How to find success in business, no matter what business you’re in

After thirty-five years of running my own company, Mid-Hudson Marketing, I’ve come to understand a few truths about what brings success in business. No matter your business, if you give customers what they want, customers will be happy. And happy customers come back. They also refer other clients to you.

Now, you might think that in marketing, a client would come to me for business. But, ironically, when a client comes to me for marketing services, there is a lot more to the client that they want than is apparent on the surface. Clients need confidants. Customers need friends. Clients need trusted assistants to do the things they can’t do themselves, and to do them well. Clients need reliable business partners that they can count on in times of need to provide guidance and advice. Customers need all of this but don’t want to be charged extra for it. And customers need these things exactly when they need them, at the exact moment they ask for them, without having to wait for their turn. After all, clients are people who are busy with many important tasks at hand including achieving the success of their own business. It is rare for a customer to realize that you and him have something in common.

No, clients are by definition completely selfish with only their own interests in mind. When they call you, they need you. Otherwise, they don’t call. Of course, in today’s economic situation, receiving a call from a customer in need should be considered a blessing if you are running a business. This is your bread and butter. Furthermore, the reason they excuse their shortsightedness is because they pay you for their help. Not the opposite.

Never mind that they may cut you off from attending to the needs of other VIP clients whose calls may be coming first. It is an exercise in tact and diplomacy that provides you with the right things to say to meet the demands of all customers within the allotted time. No customer wants to be told they have to wait, and they all deserve to go out of their way to perform everything they expect of you.

Fortunately, the laws of probability usually distribute these calls somewhat randomly, so don’t overwhelm yourself with immediate urgency that’s impossible to implement. And in a business like marketing, there are many different tasks that customers might need to perform, all of which require different skills, allocations of time, and expectations for completion.

And of course, not all projects come as phone calls. Many of them come as emails in today’s world. But either way, prompt response is the most important action for you as a business owner, to provide the solution that every person is looking for. I find that most clients just want to know that they are important to you and that you are grateful for their calls and that you intend to process their requests promptly. This is usually accomplished by promptly calling or responding via email to confirm receipt of their message and how you intend to meet their needs. I also always promise to assure you when the job is complete. Having done this, my stress level is reduced for the time being because the speed of the order was taken care of. However, as anyone who runs a business knows, chronic stress is part of success, because it drives us to do the work customers ask for, as quickly and brilliantly as possible!

The next step for the business owner is to prioritize the tasks at hand. I approach this by knowing how many steps there are in the process, how long each will take, and how long I can get them done while working on several jobs at once. For small business owners, or people who run their own businesses (like me), that usually means being a workaholic and working morning, noon, and night 24/7. This is no exaggeration. I work out every moment I can, and make time for personal hygiene, eating, sleeping, and an hour of daily exercise a day, without fail! Of course, I admit to being very robotic in every way in my life which serves me well at work. The reason is that I can multitask with ease without breaking my focus from my most important app.

An example would be answering the phone with a standard greeting without missing a beat, while using any of my many programs to design, write, produce, improve or convert any number of the many jobs I perform daily. People often comment that I sound like a recording. We laugh about it and move on. My predictability is not only beneficial to my work, but appreciated by my clients who can get to me in an episode or two without having to wade through the mud and muck of phone prompts or receptionists trying to speak to me directly. Sure, they sometimes get my voicemail, but I always call back right away and never make them wait.

However, I must reveal that two years ago, when I maintained a formal business suite of offices in the largest neighboring city, my hours were very different. Commuting time even on the worst days of winter used up a large portion of my availability to continue working through my workload. I used to believe such time well spent…as a “creative pause,” as the German music professor at Bard College used to say. It’s time to think, plan the strategy and get an overview of the business as a whole. Now, however, since I was prescient enough to realize that closing that heavy office that I had been so proud of for 35 years was an unaffordable luxury in today’s economy, and moving home was the best alternative for many reasons, my time is much better off.

First of all, I now have a life! You may ask how can I have a life if I work 24/7? !! Well, since I love what I do for a living, I definitely enjoy working from home. Here are the main differences:

  • Instead of getting up at 4am to get dressed to the top for work, reading several newspapers while eating breakfast and driving an hour to work, I now get up at 8:15am and run up and down the stairs for a 20 minute workout (2500 steps in all). !) and make a small breakfast that I eat while I check my email in the comfort of my desk outside my dining room in my pants, shirt, and socks. My working day usually starts around 9 am which is the norm for the majority of office workers.

  • Instead of having to wear heels while driving to and from the occasional client meeting that also kills a good portion of the day (not to mention my feet!), I now stay home and avoid meeting anyone entirely. I am completely accessible by email and phone and seeing me in person is superfluous in this day and age of internet access and video conferencing.

  • Instead of leaving the office late on the rat-race way home to cook dinner after stopping at the grocery store and gas station and navigating through the occasional traffic jam and subsequent, longer-than-usual detour, I now take a twenty-minute walk with my husband around 4:30. Every day and after continuing to work until 6:30, start eating dinner after a 9-hour working day. I am fortunate to have a retired husband/life partner who now does all the shopping.

  • Instead of ending my day at 9:30pm so I can get enough sleep to wake up at 4 and start over, I can now watch the end of a Yankee game most nights if they’re still playing around 10pm, which is when I stop Work after dinner to catch up on a little TV show and eat an apple. The bot’s bedtime is now around midnight, which gives me about 8 hours of sleep each night versus the previous average of 5.5 hours. This in itself gave me back my life!

But a lot of things have changed in the business since the downturn. It’s not surprising to hear about people working from home. Having an office was great for many years when people would come in for frequent conferences or to check proofs. There was a time when I spent whole days doing high-quality photography on location, sometimes from helicopters, using expensive rental gyroscopes and long lenses while flying through the now-forbidden airspace above Manhattan! Times have changed and industrialized with it. We have become an online culture where everything is accessible with affordable, high-quality digital photography and PDF proofs via email. People are more conservative about business expenses than ever before, and the cost of gasoline and everything has scaled back how we all do business. As a result, how much charging we charge has also become a matter of sensitivity.

Having reached a place in my life where money is no longer a matter of life and death, sink or swim, I am fortunate to have the freedom to negotiate reasonable rates with long-term clients whom I respect and who have expressed concern about losing revenue due to the decline in business that I feel Its everyone. Once you reach a certain age, you will realize that life does not go on forever and that it is far more important to live life for the pleasure it can bring than some arbitrary dollar number you may have once aspired to. Since my house and cars are all paid for and I have some relatively satisfactory investments, it is more important to me to have clients looking out for my wits and skills, and keeping me busy with interesting work, than trying to amass a fortune doing so. I’m also fortunate (and have been for the better part of my career) to not have to look for work. It comes as always from the clients I’ve been working with most of my life. These clients refer others. There are always new clients who find me through my website. Yes, my office was a great representation of my polished business image, my brand…but I’ve achieved the same thing with my website, for a considerably reduced cost!

I wrote this article, which is really a snapshot of my life, for the purpose of sharing the kinds of things that make success. Not for specific information, but for the behavioral and philosophical facts that shape a person’s life. Always put the customer first; do the best job possible; Respecting client needs and time frame; to be frugal in spending; and above all, to be just in all things; These are the ways in which I have found success in my life. It doesn’t take much to make me happy, thank God. I’m not destitute, with a perfectly ripe avocado, a good apple, my favorite balsamic vinegar, skim milk, oats, walnuts, and Taster’s Choice decaf. These are the things that make me happy. And a kind word from a happy customer now and then! Do I mind working all weekends to keep up with client deadlines and business goals? never. I thrive on that. This is what I would define as success in business.