Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Krista Howard, owner of The Office Fairy, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My business is small business solutions. I am a consultant that provides customized client care, payroll/bookkeeping, general administration, and marketing. My specialty is working with residential and commercial construction contractors.
Tell us about yourself
I grew up working in residential electrical construction with my father. After graduating from college in Business Marketing, I worked for a large corporation in property management, then in commercial roofing, and eventually returned to help run my family business. I had planned to start the office fairy then but felt too busy. When my dad retired, I took some time off, then started the fairy, and was pleased to find I was able to live without a full-time job.
I am super motivated by the fact that my clients need me. Working with my guys is not like working for a giant conglomerate that will replace you in a week. They trust me, and I try to make sure that it's for a good reason.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Not starving to death! Haha! Maybe that's not motivating for some, and I've certainly done a little better than that, but to be honest, that just makes me so proud that I don't have to depend on anyone else. I say it all the time.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Communicating with clients - I have found this to be true for everyone I work with. It can be so exhausting communicating with your clients after swinging a hammer (or even doing haircuts) all day. I think this is why the fairy has been doing well.
Prompt communication makes such a huge difference to the client's experience, so it's important that it is done well. I'm so lucky that it's a service I can provide to more than one person at a time and to be able to make a difference in their success.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Don't build yourself into every aspect of your business. Ideally, you'd like to retire eventually. If your business has done well, it can potentially be sold for a good deal of profit. This is particularly true if it can be sold and actually operated by someone else. This means putting in place the right protocols and procedures, keeping good records (not a box of receipts or a quarterly scramble based on your memory), and delegating responsibility appropriately. Selling a business that runs itself in this way is a whole different animal from selling your retired phone number. I'm working on this for my own business, of course, so no one is perfect, but it's something to think about.
- Stop apologizing to clients. It is perfectly acceptable to thank someone for their patience or politely acknowledge that you've kept them waiting and provide alternatives without apologizing. I'm not sure if clients find it dishonest or weak, but I find they are much more respectful if we avoid apologies. I find the act of communicating with them is almost more important than showing up and doing the work in many cases and can result in better reviews and a better reputation.
- Don't let your mouth write a cheque your butt can't cash. Or stop making promises you can't keep. It is GREAT to tell someone that you'll try to do a thing by a certain time, but if you're going to do that, and you're a busy guy (or gal), you better be good at setting reminders (or have an office fairy), as you must then be prepared do the thing, or communicate that you will not be doing the thing. Say no, ask them to call back, and let the call go to voicemail, but don't say you're coming and not show up.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
We started our businesses to be free, not to be enslaved. If you don't want to work with someone, respectfully decline. Don't work all day every day of your life; take vacations, and spend time with your family!
As long as you're communicating with people, you should be free to do as you please. Don't forget the whole point of working for yourself!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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