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Date added: 26 October 2009

Fake It 'Til You Make It! 

The art of making your start-up look like an established business, writes Karen Thurley of Kendlebell
 
Karen Thurley Kendlebell
Karen Thurley
How do you compete when your business was set up three weeks ago and you’re working out of your back bedroom – when all your competitors are much more established than you (or are they?).
 
How do you give potential clients the confidence that they’re dealing with a ‘proper’ company, when you know it’s just you, a laptop and a mobile ‘phone?
 
These days, with technology and the joined up, connected world at our fingertips, it really isn’t that difficult to quickly and cost effectively put together a shop front and use a range of outsourced services to support your business until you’re ready to take on staff.
 
But where do you start?
 
Having run my own business from a back bedroom, pretending that that wasn’t MY child barging in, and having to learn how to ‘fake it’ I think I might have some ideas to help you.
 
Firstly, spend some time and a little bit of money on getting your brand and image right.
 
This really is key and applies to your company name, logo and stationery.
 
A properly thought through brand at this stage can make a massive difference and really need not cost the earth.
 
There are good graphic designers in most towns and a quick Internet search will help you to find the right one for you.
 
Don’t skimp on the stationery!
 
Free business cards look just that!
 
Virtual Services
 
Use virtual services such as a virtual address (you can have a mailing address almost anywhere you like), a virtual PA to handle your admin, leaving you to concentrate on the important business of actually finding new customers and fulfilling the business, or a virtual answering service.
 
A decent ‘phone answering service can give you either a telephone number to suit your location (technology these days means a call can be answered anywhere in the world, even if it looks like your local dialling code) or a non-geographic 0845 or 0800 number – giving your company a ‘national’ feel.
 
They can even manage your diary for you (how good is that – “I’ll ask my PA to check whether I’m available”!). And these services are not an overhead – they establish the image of your company and allow you to work on the business not in the business.
 
Client attrition is a fact of life – make sure you’re continually marketing your service to potential new customers.
 
Impressing new clients
 
If you’re meeting clients think about the impression you want to leave them with. If you’re working from home never meet clients there (unless you live in a castle!).
 
Most serviced offices have meeting rooms that can be hired by the hour and, with so many people working from home now, many town centre cafes and bistros have free wireless Internet.
 
Depending on what sort of meeting you’re having, locations like this appear much more professional than meeting over your dining room table, and suddenly noticing the remains of your 4 year old’s lunch!
 
Even though you’re working from home, if you’re meeting clients or prospects, make sure you look like you’re working.
 
If you don’t know what to wear, speak to an image consultant who will help you decide on a style that works for you.
 
Bartering
 
And if you really don’t have the money to buy services in when you’re setting up, try bartering.
 
Would someone swap an hour of your time for an hour of theirs? Would your service be valuable to people who offer services that you need in return?
 
Everyone set their business up once and still remember how hard it was and might just give you that break to help you. The creators of The Simpsons traded for advertising rather than paying for it at first!
 
Most of all, and vital to your success, is to ‘walk the walk’.
 
You believe in your service or product? Make sure that your clients and prospects see that you really believe in it.
 
Act confident even if you’re not and, as soon as you have a couple of clients under your belt, ask them for testimonials to show to new clients.
 
Networking
 
And finally, don’t try to do it all alone, make sure you have a network of people around you to support you – friends, other small businesses and, if you can, more experienced businesses who might just save you from the mistakes they made!
 
For further information contact: Karen Thurley – Kendlebell – 0800 458 3367
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