Every small business owner has a philosophy whether it is written down or not.
I believe it will help any potential entrepreneur to take time to identify and write down philosophies. It is a matter of self-awareness and the path to responsible interaction with clients and customers.
What follows is a list of things to consider when writing your own small business philosophy.
- Why are you in business? What are your most important reasons for opening a small business? Hopefully you’ll write something besides, “To make money.” Sure, we all want to make money, but why did you choose your particular business? Was it only because it seemed lucrative? Do you have a particular skill or avocation that led you to open that type of business? Are you doing it to help humanity in some way? What are your motivations? Write them down. They’re sure to have a place in your overall business philosophy.
- Who are you serving? Who are your ideal clients or customers? What are you trying to do for them? Could you describe your ideal customer? Is it a 35 year old female musician? Can you describe her, and tell something about what her values are? Write this down too. What is the ideal way for you to interact with your ideal customer? What can you do that will appeal to her? How will you treat her? How much time will you give her? How can you show her how important she is to you?
In relating to the community you serve, overall, what can you do to maintain positive relationships with people you interact with who are not yet your customers? Does it matter to you what they think of you? Can you do some kind of outreach that will put in place positive relationships that may result in benefits to your business?
- Do you have any feelings about how you relate to the environment and health concerns of people who may come in contact with your product? If your product is potentially dangerous, how will you handle issues of public well-being and safety for the environment we live in?
- What are your ethical principles? How do you want to behave during difficult business transactions? Will you put your customer first, or your business finances? Is honesty an issue for you? Would lack of honesty negatively impact your business?
- How closely should your financial records match actual transactions? If you’ve decided to be fastidiously honest, how will you assure that your financial records are kept up to date? Should you have a list of daily must-do actions to maintain your financial records and other important tasks?
- What are your charitable principles? Will you offer free or low-cost services to the needy or will you insist that everyone pay you a fair price? Are you willing to give extra time to difficult customers who may not understand how your business works? How far out on a limb are you willing to go?
- Who is #1? What one person makes your business happen? How will you treat that person?
- What will be your relationship with employees? What do you want to do for them to insure their loyalty to you? What benefits should they have? How will you address personal problems between employees? What steps will you take if you have to lay off or fire an employee? If you’re planning a significant change to your business, when will you include your employees in the decision process – before it is made, or after you’ve signed contracts for the change?
- How will you let others know about your business philosophy? Will you post a statement of principles on the bulletin board at work? Will you include a page about your philosophies in an employee handbook or training binder? Will you have a version of your philosophy available to consumers of your service or product? Or is it your philosophy to keep the entire thing, or certain aspects of your business philosophy to yourself?
I hope this list of issues to consider when developing a small business philosophy will help as you put in place the foundation for your business endeavors.