I hate to be a downer, but there are a lot of things which make it hard for a small business to get off the ground. You’re going to have a lot of competition from larger firms, strict quotas you have to meet in order to turn a healthy profit, and the simple fact that you’ve never done this before all dragging you down. Yes, starting a business is possible, but it certainly isn’t easy! Another major factor which makes things hard for new business owners is capturing a certain air of professionalism. This is important for any kind of business, and there are a number of ways start-up owners can inject a great sense of professionalism into their venture…

Make Your Visual Materials Works of Art

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It’s certainly true that the value of your product or service is going to have a big impact on your company’s overall success. However, customers still put a lot of emphasis on the way a business presents itself visually as well. Like any modern business, you’ll have a range of materials which will be a source of first impressions for a lot of people in your target market. If you’re not making sure that all of these exert professionalism, then you’re only going to end up chasing away a lot of business. Even a logo that’s been designed sloppily, without the input of a professional graphic designer, can be enough to make prospective customers think that you’re not taking your business seriously. The same principle applies to your website, business cards, the banners you use at trade shows, and any other visual materials.

Value the Little Things

Yes, a massive oak desk, a conference room that’s brimming with tech and a giant logo fixed to the outside of your building will all do a lot to convince prospective customers and partners that you’re running a professional firm. However, sometimes the little things can be the biggest factor in how professional your business appears. When you’re in the start-up phase and you’re worried about a waning professional image, sometimes it’s the smaller, day-to-day things which you should be thinking about before anything else. A set ethical code, training in proper phone etiquette, and greater personal accountability can all do a lot to pump a greater sense of professionalism into your brand. You can even try staff safety lanyards, a professional dress code, and other minor changes to inspire greater professionalism throughout the organization. If you’ve been taking things pretty relaxed so far, then your staff may be a little slow to get on board with these changes. In the long run, however, everyone in the company is going to benefit from them.

Don’t Neglect Social Media

When you first heard of Facebook, I bet you never thought that it would come into a post like this! However, a business’s social media presence now has a massive impact on the professionalism everyone sees behind its brand. It’s unfortunately very common for business owners to start off their venture with a strong and active social media presence, and then withdraw from this aspect of their marketing as more and more pressing issues start to pile up on their desk. You do not want to be one of these entrepreneurs! You need to make sure you’re posting regularly enough for your business to stay relevant and visible, and not letting any questions, comments or complaints go unanswered for too long. Remember that there are different practices and nuances tied to different social media platforms, which you’ll need to learn to make sure you’re maintaining a professional image. There are a lot of scheduling tools available these days which can make this process so much easier. We’re about to take our first steps into 2017, and you’ll find it extremely hard to make it as a small business without a well-oiled social media presence!

Pay Attention to the Office

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When you first started your business, I’m sure you didn’t pay that much attention to the interior of your office. Your first concern would have been to keep your profit margins up, and worry about your image later. This is understandable, and the right way to go in a lot of situations. However, if you’re now at a stage where you’re planning to bring prospective partners or customers in to talk things over, then your interior may need some work. At the very least, you should make sure that every area of the office is meticulously clean. This will not only give off a strong sense of professionalism, but will also improve general employee hygiene and morale. Aside from that, you should make sure that anyone who walks through your door receives courteous and responsive service from your staff. If you can afford it, hiring a professional, experienced receptionist is one great way to go about this. As a bare minimum, you should run some training sessions covering how your staff should accommodate for prospective partners and customers who come into the office. It’s also a good idea to set out a comfortable waiting area for any visitors you may have, and make space for refreshments like chilled water or coffee. If an investor’s still on the fence about your business, and they’re made to wait for you at an empty desk, they’re not going to think that much of the professional standards you’re keeping!

Outsource Where You Need To

If there’s one thing that hurts the professional reputation of a business, it’s showing that the organization has bitten off more than you can chew. If your phones are always answered by a flustered, stressed-out employee, and the sheer amount on your plate is causing you to miss deadlines or deliver sub-standard work, then it’s obviously going to tarnish your brand sooner or later. While I understand the want to be independent as a business owner, it’s very important to know when you should outsource, and loosen up your available resources. Think about what’s straining your business, and start networking with professionals who’d be able to help you.