A small business can only look as professional as the people who are running them, your job as a small business owner is to project your own professionalism. If your potential or existing clients do not see you (the owner) as being professional, how do you expect them to see your company as being professional?
How you dress can be a very telling way to display your professionalism, how you dress for working in the office may be formal or business casual , but the nature of your business should dictate that. What you wear to work can also depend on whether you meeting with clients who will be wearing a suite and expecting to meet with someone that is also wearing a suit.
The professional image of your small business begins with you and if you act professional. You want to present yourself as being professional to not only your clients but also to your employees, you are setting the tone for their professionalism.
Forget about showing up on time for a meeting, aim to arrive 10 or 15 early. This is important because aiming to arrive early could help prevent you from showing up late due to traffic or other circumstances. Arriving early shows your dedication and enthusiasm, it shows you are ready to get to work for that client. If you arrive too early, do not be afraid to wait outside of the clients office building and make you way to their office space 5 minutes before the meeting.
Being prepared for a meeting is just as important as showing up on time, be sure to know what you need for your meeting and set it out the night before. Having a checklist for everything you need for your meeting will insure that you will have a good step forward, because showing up and not having the right equipment or presentation files does not show professionalism.
If you are hosting the meeting, make sure that your boardroom looks professional and is not a dumping ground for file boxes and unused furniture. Companies who do not use their boardroom on a daily basis will often find themselves using that space for storage, but that is not what it is for.
For small businesses that that do not have a boardroom or a meeting room and need to host a meeting, they should avoid meeting in their office unless they have a pristine office with no clutter and no files all over the furniture. When considering meeting outside the office, be careful of your meeting space. You want to avoid meeting in a coffee shop, library, outdoors (even if the weather is great) or especially not in your home, meeting in these places do not look professional. Consider renting a boardroom or meeting room at an office business centre, they will give you that professional look.
Some other things to consider about your professionalism is how you are seen and percieved in the community, because what you do outside your office can also reflect on your professional reputation. Your behavior in public has a lot to do with how you are perceived, you never know who or when you will run into. The last thing you want to do is to be seen as that rude person in the line at the coffee shop, only to find out that a future client was in that same line.
When you talk to clients you want to be friendly, but not be over-familiar. Unless the client insists you call them by their first name, always address them by their formal name. Some chit chat before you get into the form part of the presentation can be very helpful, general chat can go a long way towards making you look human and your client comfortable. When chit chatting with a client, avoid talking about politics and religion, those topics can get you into trouble with the client.
Don’t forget to give clients and customers face-time when you’re talking to them, this means putting away any distractions and maintain eye contact. You want to learn active listening skills such as rephrasing what they say, to let them know that you hear them. Your client wants to feel that you’re giving them your entire attention and you see them as important.
If you want to look professional, do not ignore client phone calls. If you use voice mail phone services, check your voice mail regularly, business calls should be answered by the next day at the latest. One way of looking profession when it comes to looking professional is to have office space in a service office where they have a professional receptionist to answer and forward your calls. if you work from home, consider using a virtual office provider that also offers telephone answering.
When you are communicating by email, the general rule is to reply to an email within 48 hours if possible and within three working days at the outside. When sending or replying to an email, remember to keep a professional tone and language. Avoid using jargon, slang or other short words that you might use in a mobile text message. Before you click send on that professional email, proof read it and run spell check, you do not want to lose a professional image with a poorly worded email with spelling errors.
Lastly, watch what you post in your social media channels. What you post on your facebook or twitter can and will stick with you. You should also keep your personal and your business social media accounts and/or profiles separate, but you still have to be careful what you post on your personal accounts. Remember not to post or reply to anything on social media that you don’t want to have follow you around the rest of your life.