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Small Business Startups: Professional Appearance – What NOT to do

| Articles, SC Women | November 12, 2013

By Tobias Anne Skelly

Professionalism is critical when first starting out in business. No new business owner wants to be perceived as an amateur, hobbyist, or not yet ready for prime time. Yet, this is what happens to many new business owners, because they fail to see the importance of PERCEPTION. How potential customers perceive your company often makes the difference between fast growth, slow growth, or no growth at all. Consumers TRUST companies which they perceive to be professional.

Establishing a professional appearance for a new company means removing ANY traces of your home and personal affairs. This is, after all, strictly business. Here are the three most common mistakes new business owners and home-based business owners make:

1st: Do not use your home address for your business address. There is the obvious issue of safety. You don’t want strangers coming to your door. Your private, personal life needs to remain private and personal, so find a convenient mail box rental store and RENT a box that provides you  with a suite number. It is important that you use a rental facility that can offer your company their physical address as your place of business! Not all facilities do this. You do not want a P.O. Box address. You want a real address so that your company will be listed and found by local Internet and mobile device search engines, especially Google, use your mail box address on all your business material, such as business cards, brochures, website, and any advertisements. mail box rental facilities also offer a number of business services that you will find helpful.

2nd: Do not use a personal e-mail account, such as GMAIL. This is critical. Free personal e-mail accounts, especially gmail, are NOT SECURE and are subject to being opened, viewed, and SOLD to others. It’s not just your information that can be viewed and stolen, it’s your customers’ information that is also at risk. Login information and passwords, credit and debit card information, and a host of personal information that could allow an identity thief to have a field day are all common abuses currently taking place. Surprise, surprise, it’s all legal, because these are third-party companies who NEVER gave you the right to privacy on their servers. Only use an e-mail address that is part of your URL domain name and is hosted by a reputable company. Your company name, URL domain name, and e-mail address should all be the same to avoid both confusion and suspicion. You do not want to be named as a co-conspirator in an identity theft lawsuit because you failed to use a professional, secured e-mail account.

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3rd: Do not use your home phone as your business phone. How you answer your phone says everything a potential customer needs to know as to whether or not they feel safe and confident doing business with you. If you are a business, then behave like one and always answer with your company name first. Make sure you have voice mail set to a company recorded greeting, and if you find you are missing too many calls, hire a professional answering service to take care of this for you. Unanswered calls and a lack of professionalism when answered are red flags to potential customers.

Tobias Anne Skelly is a Business and Marketing Consultant for small business owners and start-ups. She is the Owner of gITnoticed® Marketing and an educator in marketing and communications.

To learn more, visit www.gitnoticed.com or send email to toby@gitnoticed.com.

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