All you need is love, love; love is all you need. The Beatles weren't business consultants when they sang that, of course, and you certainly need more than just love to run a small business. But this Valentine's Day, let's look at 10 ways that love helps your business succeed:
1. Love what you do. Have a passion for what you do, and it permeates everything you do. It shows in the enthusiasm, energy, and caring you bring to your business. It carries you over the tough days when the paperwork's due or the deal falls through. It keeps you and those you work with motivated. Always remember why you love what you do.
2. Love your customers. Without customers you don't have a business, but most of us don't 'love' our customers enough. We don't want to bug them, so we don't stay in touch as frequently as we should, don't ask what they need, don't communicate with past customers. This month, find ways to regularly communicate with customers, and, hey, take one or two to lunch!
3. Love your employees. No, I'm not talking about crossing any lines into sexual harassment. I'm talking about respecting them, treating them fairly, recognizing their contributions, allowing them to take initiative, saying 'thank you' when they do. This year is going to be an especially tough year for your employees — the uncertain economy scares them, family members may be losing jobs. Meanwhile, you may not be in a position to give any raises. So respect and fair treatment are even more important.
4. Love your employer. If you're reading this and you're an employee of a small business, understand the pressures facing your boss. Small businesses — far more than huge corporations — do everything they can to hold on to their employees in tough times. But your boss is anxious about the economy, and going to have to make some changes in how business is done. Be supportive, flexible, and energetic. Do absolutely everything you can to help your company succeed — and keep your job.
5. Love your contractors. Many small businesses rely on independent contractors, even for some of their most mission-critical tasks. Some of our contractors have worked for us for years; they're part of our team. How do we love them? We include them in company planning meetings, buy them lunch, pay fairly, keep hiring them, say thank you.
6. Love creating jobs. Take pride in creating good jobs; it's one of the most important things you can do in life. If you've given others honest work with fair pay and respectful treatment, you've made an important contribution to the world. Even if the only job you've created is the one for yourself, you've helped our economy.
7. Love your retailers, distributors, salespeople. These are the people who bring your goods or services to customers. Sure, they're going to frustrate you sometimes (why aren't they making more sales?), but they need you to partner with them. Stay in touch, motivate and reward them. Give them the tools to succeed.
8. Love your banker. If you want your banker to love you — and trust me, you do — then you have to make sure they understand what's going on with your business. Communicate; show them your business plans as well as your financial statements. Become your banker's favorite customer, even if you're just a small account. My line-of-credit saved my business a couple years ago, so I love my banker. In fact, I had lunch with my banker this week (thanks, Justin!).
9. Love your suppliers. Good suppliers with good payment terms are a critical part of a growing company's success. I've worked with my biggest supplier, Transcontinental Printing, for over a decade. I love my sales rep (love you, Wade!) and I love the payment terms I get (merci, Michel). But they love us because we love them — we pay on time, communicate when we have cash flow problems, let them know our growth plans. Suppliers want to work with you.
10. Love the future. Yes, I know we live in uncertain economic times. But entrepreneurs are optimists. We not only trust the future — we create it. We change the world. After all, all we need is love.
Rhonda Abrams is president of The Planning Shop, publisher of books for entrepreneurs. Her newest book is Successful Marketing: Secrets & Strategies. Register for Rhonda's free business tips at www.PlanningShop.com. For an index of her columns, click here. Copyright Rhonda Abrams 2009.