Business is Business, Whether It Is Offline or Online
Since we’ve been introduced to the “online world of business”, we’ve started to see this trend that is quite concerning; business owners that operate online somehow think that the fundamentals of business don’t apply to them.
You see, Tom and I currently have 3 business, with the first 2 happening to be purely offline businesses (outside of our marketing).
And over and over again, I hear online entrepreneurs say:
“Oh it’s different for you, you have a brick & mortar business”
“I don’t need to worry about that, my business is online”
And while both of these statements aren’t completely false, they aren’t completely true either.
So because this trend is very unhealthy, and honestly it scares me just a little, I’m going to share with you 5 reasons you should run your online business like an offline one!
Reason #1: Business Foundation is a Basic Concept.
The differences in all the details of running an online vs an offline could take all day to list. But there is one thing you can’t argue with:
You still need to run your business like a business!
Regardless of how much you spend to start your business (online typically has much lower startup costs and barrier of entry here) or how much you make from your business, you still need to complete the same building blocks (business bank account separate from personal, working with an accountant, the correct business entity established, get some kind of insurance, have a plan in place, file your taxes on time etc.) or you will struggle.
Don’t think you can skip steps just because you are online! The business basics may not be “sexy”, but they are called that for a reason. Without them, you can get yourself into serious trouble and your business will most likely fail.
Reason #2: Hiring is Still Hiring, Even When it’s Virtual!
For some reason, there seems to be this disconnect in the area of hiring in the online world.
We see a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with finding services & team members that are a good fit for their business. And I think the reason they do so, is that they don’t treat it as a true hiring experience.
As much as entrepreneurs may hate the corporate term “HR” (Human Resources), you need to act as such, even when hiring contractors or virtual staff. Make sure they have some sort of resume and/or portfolio of previous work. Check references, do a background check. Remember, you are giving these people access to your accounts, and in some cases, they are a big part of your business. You also have to comply with the IRS laws in whether they are a contractor or an employee, which affects how you pay them and who pays the taxes.
Do your homework so you don’t get burned.
Tom is also a HUGE fan of hiring based on values alignment and fit. The skills needed to do the job are important, but if the person you hire is not aligned to your personal/company values, it will make for a challenging working relationship and can throw off your company culture.
Also, make sure you learn some basic “people managing” skills. If you’re a poor manager/delegator, it won’t matter who you hire to help you! Far too many entrepreneurs who are running a business online have never had to manage people and trying to manage remote people just adds levels of complexity to this challenge.
Oh, one more thing. Creating some sort of process and task guides (like a standard operating procedure manual) will help you when you’re ready to hire team members. They’ll know what you want, and you’ll get what you ask for, with a lot less frustration!
Reason #3: Customer Loyalty & Support is Essential for Success
SO many online entrepreneurs get caught up in achieving the dream, they often forget the most important people: their customers.
You need to know who they are, where they are, how to get in front of them, what they want and how to keep them happy. In the offline world, this process is sometimes slightly easier because you are likely seeing your customer face to face. When working primarily online, it can be easy to not develop the connection between your customer and your company.
Did you know that in most businesses it is cheaper to keep an existing customer than to find a new one? Did you know that if you lose 20% of your customers each year, you have to replace that 20 % of customers just to get back to even? That means that in order to increase your customers by 20% this year, you actually have to get 40% new customers because you lost 20%. The lesson here; you need to treat them well, so they keep coming back!
Being behind a screen can often make you forget that little fact. Treating customers like numbers instead of people is a quick way to lose them.
Reason #4: NETWORKING WORKS.
I’m talking REAL networking here, not just contributing to Facebook groups or other online communities.
It’s so easy to get used to only seeing people’s tiny profile photos on social media, you sometimes lack the motivation to cultivate real relationships with other entrepreneurs.
If you don’t have any local events to attend, make the effort to do coffee dates over skype, or make plans to go to a conference and meet new people.
And my last reason goes along with this one…
Reason #5: Create Beneficial Partnerships
Often in the offline world, you will find a lot of customers fill their need for services by referrals and word of mouth.
Moving into a new house? Your real estate agent probably has a moving company they recommend.
Planning your wedding? There will be a whole list of companies who work together (and even offer packages) on their services.
Online entrepreneurs can (and some successful ones do) partner up with someone who compliments their business too!
Webdesigner? Find a great copywriter to offer to your clients.
Business Attorney? Team up with a CPA to give your clients the whole package.
And Many, Many More…
We would be here all day if we kept going through the reasons. Instead of that, let’s remember the main point…
Business is Business.
Anyone who thinks otherwise, probably won’t have one for long!