The three most critical moments you will face as a co-founder (Forbes)

By: Colbey Pfund August 23, 2016

Source: http://www.forbes.com

When my co-founders and I came together to form our company only three months after meeting for the first time, we didn’t have a proper business plan. We didn’t go to business school, we didn’t have investors, and we didn’t have the traditional experience one would think is required to turn an idea into a thriving enterprise. But we did have each other, for better or for worse. After signing papers to form our business, we soon learned that starting a business together was much like entering into a marriage.

As we enter our third year of consecutive growth, a new manufacturing and distribution center, global sales, and a refined marketing strategy, it’s important to remember that we still have each other, and still for better or for worse. During the last several years, our partnership dynamic has evolved dramatically, often growing through a series of disagreements, key decision-making moments, wins and mistakes. These moments have produced an unspoken constitution by which we operate and grow our business together.

Focusing on role fulfilment

In the beginning, when our business was small, we were firm believers in the unimportance of job titles. Instead, we preferred to focus on role fulfilment. We decided to determine our roles organically by acknowledging our individual strengths and weaknesses as the business grew, and as we encountered new challenges. Each new challenge presented an opportunity for certain co-founders to step up, while other challenges presented the opportunity for a co-founder to step aside. We quickly learned to never let personalities interfere with guiding principles of the business. After all, my co-founders were all friends before becoming business partners. Knowing where to draw the line between our friendship and our business has always remained paramount.

Throughout my experience with several companies, I have learned that while not all of my friends will make the best business partners, my business partners can become great friends. When approaching any new venture, I recommend an honest assessment of your friendship with new partners to evaluate trust, honesty and dependability. I often find that the strongest personality traits will dictate a co-founder’s role. Using the traits listed above as an example, the most dependable partner might naturally run operations, while the most trusting co-founder may find himself overseeing the company’s finances.

The perils of inaction

When two executives disagree on a particular course of action, the fallout can be ugly. Most healthy business relationships are built on complementary opinions and perspectives, but failing to cultivate a symbiotic approach to growing your business will just have you and your partners constantly arriving at an impasse. In my experience, sometimes making the wrong decision together yields a better outcome than making no decisions at all. Mistakes can almost always be converted into learning experiences, but inaction can stifle even the most opportunistic enterprises. We learned this lesson very early on when we couldn’t agree whether or not to pull the trigger on a unique promotional opportunity at a convention. As a result, we were not logistically prepared for a better opportunity that presented itself shortly after. Even if the first event had been a complete failure, we could have used the experience to ensure our success in the next one. Always arrive at a concrete decision and course of action. Avoid stalling out of fear or “tabling” the conversation until later.

Overcoming stalemates

Opposing viewpoints are a natural and healthy aspect of any partnership. When two of us seem to arrive at a stalemate, we embrace an unorthodox, yet often pragmatic and effective approach for moving forward. We immediately reverse our positions, advocating for the other partner’s choice in the matter. We attempt to explain why the opposing decision is the right one, simultaneously finding flaws in our own perspectives and the strengths in others. For example, if I’m in favor of increasing spend in a paid media channel and my partner disagrees, I will be asked to evaluate the potential drawbacks of the campaign. By the end of the conversation, perhaps I will have discovered that our sales revenue is healthy enough for the advertising spend to be reallocated to a new hire desperately needed in operations. This type of exercise will often root out all too common scenarios where oversight is mistaken for good instincts. Ultimately, our unique personalities helped mold our roles as co-founders. Complementary skill sets can be developed organically as your business grows, but fine-tuning collaborative decision-making abilities often requires enough time and experience working together to inspire the most success in the business and in each other.

4 ways to earn trust from prospects and customers (Entrepreneur.com)

By: Karen Mishra August 04, 2016

Source: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/279773

The first thing your customers will do when evaluating your products and services is decide if they trust you. Gaining their trust will be hard to do at first, as they won’t have much to go on. However, it is possible to show your customers that they can count on you to perform by simply proving to them that you are reliable. Answer your phone during the hours you say you will. Be open when you say you will. Get back to a new customer when you say you will. All of these things are simple yet critical ways of showing your customers that they can count on you. These may seem simple, but too many companies – large and small — don’t seem to care about how they treat customers before they are ever customers. Here are a few ways to show your customers you care.

  1. Never leave your customers hanging.

I am considering trading in an old car for a new one. Here in North Carolina, the summers are hot. If you see someone walking on your car lot in the middle of the day, chances are that they are a serious customer. However, when we walked on a lot the other day, it was nearly 30 minutes before anyone walked out of the air conditioned showroom to ask if they could help us. I left. But then I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt (it was a 90-degree day) and tried to get an online quote. It took more than 12 hours to get a response. When I finally did, I told them it was too late. We made other plans. Don’t let a prospect leave without talking to them. Acknowledge them, and make them feel welcome. They may not buy something today, but they will surely be back another time if they feel you made an effort.

  1. Always follow up when you say you will.

My insurance company knew that I wanted to make a change to my insurance policy on June 19 because I had discussed it weeks prior. If they wanted to be really proactive, an agent would have called me on that date and told me that the change was in the works. Instead, I had to call them several days later to remind them about this change. When I finally got a hold of them, the insurance company said that they remembered, and they were planning to handle it. I can’t read their minds. I don’t know what the company is planning; and so, it felt like they had forgotten about us. Write yourself a note on your calendar to follow up on a specific date with your customer, and call them first.  Let them know that you remembered and already have  the change in motion. They will appreciate that you cared enough to update them.

  1. Don’t hesitate to apologize when a problem occurs.

I recently stayed at a new hotel in Ocean City.  As I was checking out, I politely informed the front desk about a few things that they might want to fix before the next guest checks in. Even though we had a stained towel, a leaky shower curtain and a broken bathroom fan, I was very calm and asked if I could speak with the manager. The front desk clerk said he would share it with her and that I could call her later when she got to work. When I did call her, she said that she never got my message. Her response was perfect. First, she said, “If I had heard these things had happened to you, I would have already called you to apologize.” Then, she refunded my entire two-night stay without even asking.  All that she asked in return is that we give her another opportunity to deliver in the future.

  1. Help with a smile.

My favorite eyewear place North Carloina, Specs, is always happy to see me, even if I just need my glasses re-adjusted.  I don’t have to worry about buying a new pair of glasses every year or spending a lot of money when I walk through the door. Every employee has a positive, helpful attitude. This makes it easy for me to return to this independent eyewear store, and spend extra money to get glasses that I know will look great and fit properly. I trust them to look out for our best interests, whether I’m spending a small amount on eye glass cleaner or a lot on a new set of frames.

Your customers will evaluate whether they can trust you based on your reliability, openness, competence and compassion.  Start by being reliable. Be proactive. Take the lead. And let your customers know that you can be counted on. If you can’t be reliable for the little things, your customers will never trust you to be reliable for the big things.