We’ve all heard about how important first impressions are in business. This holds particularly true for small businesses, since they have to fight that much harder to win clients. So how do you leave a perfect first impression on someone you’re looking to do business with? Let’s find out….
When you are meeting clients in person, one of the most crucial things you can do is dress “appropriately.” The way you want to present yourself depends on two crucial factors: who are your potential clients and what are you looking to represent? Ideally, you want to use your clothing to depict your approach to your clients needs. For example, the majority of small business owners here in Sunshine Suites follow the dress code of “business casual.” This consists of anything from a polo style shirt and jeans to a button down shirt and a pair of slacks. Another part of dressing appropriately depends on how you feel most comfortable. A lot of people feel they excel in a business situation if they are dressed up in a full suit. In this case, dress in a way that you feel most confident. When you’re comfortable with yourself, meeting new people that you’re trying to leave a lasting impression on gets a whole lot easier.
Impressing a client should never involve deceit. Another tremendous part of impressing clients is simply being genuine. If you can’t answer a question that a potential client has, don’t sweat it, but at the same time, don’t tell them what you think they want to hear. A great approach to this type of scenario would be to simply express that you can’t give them an answer at that point in time, but if they’d be willing to exchange contact information you can follow up. Being genuine speaks volumes when you are trying to leave a lasting impression. This should go without saying, but all too often people get caught up in trying to impress someone at whatever expense, and as soon as you sacrifice integrity there’s not much more you can lose.
Always try to get a potential client, lead, partner, etc to give you their contact information before they walk away. It’s great if you’re at a networking event that people brought business cards too, but this is not always the case. Try to be as prepared as possible to take down someones information. One of the quickest ways to do this is to either put the persons information as a new contact in your cell phone, or even better, ask them to SMS you right there. If you get them to agree to SMS you’ll have their number and you can quickly add them. New technology such as the “BUMP” app for smartphones are becoming an increasingly popular method to exchange contact information as well.
A lot of small business owners wonder how to handle a situation where a client they meet wants a detailed run down of what they will do for them and how. The fear in this case is, of course, how can you break down for a client what you will do for them without giving them enough to do it without you. Cheni Yerushalmi explained to “Present options. Tell them that depending on their unique situation, you could do one method, or a different one. It’s all going to back out to what you determine their unique needs to be.”
All businesspeople are familiar with the email introduction. As work days get longer and we’re tied to our computers more and more, an email introduction often serves to connect two or more contacts in a manner more efficient than attempting to get all parties together in the same room at the same time. An effective email introduction isn’t as simple as a “Hi, now you two meet” tossed-off missive, though. As Chris Fralic, managing partner at First Round Capital, discusses in the video below, there’s a fine art (as well as a healthy finesse) to a successful email introduction.
Sunshine was thrilled to participate in the excellent “Social Networking Your Small Business” event during Internet Week, hosted by Ultra Light Startups and Brightmap. Here are some photos from the excellent evening, taken by Sunshine’s own Shiner David Tunstall.
Be sure to also check out our insightful and inspiring Q&A with Brightmap/Ultra Light startups head Graham Lawlor here.
During Social Media Week 2010, Sunshine NY was fortunate enough to get to host a panel on interactive social media for start-ups and small businesses featuring Vaynermedia, Yipit and Brightmap.
We at Sunshine have been excited about the launch of Brightmap for a while, as it serves an exciting and needed purpose in the landscape of social tools–to network businesses to one another. Launched by Ultra Light Startups’ Graham Lawlor, Brightmap is, company by company, connecting businesses, services and vendors in important and revolutionary ways.
On Tuesday June 8th, during Internet Week, Ultra Light Startups and Brightmap are hosting a discussion on “Social Networking Your Business”. Featuring Sunshine’s own Cheni Yerushalmi and one of our resident Shiners Sabir Semerkant, this event is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to learn how to unleash the power social tools like Brightmap truly hold for their businesses. We asked event coordinator and Brightmap/Ultra Light Startups’ own Graham Lawlor a few questions about his history in business, his work as an entrepreneur and the future of social media for small businesses.
Last Tuesday Sunshine Suites held a meet and greet for all the Shiners at our Noho location last Tuesday, May 18th. It was a great time, partially due to the pizza and Bud Light but mostly because of all the great people there.
To check out some more pictures you can view the photo album here.
Small business owners should realize how essential networking is to building relationships that can help them drastically improve their business. That being said, small business owners should be working as hard as possible to do the most networking they can. Let’s take a look at some networking opportunities that are available to small business owners.
Resource #1: Meetup.com
Meetup.com is a website that enables you to connect with others based on your common interests. If you are not already searching for relevant networking events on Meetup.com, you are missing out huge networking potential. The number of meetups available on any topic is mind blowing. It makes it so easy to find local professionals to connect with. Every member of each meetup has a profile page where you can describe what you do and who you are looking to connect with. Since everyone attending the meetup is local, you should be able to make solid contacts.
Attending these meetups is a fantastic way to meet people who have similar interests, whether business related or personal. This is a great way to start getting to know people in your industry, discuss and exchange ideas. Attending meetups regularly can dramatically help you increase your contact base as well as gain exposure for your brand.
Some meetups are more organized than others. Check the reviews of a meeetup to see what prior attendees thought of the event. Most meetups are free, while others cost a few dollars. Regardless, it is up to you to determine if the time is being well spent.
Resource #2: Industry Trade Shows
Based on what industry you are in and where you are located, you may be able to do some fantastic networking at trade shows. These shows will usually have educational sessions in addition to networking events. Unlike meetups, trade shows tend to stretch over multiple days. Trade shows will often cost a reasonable amount of money to attend. While these are often stellar networking resources, the value of the event comes down to how active you participate. If you choose to attend a show, make sure that you are doing the best you can to maximize your time. Attend sessions that will provide quality, actionable information. The rest of the time should be spent networking with colleagues in the industry.
Resource #3: Shared Office Space
Shared office space is a very new and interesting approach to networking. An essential feature of a community office space is the daily interaction with other people who are working to build their own business. You have the ability to meet people who have knowledge of all different facets of running a small business. You may or may not attain new clients from your office, but the education opportunity makes it worth it. Sunshine is just one of many providers who offer this type of solution. Check what type of shared offices are available in your area. Go on a tour of the location and check out the vibe of the space. If you feel comfortable with it, go for it.
With each of the three networking opportunities above, the value of each will always depend on how well you are using your time. Make sure to evaluate our post on Tuesday that covered 3 Crucial Networking Mistakes.
Softball season is in full swing (get it, full swing? Ha!) here at the Sunshine NY community of small businesses and entrepreneurs. As such, we’re thrilled to bring you a recap of the second game of the Sunshine season, written by Tim Smith, owner of award-winning NYC Event Video Company Avenue 5 Films
Your intrepid Sunshine softball team reporter was a little worried about the team’s prospects for last Friday’s game 2 after running into powerhouse hitter Jenny Alcebo in the NoHo office an hour before game-time and finding out she wouldn’t be suiting up due to what can only be deemed a brain fart. “I have to babysit tonight,” Alcebo said unapologetically. “I totally forgot there was a softball game.” If this dedication to the team was contagious, the Shiners would surely be in trouble. I hopped in a cab with Adrian the phone man, slick fielding shortstop Tony and Sarah the self-proclaimed “PocketAsian’ (so says the back of her jersey) making it to the field on 28th and 10 with 20 minutes to spare before first pitch. (more…)
This is the first in a series of posts discussing networking for small business owners.
Networking is without a doubt one of the most critical parts of growing a fledgling business. Before we cover where to find networking opportunities, both in person and online, let’s look at some of the most common issues business owners have when they attend networking events.
Mistake #1: Being Shy:
When you attend a networking event, the last thing you want to happen is you arrive at the event and don’t approach people. The first thing to keep in mind to overcome shyness at a networking event is that everyone at the event should have something in common. For example, if you are at an industry trade show, everyone else attending will have some knowledge about the industry that you are discussing. The easiest way to start networking is to simply approach someone and introduce yourself. Many networking events will issue name badges to help make people easier to approach, but even if they don’t, introducing yourself is the easiest way to start a conversation with someone. From there simply begin to discuss the subject of the networking event. You should find yourself engaged in relevant conversation in no time.
Another great way to overcome the fear of having to approach random people at an event is to attempt to connect with people before hand, if possible. For example, if you are attending a networking event that you found on Meetup.com, the event page will list who is attending and any bio that they have published about themselves. From here, you have the ability to connect with each person who you feel you would like to meet with. Sending them a quick message expressing a desire to meet at the event will put you on your way to having your first contact.
Mistake #2: Pushing Your Product
Author David Meerman Scott says: “Nobody cares about your product (except for you.)” It is existential that you keep this in mind while you are networking. Your goal shouldn’t be to sell your product or service at the event. Rather, discuss what you do and the problems it solves. Be confident in what you offer and how it helps. Engage others in conversation about what you have in common.
If you are talking to someone who you think is a good fit the solution that your brand offers, make sure to leave a positive impact on that person. The most simple way to leave a positive impact on someone you’re interested in working with is to show a sincere interest in their venture. Ask them questions about their company and demonstrate that you are legitimately interested in what they do. Get their contact information and follow up from there.
Mistake #3: Not Having an Open Mind
This is a lesson that I have learned from experience. People you meet with may not always have the same beliefs that you do. Just because someone you met disagrees with you on a certain topic doesn’t mean either of you are correct. Discuss why you feel the way you do about the topic and ask why they disagree. The beauty of this is you may realize an entirely new perspective to a problem that you wouldn’t have otherwise seen. Remember, you are not necessarily trying to win the person over to your school or thought, but rather trying to understand their perspective on the issue.
We want to hear from YOU! What networking mistakes have you learned from in the past? Is there something that people do at networking events that drives you crazy? Tell us in the comments!
In our last blog post, we discussed an alternative view on networking and the importance of building relationships to help grow your business. Today, we’d like to focus on one of the most important relationships you can foster, a mentor.
No matter how much business experience you have, life will invariably throw you curveballs. If you’re just starting out, those curveballs look like they’re being thrown by Barry Zito circa 2002. Sometimes you even encounter a problem that the Internet doesn’t have an answer for! Having someone available who’s traveled the same path who can guide you is an invaluable resource.
So how do you find a mentor? In larger businesses, you’d look for people who have succeeded in advancing in your chosen career path. For a start-up or small business, however, the process is slightly more difficult. Many of the people who qualify will run businesses that compete with your own, whether tangentially or directly, and as such may not be so willing to give you the guidance you need. You’ll need to be creative, looking for business models similar to your own and reaching out to the owners.
On the flip side, becoming a mentor can have benefits outside of feeling good about yourself. It’s often easy to internalize lessons learned but never fully understand them. The process of explaining them to someone else can often help your own grasp of their ramifications. Furthermore, helping a business grow can lead to opportunities down the road. It’s never bad to have a successful business owner owing you a favor.
Businesses are built alone very rarely, in fact the likelihood of doing so is about the likelihood of a batter making solid contact with a 2002 Barry Zito curveball (note: this fact may or may not be true). The key is to turn Barry Zito into Jose Lima which is what a strong mentor relationship can achieve.
Much of our society’s discussion about business revolves around the strategies and issues of larger businesses. This makes sense, to an extent, as larger corporations are more visible; you don’t see Bob’s Tire Repair and Lemur Repository buying Super Bowl ad time. What this means for small businesses, however, is that oftentimes you need to redefine common business tactics in order to make them as efficient as possible. In this post, I’d like to briefly talk about the concept of networking.
The common perception of networking is people in an industry getting together and building relationships within that industry, whether to explore future business development opportunities or increase employment options. The ability to concentrate within an industry is a luxury that small businesses can’t afford. We’ve already discussed how running a small business requires wearing many hats, your networking needs to reflect this reality.
Networking for small businesses needs to take into account the fact that the more you can focus your employees on what they’re good at, the more efficient the company will run. To do so, you need to outsource the aspects of your business you don’t excel at to people who do. Work on finding the accountant that will trade doing your taxes for a steady stream of your delicious oatmeal cookies and the developer who builds your website in exchange for legal services. Those relationships will free up your time to concentrate on the things you’re passionate about, creating a more efficient business.