At 12 years of age there may have been a lot that you could have gotten away with, but the world of business is cutthroat, highly competitive, and excuses and denial tend not to be valuable currencies. As you may have already noticed, true business success is only achieved by a fraction of the people that get started. Understanding this fact why is it that so many businesses fail to help themselves by making a catalogue of errors that seemingly even a pre-pubescent child would know better than!
#1 – Stupid email addresses
How can you expect anybody in business to take you seriously if your email address pays homage to your college nickname, your weekend behaviours or simply announces the fact that you are small time! If you want to be taken seriously then scrap the somethinginappropriate@Hotmail.com or email@example.com and get serious with a domain name for yourself and your business. The financial investment is pennies and the saved embarrassment is priceless.
#2 – Home made signage
Even in some of the biggest global brands I still stumble across the most unprofessional homemade signs complete with the finest “word art” or even being written by hand. Whether it is your opening hours, a simple “out of service” sign or a current promotion, then be sure to do the job properly. Recently I witnessed a business announcing the recent win of a prestigious award by printing their winners certificate on a fading inkjet printer and making the decision to tape it to the reception wall! Come on everyone, this practice is not ok and has to stop immediately.
#3 – Rubbish business cards
There really is no excuse in today’s world to have anything other than a kick ass business card. The simple test is that if you ever have to apologize when passing it then it clearly needs to change. Dog eared corners and scribbled out numbers are all too common and lets not forget the classic “forgotten my cards” line. New contacts can be made at any time and not being ready to exchange cards is the business equivalent of forgetting your gym kit!
#4 – Pens, Pens, Pens
Imagine that you have spent years chasing a prospect, months in preparation, hours in negotiations and you finally get to the point of closing the deal. The customer has been convinced of your professionalism, dedication and now has the belief that you are the right person for the job. At the point you are ready to seal the deal you reach for a pen. The pen you hand your new customer commemorates your most recent hotel stay, announces your love of trade shows or worse still is encrusted with teeth marks! If your business stationery doesn’t mean business then take todays lunch break or jump online now and grab yourself a writing instrument that is fit for its complete purpose.
#5 – Personal Hygiene
Would you trust someone to offer you advice, take care of your business and deliver value on your investment if they cannot even take care of themselves? The way you present yourself supports and contributes to the success of all that you do and whether you like it or not the world judges you on how you look and how you smell. There is no room to cut corners here as smelling like the men’s locker room, having breath like the morning after or just failing to keep your finger nails in order could all shift you from a pass to an instant fail.
#6 – Time Keeping
Most people have access to at least 5 devices at any one time yet many still fail to see the importance of arriving on time and keeping to time. OK, if you have invested in the latest apple watch then you may be able to excuse the battery life but lets remember what happened when we were late for class. At my school there was a zero tolerance to lateness and the same rules should apply in business. Whether meeting a client, a colleague or a supplier then arrive were you said you would at the time you said you would.
#7 – Note Taking
Either 80% of the world has a perfect memory and I am just dumb or so many people are just downright lazy. I couldn’t possibly count the hours I have spent in meetings surrounded by people with no tools to take notes and no notes being taken. What does it say to your boss, your client or your supplier if you can’t even show the courtesy that you believe something important may need to be discussed? What’s more, taking notes leads to more active listening and increasing your presence in the room increases the respect you receive from others and the retention of information discussed.
#8 – Social Media Transparency
You wouldn’t wear the uniform of your employer when downing shots at a bar or share your political or religious views directly when meeting a new client so why do I see so many “professional” people airing the dirty laundry on facebook, sharing their extreme views on twitter or ruining their hopes of promotion with their instagram shots. Every thing that is posted on the internet is there to stay and that means that employers, clients and suppliers can see it. Please don’t post anything that could come back to haunt you.
#9 – Missing/Incorrect details on marketing pieces
Perhaps the most embarrassing error of all is to take the decision to invest in a piece of marketing to encourage customers to contact you and fail to include the correct contact details. I have seen newspaper adverts requesting a call and not give a number, large format adverts with misspelt web addresses and direct mail invitations that don’t include the address they hoped you would visit. Check the communication includes all the information to allow the recipient to do as you wish them to do.