Put a Professional Look on Your Small Business Start-Up

In poker, a Tell is a small, but noticeable change in behavior or mannerisms that communicate to the other players in a loud and clear voice that the hand you are holding is different.  The hand may be great or it may be horrible, but having a Tell lets the other players read you, and that can be the kiss of death for a card player.  For the small business start-up, not knowing your business’ Tells can be just as fatal.  

Most small business start-ups begin life as one-man-bands, a fact you do not want to emphasize when trying to build sales.  When dealing potential clients, you need to present the professional image of a company that is capable of meeting the customer’s needs.  Sending the wrong message can be the difference between making the rent and becoming just another small business failure for the Bureau of Labor Statistics to track.

Avoid An Unprofessional Business Look

You can avoid these mistakes by paying attention to a few small details.  A disciplined approach to developing your company’s public image can be the difference between success and failure.

Your Website

Every company today has a website.  Since money is usually tight at first, and since you won’t have the resources to have a full-blown website developed, consider using WordPress to create your website.  WordPress is a popular, open-source, piece of blogging software that is used by such companies as Xerox, CNN, Yahoo, and even the Wall Street Journal.

There are countless different themes and styles available, and each one can be customized to suit your needs.  

For about fifty bucks you can register your website and have it hosted for a year.  With a weekend or two of sweat equity, even the most challenged of Dummies can produce a professional looking website.  Most website hosting companies will even load the software onto your website for free.  The learning curve on the software is fairly flat too, so you won’t have to invest hours learning a programming language to create a world class site.  (Visit WordPress.org to learn more.)

And if you have trouble coming up with creative content for the site, you can hire a freelance copywriter to generate original content that is tailored to fit your company.  Constant-Content, a website that puts freelance writers in touch with businesses needing content, can let you purchase articles and blog posts tailored to present your company in a style that makes you look like a pro.  Prices are typically reasonable too, with an average sized article of 800–1000 words costing as little as $30.  (Check out Constant-Content.com for more info.)

Your Email Address

Make sure your email address ends in @yourcompany.com.  You’ve already invested in the site, so make sure you use it to its full potential.  Professionals don’t use AOL accounts, and they don’t have email addresses that start with cute names like MavsFan19 or DallasMike22.  

When deciding on an email address, consider using a combination of your first initial and last name.  Most companies have a similar type system in place to make sure they don’t duplicate addresses, and you want to look just like those companies when trading emails with potential clients.

Your Physical Address

Instead of a renting a P.O. Box for your mail, give some thought to finding a mail service that offers addresses as Suite numbers instead of box numbers.  This gives the appearance of a professional office space without having to come up with the rent every month.  Since most small business start-ups offer some type of service, clients will typically never show up at your physical address anyway.

Create a Virtual Office with a Virtual Assistant

Another sure sign that you are working out of your living room is being the only one who ever answers the phone, responds to an email requesting information, or does anything else at your office for that matter.  One answer is to consider creating a virtual office by working with a company that offers you the services of a Virtual Assistant.

Virtual Assistants perform the work that your staff would, and one day will, perform when you are in a position to invest in one.  Companies that offer the services of a Virtual Assistant provide ongoing administrative support tailored to meet the specific needs of your company.  You have one point of contact for everything from accounting support to setting appointments for sales calls.  Typically these services are offered by a fellow entrepreneur, although they may work for a company that helps them contact businesses that need their services.  As a result, you’ll typically find a caliber of work several notches above what you could find through a temp agency.

Virtual Assistants give your office the feel of a large, professional firm without the expense.  A Virtual Assistant can handle the phones while you are out generating sales, but unlike a typical answering service, having a Virtual Assistant answer your calls will never betray to the caller that you have forwarded your calls to a service.  The “receptionist” can explain that you are in a meeting or “off-site,” and that she will get you the message as soon as you return.  Seconds later you can get the message delivered to your cell phone.  

Additionally, your virtual support staff can handle everything from providing accounting backup to helping you implement a social media marketing plan.  Taking advantage of these services allows you to work all of your admin needs through one point of contact which allows them to support you better, freeing you to focus completely on growing your company. (Google “Virtual Assistant” to source companies that offer these types of services.)

Your image is mission critical to your business.  Remember to think through the points of contact you will have with potential clients and take the time to do them right.  Sometimes business, like life, is all about first impressions and you cannot afford to make needless, costly mistakes. 

Tags: putting on a professional image  professional small business tips  make my small business more professional  make small business professional 

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