Question: I have 12 years of experience in the golf shop merchandising field, buying and management and have started a business providing assistance in these areas to golf course and country club shops. A lot of shops could use my services, but how do I let them know this without damaging egos?
Answer: The best way to get around egos is to establish yourself as a trusted expert to whom potential clients can turn, then set up opportunities for them to be able to turn to you. One of the first steps we recommend is setting up a Web site you can refer people to. If need be, you can start with nothing more than a simple online brochure. You can set up a Web site for free with some ISPs, but we believe it's best to host your site so you can use your business name as a dot.com address.
Giving workshops or seminars at meetings is another good way to make your expertise known so key company employees can contact you directly. Participating on a panel is also a safe method for presenting your ideas. By all means, go to the presentations of others in your field and pay attention to audience reactions. Notice what works and what doesn't.
Third, if you believe you can save your clients money, how about offering to take on one or two on a contingency basis? That is, if they show progress, you either get paid a fixed fee or take a share of their increased profits. The only negative to this approach is that, to get paid, you either have to trust them or arrange to see their financial records. But getting a few initial clients who can give you testimonials, make referrals and serve as references can make all the difference in the world in getting your business off to a flying start.
Small-business experts Paul and Sarah Edwards recently released their second edition of Getting Business To Come To You (Putnam Publishing Group). If you have a question regarding a start-up business issue, contact them at http://www.paulandsarah.com or send it in care of Entrepreneur.