Business Owners: Stay on the Front Line

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When I started my web design business in 1996, the commercial internet was in its infancy.

Back then, I was a Lone Ranger. I taught myself how to code, I answered the phone, met with clients, designed, did collections, negotiated contracts, marketed my business and I learned. I did it all because that’s what you do when you own a small business. Right? I loved those days.

Today, I have a company full of top notch employees. From channel marketing experts to account managers, account executives, strategists and designers–we’re all under one roof. They build web sites, manage online marketing for our clients, research, write copy, design, evaluate performance–and do whatever it takes to exceed expectations–mine and the client’s.

So what do I do? Believe me, there are days I head home from the office feeling like I accomplished little. Sometimes the day just evaporates and I’ve spent little time at my desk performing any kind of meaningful task. Some days, I run around with a fire hose and others I’m up to my eyeballs in data. But honestly, my favorite thing to do is talking with prospects and clients.

If you own a growing business or head up a team, you’ll likely be able to identify with me here. The thing you loved most when you were starting out is the thing you do least as your business and responsibilities have grown.

The infographic below created by Intuit does a great job of visualizing those responsibilities and just how thin entrepreneurs find themselves spread.

Infographic by Intuit

I dig talking to prospects. Hearing about their challenges, learning about their business, connecting on a personal level and figuring out if we’re a good fit for one another. It’s kind of like speed dating.

Although I can’t take sales calls as often as I used to or sit in on every pitch, it’s important that I do it as often as I can. Fortunately, I love doing it but more importantly I need to do it. It’s critical that I stay in tune with changes in the space from a marketer or business owner’s perspective. How have their challenges changed from last year? What are their personal goals and their goals for the company? What have they tried? What’s worked and what hasn’t? Where do they think they should invest marketing dollars and why? And how do I need to adjust internally to accommodate their needs? How do I prepare my team for my client’s challenges?

Meeting and talking with prospects and current clients gives me a perspective I would otherwise miss out on. Learning from them improves our knowledge as a company. Get caught up in the management of your own world and the reason you’re there at all dissipates because you lose touch. It’s not easy, but remind yourself, whether you’re the CEO or you lead a team, you have to spend time on the front line to connect with your clients—current and future.

Speaking of connecting, you can connect with me on LinkedIn (Lisa Wehr) or twitter @LisaWehr. Should you find yourself in search of a new marketing partner as your business grows–let’s talk!

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