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"No Rules"

by Dave Balch, "The Stay-at-Home CEO"ô

(c) 2002, A Few Good People, Inc.

For an interesting experiment, I suggest that you go to any local event where there are a number of different small businesses exhibiting or selling their wares. A swap meet would be a good example, or a street sale, or a local fair. When you are there, observe the different styles of the businesses.

Some people put their merchandise on a table and then just sit there and wait for the customers to come. Others arrange everything "just so" with colorful table coverings, plants, and other decorations to create an inviting look. They put up signs that describe who they are and what they offer, and then they greet the passersby with a friendly smile. Then there are the outrageous ones who dress-up in costumes, have loud music blaring from behind the tables, or try to entice customers with entertainers. The variety of approaches to accomplish essentially the same goal is fascinating.

But, as usual, there is a lesson here: there are no rules about how to conduct your business. Sure, there are some basic things you should do, but the key word here is "should". For example, itís simply common sense to treat your customers with respect, but even that can be ignored as in the case of a restaurant that I know where the big attraction is that the servers are rude to their guests! Insults are the "special of the day", and believe me they let Ďem fly! Itís a successful business, too. Go figure.

Since weíre talking about rules, let me clarify one thing: there are definitely rules to follow as stipulated by the management of the event. If they say that you canít have loud music, then you canít. If they say that you have to stay within your assigned booth when doing business, then you do. I just returned from sharing a booth at a book fair. Some of the people in the booth chose to ignore that particular rule, and they evicted us! They actually came on the morning of the second day and moved all of our materials into the street so that new occupants could move in! It was unreal, and it was done in a rude, arrogant, and unprofessional manner (but thatís another article!).

The point is this: donít worry about the "right" way to do your business, but rather worry about what works! Just because others in your field do things a certain way doesnít mean that you have to as well. I think itís important to stand out from the crowd, so donít be shy! I walked around that book fair (which drew 75,000 people the first day) in a bright white terrycloth bathrobe with a sign proclaiming myself as "The Stay-at-Home CEO"! Do you think that other authors were doing that, or anything remotely like it?

We have a local tourist-oriented magazine and it carries a number of advertisements from real-estate professionals. One particular page caught my attention because there were at least a dozen business-card-size ads that were virtually identical except for the photos. I was astonished. What is it that would cause a reader to pick one particular agent out of the crowd?

So, write your own rules. They are the only ones that matter.


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