). Never attempt to ignore or cover up your organization’s involvement in something that went wrong. Instead, take responsibility, apologize and do whatever is possible to make amends and learn from the experience.
Arrive on time
The meeting before your meeting can run long and you may be unable to leave. Traffic or public transportation can be in gridlock. The alarm clock may not go off. If it appears that you will be late for a client meeting, make contact ASAP and estimate your arrival time.
If you are one who is consistently late, take steps to allow yourself more time. Punctuality is a reflection of your brand and your organization’s ability to deliver. If parking is usually a challenge at your destination, or if the weather is bad, leave 30 minutes early and give yourself some wiggle room. Arriving early is always acceptable.
Say thank you
Thanking those with whom you do business is great for relationship building. On each of your invoices, add a line and thank your client for being your client. At December holiday time, send cards to current and lapsed clients. If you can find an opportunity, take a client to coffee or lunch and add a positive new dimension to the relationship.
As you get to know each other outside of the office, you’ll gain a better understanding of your client on a personal and professional level and you’ll feel more comfortable and better prepared to work together on future assignments. Your client might even share information about an upcoming project at his/her organization and you may be invited to take a role in the process. Showing appreciation is always appreciated and it can pay off, as well.