This is Part III of a four-part series on “what happens when you take your own advice.” (Part I, Part II ). In the middle of a re-brand of my existing business, my husband and had the opportunity to open a fine art gallery (see www.evolvethegallery.com). To minimize the disruption to my existing business and maintain my clients' needs, I relied heavily on my established systems and the same tips, tools and techniques I encourage my clients to use. Including:
Collaboration with complementary businesses is a must. A great way to collaborate with other businesses is to have them contribute to and sponsor your event. They get the exposure and you get the added help, product or service. You always want to enhance the value of what you are providing your clients. Look for hidden and creative opportunities in your local communities.
There is a small movie theater (The Guild Theater) across the street from our gallery. As part of our inaugural opening, we wanted to show movies that went with the theme of our show. The movie theater was looking for new ways to draw traffic and increase their presence in the community and we needed a cost-effective way to provide film-screenings. We invited the manager over for a tour of the galley and discussed the benefits of collaborating. It was a win-win. So much so, they offered to do the film screenings every Friday for a month at no cost to us and we did the same by offering the screenings to our guests at no cost. Yes, free double-feature film screenings for a whole month (and access to the theater for two complimentary panel discussions on Saturdays to boot! How’s that for collaborating and keeping it local!)
Never underestimate the power of 6 degrees of separation. Connections can put a business on the map quicker and faster than “word of mouth.” Everybody knows somebody who can help somebody. Through six degrees of separation, we were honored to have philanthropists, museum curators, the Mayor and a Senator either attend our private preview reception or come by for a private tour. In addition, when we attended a book signing and discussion at the Thelma Harris Gallery, we met fine art Master, Richard Mayhew, and Bernard and Shirley Kinsey (whose personal art collection is now on exhibit at the Smithsonian). During our due diligence, we visited many galleries to see how other owners operated, looked for ways to distinguish ourselves, ways to collaborate, yielded wisdom from the experts, acknowledged their mistakes and made some good friends along the way. Thelma was kind enough to welcome us into the industry with open arms; which included introductions to art legends. The Kinsey’s are the ones who advised us to contact Senator Price’s office (see Part II).
On the day after one of our panel discussion we received a beautiful book reflecting 38 phenomenal years of Ben F. Jones creative works. There was no note, just the autographed book and a business card. When we called Ben to thank him and find out how he had heard about us, he simply said he read about our opening in a blog (The Black Art Project). After a delightful conversation, needless to say, we were humbly honored and floored. The Internet has made it a small world and you never know who knows who.
Always capture your leads, follow-up and keep in touch. Every business should have a platform for engaging and capturing leads. This could be a sign-up for newsletter box, link to a landing page, CRM system or even a link to your Facebook fanpage. For live events, it could be a registration sheet, sign-in sheet or guest book. Don’t pass up the opportunity to introduce potential clients to your product or services, share upcoming events, specials, etc. via newsletter, e-blasts and online updates. Staying top of mind is crucial. People want to know "what's next?" and "what's new?" CAVEAT: Do not overburden new clients and your connections with unnecessary emails and updates. It is a major turn-off and you will soon see your numbers decrease instead of increase. Be relevant, informative and resourceful.
To date, the gallery has been extremely well received in the community and we continue to be amazed at how fast the word is spreading and the wonderful people we are meeting. However, now that the “fanfare” of the grand opening has worn off, it’s time for the real work to begin; the work of maintaining and sustaining a business. There is no way I could have opened a second business without having functional systems in place with my existing business; Simplicity Mastered. The chaos and confusion would have been insurmountable and I would risk losing my clients.
Never underestimate the power of Simplicity. When your operations are organized and streamlined, it makes it easier to introduce new products/services and test new ideas. It helps you manage information and stay focused on your priorities and objectives. It also makes stepping away, less disruptive.
There’s a reason why my business is called Simplicity Mastered. There is a reason why I specialize in simplifying business processes. Owning a business doesn’t have to be hard. But it does need to be functional and productive. And it needs to be effective, efficient and done smart. There is a reason why overwhelmed and frustrated business owners call me to help them be mentally and intellectually organized to grow. I keep things practical, realistic and utilize existing resources. At some point, you have to put knowledge to work and start doing. You are responsible for your business; the good, the bad and the ugly. It will grow or fail by your action or inaction. Make a commitment to make better business decisions today. That includes asking for help. We could not have accomplished all that we have without asking for help.
Next week, I will share with you some of my “silly mistakes,” “brain freezes” and “forget me NOTs.” NOTE: I never said the opening of a second business went off without a hitch. ☺
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For over 18 years, Simplicity Mastered™ founder and CEO A. Michelle Blakeley has owned or managed small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Expert in her field, Blakeley personally guides her clients out of their Business Brain Freeze™ to streamline operations, increase return on investment, and attain quantifiable results. Forbes.com and FinancialPost.com each recommended her as one of 30 Women Entrepreneurs to Follow on Twitter, joining the experts who know that Blakeley is a master at growing small businesses … and doing it with “Simplicity.”