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Toot Your Own Horn

Dilbert.comSomething that I believe many small businesses (and individuals) struggle with is self-promotion.  Small businesses either fail to promote at all, assuming that people already know what the business can do or that what it does is not unique / valuable / interesting, or the copywriter makes some silly comment about being “the best” at whatever.  Something I tend to look for when hiring a business or an individual is experience: Does this firm/individual have what it takes to get the job done?  Whether you are promoting a business, or simply updating your resume to promote yourself, here are three points to remember to make yourself stand out from the crowd.

  • Use Numbers.  (Quantify your results.)  There is a huge difference between managing a project that “cut costs” and managing a project that “reduced ongoing maintenance expenses by 30% per year, saving an estimated $60,000 over the course of the contract.”  Sometimes it may seem like your contributions are not large enough to be worth mentioning, but diligence in handling smaller affairs may demonstrate that you are ready to handle larger affairs.
  • Be Specific.  There is a huge difference between someone who has 20 years of experience as an iron worker and someone who learned to weld in shop class.  There is also a huge difference between the manager of a fast food franchise and the manager of a division of a Fortune 500 company.  Don’t sell yourself short by leaving out the details of what you have demonstrated you can handle.  Many small businesses are prepared to provide a greater value than larger rivals, but fail to let the public know that it has the capacity to tackle the work.
  • Be Bold.  Some of the best hires I have ever made have been individuals who were barely qualified or slightly under-qualified for a position, but who have a passion for the work that needs to be done, and demonstrated they would do whatever it takes to earn the right to have the position they wanted.  If you want your business to start operating in another arena, try it out.  Nobody will hire your firm?  Find a not-for-profit that is willing to risk accepting your services — even if the services are provided for free. 

My Business Is New / I Don’t Have Any Experience

Everybody loves to create a good excuse — that is why the Internet is full of excuse jokes!  Seriously.  If you or your business does not have the experience to be able to detail to a (potential) employer or client the points outlined above, you need to get to work — on yourself or your business.  You can obtain a certification, take a course, volunteer, or become an apprentice.  Your business can hire outside talent, partner with another firm, or even experiment with doing other work.

I got my start in business consulting helping a not-for-profit job skills training program for the developmentally challenged launch a business for their clients to work, earn, and (hopefully) gain the skills and confidence necessary to obtain a job in the private sector.  Not only was it a successful program, one which had the added benefit of helping a great many people, I received numerous awards and recognition for my efforts and the efforts our launch team.  I had a lot of fun, became more confident in my abilities, and I got a good education at the school of hard knocks, too. 

I also gained a story of successfully facilitating a business startup, and started pursuing the sort of work I now enjoy.  Now I have plenty of (true) stories about my firm and its work.  Success stories sell.

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