It used to be jobs, jobs, jobs. That’s what we wanted for ourselves, our partners, our kids; it’s what politicians promised to get our votes.
Jobs are still important and many of us still have them or seek them. But if we look at where change is happening, we see that more and more of us aren’t in traditional jobs. We’re self-employed, consultants, contractors, temps. We work in what has been called the gig economy.
By the end of 2020, I fearlessly forecast that even more of us will operate in this new mode.
How to succeed when you work for Me Inc. is different from what’s needed when you work for someone else. Since many of us never expected to be out on our own, we haven’t learned and weren’t taught what to do.
To fill this gap, here are three New Year’s resolutions that will help your company and career advance in 2020. For simplicity, I’m using the words company and business to refer to anything you do on your own behalf, such as consulting, contracting, etc.
Court your customers
We’re all in business to make money. We may want to use that money for social causes. We may wish to provide work and pay for others. However, we can’t do any of that unless we have money coming in and that money comes from customers. Any business, however small, that doesn’t concentrate on customers won’t last long.
If you’re in a retail business, it’s obvious who your customers are. You know that if you don’t provide them with what they want when and where they want them, you’ll lose their business. If you’re a consultant or contractor, your customers will likely be other businesses that will be even more vigilant about your meeting their needs at a competitive and cost-effective price.
The customer is always right. If you make the effort to find customers, learn what they want and provide it, they will keep the cash flowing into your business.
Control your costs
Once you’re keeping customers happy and have the dollars flowing in, the next step is to make sure that not too much of it is flowing out. You’re in business to make and hopefully keep some money, so be very careful about spending on anything that doesn’t directly serve your customers and/or the good or service you’re offering them. It’s especially important to watch out for ongoing overhead expenses like rent and salaries.
Many tech and consulting businesses need little in the way of overhead and capital. Often, one can operate from a home office or even a car with not much more equipment than a tablet or a phone. Staff need not always be an ongoing expense.
With more and more good people in the gig economy, you can contract for human resources as needed. An exception would be bricks-and-mortar operations that need to be staffed.
Count on courtesy
If you’ve ever taken business training, you were almost certainly taught about focusing on customers and controlling your costs. Courtesy probably wasn’t even mentioned, yet it’s a major determinant of business success and even survival. I’m using the word courtesy for the broad range of people skills – what has been called emotional intelligence.
You want your customers, your colleagues and suppliers to be look forward to working with you. A major component in choosing who to buy from, sell to or contract with is whether you enjoy dealing with that person.
You don’t have to be a pushover and you certainly don’t have to give away the store in order to be a friendly, cheerful, considerate person whose ideas are listened to and whose visits are welcomed. This helps make business a pleasure for all concerned.
As the new year starts, resolve to court your customers, control your costs and become known for your courtesy and friendly disposition. Then, may 2020 bring you much success and prosperity.
Troy Media columnist Roslyn Kunin is a consulting economist and speaker.