This post might step on a few toes of those who have labeled themselves experts or gurus, but is important for small business owners like yourself to understand as many of you are new to entrepreneurship and frankly don’t know what you don’t know. In today’s business environment statements like ‘knowledge is power’ and ‘content is king’ hold true. The sale of information is big business, but not all that is for sale is worth buying (even when it is cheap). The same holds true for other business services.
As a consumer you need to know what you are paying for and that the information or service comes from a credible source. Taking the advice of someone who is either in ‘it’ for the money or trying to ‘wing it’ can be detrimental for your business and costly. Everyone likely knows SOMETHING about accounting, marketing, legal, finances, credit, social media, web design and tons of other services but do they know ENOUGH to advise you?
During a period of unemployment I did some graphic & web design work to make ends meet. Although I’m a capable designer it’s not my passion and I therefore have never marketed that service. During that period almost all of the client’s sites or logos I designed were referred to me because they had gone to someone else who had either taken their money and not delivered as expected or hadn’t delivered at all. I started calling myself ‘the Janitor’ because I sustained myself on income made from cleaning up the graphics messes made by other designers. Likewise, I had customers come to me for marketing and branding and later chosen to try a cheaper solution only to come back because others couldn’t quite get it right. Not just tooting my own horn (toot toot) but I’ve talked to other service professionals (accountants, event planners, tax professionals, attorney’s, etc) who also have ‘janitor’ in their title because as true professionals they are having to clean up the messes of other to provide for their clients.
In business there are already so many things that can go wrong, why not avoid the ‘messes’ that you can? Before spending your money on a coach, consultant, webcast, eBook, or service professional take some time to vet them (beyond their winning personality) to be sure they can truly back up the fancy title they’ve imprinted on their business cards or website. Here are 5 simple steps to take before you spend your money:
- Check Credentials. What credentials do they have relevant to the services they provide? Do they have formal education? Specialized training? Industry certifications? Many industries require specific training or certifications if there’s does check for these. Any other service professional who is at an expert or advanced level will have some form of formal education.
- Evaluate Experience. What experience do they have in their area of expertise? Look beyond how long they have been in business, a newly formed business can have more expertise than one that has been formalized decades ago. Are they active in professional organizations? Have they been in the field greater than 5 years?
- Ask Tough Questions. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions at the beginning. The easy questions are just that, easy. Imagine giving your business to an accountant only to be audited in a few years and they not know how to handle it? You need to know up front that when they tough questions or situations arise you aren’t going to be on the hunt for a new provider.
- Check References. Ask for references as well as read testimonials and reviews. If making a major investment don’t hesitate to ask to speak to someone they have worked with previously. A professional has references!
- Shop Around. Before spending your money comparison shop, most consumers naturally shop around for products but often don’t for services. When selecting a service provider for your business price isn’t always the driving factor, consult with several sources to compare services, experience, and ensure the best fit for your money.
There are many great service professionals out there that provide services that far exceed the monetary investment and others that fall short. Don’t take the risk of putting your business in unqualified hands just because their title says ‘expert’, ‘guru’, or other boisterous terms.
Share Your Experience: Have you been burned by an untrained/skilled provider? Have you been the ‘janitor’ to clean up the mess others have made? Do you have other tips for hiring professionals? Comment below, let’s discuss.
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