As most people already know, I spent many years working in big pharma. Much of that time I worked directly with the VP of Sales and later, I worked in Marketing. Along the way, I kept my eyes and ears open and learned everything I could from the entire experience.
I never dreamed that so much of what I learned could be applied to my life as the owner of a small business.
So, in no particular order here are the lessons I use every single day.
Sales is the transfer of feeling from one person to another.
As a non-sales employee who had a front row seat to a lot of sales training and coaching, I knew this information and I understood it but I never had first-hand experience until I owned my own business. I see it every single day. I am excited about what I do, I’m excited about the furniture I create and the supplies I sell and when customers come in we have conversations, my excitement comes across. My excitement becomes their excitement.
Takeaway: Love what you do and feel passionate about it and your customers will pick up on it and will love what you do also.
Be a gazelle not an elephant.
There was a day I’ll never forget when I was in corporate. It was a company-wide meeting and someone on a video was talking about how the company was small enough to be a gazelle and not an elephant. At the time, the company had grown so much that I thought it was starting to become an elephant. But the concept always stuck with me.
Takeaway: Consider yourself lucky to be small and nimble. Keep an eye on the marketplace, design trends, and opportunities and if it’s the right fit for you, do it.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
In anything, there are elements you can control and there will be elements you have no control over. When I started in Pharma, our company made ADHD medication. It paid the rent, all the bills, the stockholders and the employees. It didn’t take long to realize that it only takes one bad story in the press about the condition in general or our drug specifically, to know that it could all very easily come crashing down. So, the company diversified into medications in other spaces.
Takeaway: diversifying what you do is a key to ongoing success. For example, if you only paint in a shabby chic style, consider mixing in some mid-century modern style pieces. If you only paint furniture, consider offering a line of hand painted signs as well.
Take What You Do Seriously
Don't run your business like a hobby.
In pharma, millions of dollars are riding on what the collective employees do daily. There may be individual employees who are slackers and don’t take it seriously, but the employees as a whole do, and that’s what makes the company a success.
Owning a small business usually means it’s just you - or you and a partner or two. There’s not a lot of room for slacking. I can’t tell you how many fellow small business owners I see who frustrate the heck out of their customers because they run their business like a hobby. I’m talking about brick and mortar stores that don’t post hours or aren’t there when they say they will be, or home based business owners who use poor quality materials and sloppy painting technique.
Takeaway: treating your business like a business will pay off in happy, satisfied customers who come back and tell their friends. Reply to phone calls in a timely manner, make sure your finishes are impeccable and carry yourself in a professional manner. Remember, you aren’t working in a corporate environment where you are many layers removed from the end user, you are directly interacting with the end user and what you do actually matters to the bottom line.
Do you or have you worked in big corporate? What lessons did you learn?