Wanted: Your business success story

In every job, in every position, we all learn something – or there’s something seriously wrong.

We pick up skills, we learn about customer service, we figure out how to work in teams. That goes for small business owners, too.

Everybody who owns a small business can point to a factor or two (or three, or 100) that have made their enterprise successful. Maybe it was identifying and filling a niche.

Maybe it was looking at traditional ways of doing business and finding a better way. Maybe it was top-notch customer service, or providing skills or products that were just perfect – consistently.

Was it the work force you hired? Identifying a growth market? What have you learned, that others can learn from?

Whatever it was, we’re inviting you to share your success story with other entrepreneurs around the state through a new feature we’ve launched on the BDN’s business web site.

Our hope is that by sharing tidbits of success, small business owners around the state can benefit from each others’ collective wisdom and experiences. You have to register – it’s a quick process – and that allows you to post directly to the site, and helps us block spammers. Your information won’t be sold off to marketers – we promise! And, if you register and post, you’re automatically entered for a chance to win free online marketing for your business for a year on BDN Marketplace.

We’ve already got a few success stories posted, and the insights are valuable.

For Patrick Hackleman, owner of Casco Bay Sports, that success story comes from giving customers a personal and optimal experience, maximizing word-of-mouth buzz about his business.

Pat writes:

As business owners it’s easy to get caught up in the everyday routine of accounting, marketing, and planning therefore losing track of who the sales actually come from.

 Our customers have made Casco Bay Sports not only an outlet for exercise but also a way of life socially. When a customer and his or her friends play in multiple sports leagues several times a year and subsequently have suggestions on improvement, we listen intently. Taking that extra time assists us with delivering the highest quality product possible. Moving one step further we pride ourselves in making a point to get to know as many customers as possible on a more personal level.

 Yes this does sound time consuming and as a business owner you might say “Who has this kind of time?” I completely understand. However, the conversations at sports leagues or the random beer shared at the local bar helps us bridge the gap between paying customer and casual friendship. In my opinion this is one of the most rewarding aspects of small business ownership and it benefits both parties simultaneously.

 It assures the customer that they are not just receiving a product but are receiving one from a business that genuinely cares. It also accelerates the ever important “word of mouth” advertising concept.

Wendy Clark, owner of Wendy Clark Design, also wrote about the importance of word-of-mouth, and how crucial it is to have happy clients who spread those good words.

From Wendy’s entry:

I’ve recently noticed a number of clients have made it a point to tell me how pleased they are—that I listen to their needs, give detailed descriptions of proposed work, create clear contracts, send follow-up emails, reply quickly, pay attention to details and meet deadlines—as if this was all novel. And they tell others how pleased they are. And my phone rings.

 I’m always happy to please clients with great design, but it’s surprising to me when they’re so pleased with the BASICS of business communication. Lesson learned? Spend time being thorough, clear and pleasant and you’ll spend less time and money on advertising.

And Dan Sexton at Horizon Digital Marketing wrote about the need for research in order to make cold calls effective.

As Dan writes:

In early January, I saw a local print ad for a Portland firm that offers some service locally, but their main product has a nationwide market. It was a new company and my instincts told me that my competitors had not yet called them So I went to their web site and found the name of the decision maker.

 I called and asked for him by name and briefly discussed how my company helps Maine companies (like them) market nationwide (which is what they want to do). The cold call was all about their products, their needs, not about me. I had visited their web site and knew exactly what they did. I read his Bio and knew where he went to college.

Maine is overwhelmingly a state of small business owners. This new offering at the BDN’s business page is one of several that we’ve launched to try to offer those entrepreneurs quick information, tools, tips and stories. Another is the Top Gun blog, which is written by entrepreneurs around the state who are undergoing an intensive “masters course” in entrepreneurship through the Top Gun program.

But I want to hear from you – what would help you, as a small business owner, on our Business website? What sort of information do you want to see, what sort of features would be helpful? Drop me an email at mattw@bangordailynews.com.