Small Business Ru!e of the Month

Small Business Ru!e of the Month

01.8.2019 Be Professional From The Get-Go


I was attending a conference at Hamilton Island several years ago, and a peer in the industry asked me if he and his wife could sit down with me and grill me on a few business concepts. Of course I obliged.

They believed their business had plateaued. Their business had stopped growing. The crunch question, though, astounded me. “Should we have a staff uniform?” This, to me, was like the pope asking if he should attend Mass on a Sunday! I firmly believe that from the day you set up your business, you need to have some crucial items to present a professional image:

  • Don’t include your name as part of the business. I understand that there might be an argument against this when Dick and Maurice McDonald started in 1948 with their surname and the brand is now valued at US$38 billion, but look at the top 10 global brands: Coca-Cola, IBM, Microsoft, GE, Nokia, Toyota, Intel, McDonald’s, Disney, and Google. Not many personal names in there. If you include your name in your business, everyone wants to deal with you, and the individual becomes the focus rather than the business.
  • Have a uniform. You need to dress “as like” your clients as possible. A uniform shows unity and gives employees a sense of pride, belonging, and discipline. It also negates the possibility of a staff member turning up late saying, “Sorry—I just couldn’t decide what to wear to work today!”
  • Wear a name badge. It makes it easier for a client to recall your name, and it gives an indication that you have left your ego at the front door.
  • Have professional contact details. This includes your own domain name, a dedicated landline (once upon a time just a mobile screamed fly-by-night business louder than a Nigerian e-mail but it is somewhat more acceptable now), and never a combined phone/fax number.
  • Have professional printing done. Nothing says “cheap” quite like business cards printed on an inkjet with the kids cutting the cards out along some wobbly lines. This 90 by 55 millimetre piece of card gives you an opportunity to make your business stand out—don’t do it on the cheap.
  • Dream big. Don’t limit your growth by having a name that is too narrow. A name like Ohio Hydraulic Rubber Gaskets for Diesel Engines doesn’t leave room for expansion. You may remember the example of Strathfield Car Radios. The business started in the Sydney suburb of Strathfield and they sold car radios. The name seemed logical enough initially. But then they expanded and the product mix grew. At its peak the business had almost one hundred outlets across Australia and their main business was selling mobile telephones. Today they still sell car audio but also GPS navigation, home and office security and communications products. Make sure your business name still makes sense if you realise your growth dreams.