After thirty-five years of running my company, Mid-Hudson Marketing, I’ve come to realize a few truths about what makes for success in business. No matter what business you’re in, if you give customers what they want, customers will be happy. And happy customers come back. They also refer you to other customers.

Now, one would think that in a marketing business, a client would come to me to bring them business. But ironically, when a client comes to me for marketing services, there is much more to what the client wants than is obvious on the surface. Clients need confidant. Clients need friends. Clients need trusted helpers to do the things they can’t do themselves and do them well. Customers need trusted business partners they can turn to in times of need for guidance and advice. Customers need all of this, but they don’t want to be overcharged. And customers need these things exactly when they need them, at the precise moment they ask for them, without having to wait their turn. After all, customers are busy people with many important tasks, including the success of their own businesses. It’s rare for a client to recognize that you and he or she have that in common.

No, customers, by definition, are usually quite selfish and have only their own concerns on their minds. When they call you, they need you. Otherwise they don’t call. Of course, in the current state of the economy, receiving a call from a client in need should be considered a blessing if he has a business. This is the bread and butter of it. And besides, the reason they can be excused for their short-sightedness is that they are paying you to help them. Not the other way.

It doesn’t matter that they may be preventing you from meeting the needs of other important customers whose calls may have come first. It is an exercise in tact and diplomacy that provides you with the right things to say in order to meet the demands of all customers within given time constraints. No customer wants to be told what to expect, and everyone deserves your best efforts to do whatever they expect of you.

Fortunately, the laws of probability generally dole out these calls fairly randomly so you don’t feel overwhelmed by the immediate urgency that’s impossible to fulfill. And in a business like marketing, there are a multitude of different tasks that clients may need, and they all require different skills, time allocations, and completion expectations.

And of course, not all projects come as phone calls. Many come as emails in today’s world. But in any case, an immediate response is the most important course of action for you as a business owner, to provide the solution that everyone is looking for. I find that most clients just want to know that they are important to you and that you are grateful for their call, and that you intend to respond to their requests immediately. This is usually accomplished by a quick call back or email response confirming receipt of their message and how you intend to fulfill what they need. I also always promise to confirm when the job is done. Once this is done, my stress level for the moment is reduced because the immediacy of the demand has been met. However, as anyone who owns a business knows, chronic stress is a part of success, as it drives us to do the work customers ask for, as quickly and expertly as possible!

The next step for the business owner is prioritization of the tasks at hand. I approach this by figuring out how many steps are in the process, how long each will take, and how soon I can do it while working on a multitude of jobs simultaneously. For a small business owner, or people who single-handedly run their businesses (like me), this usually means being a workaholic and working morning, noon, and night, 24/7. week. That is not an exaggeration. I work every moment I can, setting aside time for personal hygiene, eating, sleeping and an hour of daily exercise every day, without fail! Of course, I admit that I am very robotic in everything that serves me in business in my life. The reason is that I can easily multitask without interrupting my focus on the most important application of my attention.

An example would be answering the phone with my standard greeting without skipping a beat, while using any one of my many software programs to design, write, produce, enhance, or convert any number of the many jobs I juggle on a daily basis. People often comment that I sound like a recording. We laughed about it and moved on. My predictability is not only beneficial to my business, it is appreciated by my clients who can reach me within a ring or two without having to wade through the mire and mire of phone prompts or receptionists to try to speak to me directly. Sure, sometimes they get my voice mail, but I always call them back and never keep them waiting.

However, I must disclose that prior to a couple of years ago, when I was maintaining a set of formal business offices in the larger city nearby, my working hours were quite different. The time to travel, even in the worst days of winter, consumed a good part of my availability to continue with my workload. I used to think that time was well spent…as a “creative break”, as a German music professor I had at Bard College used to say. It’s time to reflect, plan the strategy, get an overview of the business as a whole. Now, however, since I was prescient enough to realize that closing that high-overhead office that I had prided myself on during a 35-year career was an unaffordable luxury in today’s economy and moving house was the better alternative for many reasons, my time is much better suited.

First of all, now I have a life! How, you may ask, can I have a life if I work 24/7?! Well, since I love what I do for a living, I definitely enjoy working from home. Here are the main differences:

  • Instead of getting up at 4am to get dressed in the latest outfit, read multiple newspapers over breakfast, and drive an hour to work, I now wake up at 8:15am and run up and down the stairs to work out for 20 minutes (! 2500 steps in total!) and I make a small breakfast which I eat while checking my email in my comfortable office off of my dining room wearing my shorts, a t-shirt and socks. My work day usually starts around 9 am, which is the norm for most office workers.
  • Instead of having to wear high heels while driving to and from occasional client meetings that also killed a good chunk of the day (not to mention my feet!), I now stay home and avoid meeting anyone altogether. I am fully accessible by email and phone and meeting in person is unnecessary in this age of internet access and video conferencing.
  • Instead of leaving the office late on a rush home to make dinner after stopping at the grocery store, gas station, and negotiating the occasional traffic jam and longer-than-usual subsequent detours, I now take a twenty-minute commute -I took a minute walk with my husband around 4:30 every day and after continuing to work until 6:30, start making dinner after a productive 9 hour day. I am lucky to have a retired husband/partner who now does all the shopping.
  • Instead of ending my day at 9:30pm to try and get enough sleep to wake up at 4 and start over, I can now watch the end of the Yankees game most nights if they are still playing around 10. pm, which is when I stop work after dinner to enjoy some TV exposure and eat an apple. Bedtime for the robot is now around midnight, giving me about 8 hours of sleep each night vs. 8 hours. my previous average of 5.5 hours. That in itself has brought me back to life!

But many things have changed in business since the economic downturn. It is not a surprise to hear of people working from home. Having an office was wonderful for many years when people came for frequent conferences or to review proofs. There was a time when I spent entire days taking high-quality photos on location, sometimes from helicopters, using gyroscopes and expensive rented long lenses as I flew through the now-forbidden airspace over Manhattan. Times have changed and my industry with it. We’ve become an online culture with everything accessible through affordable, high-quality digital photos and emailed PDF proofs. People are more conservative than ever about business expenses and the cost of gasoline and everything has reduced the way we all do business. And as a result, how much we charge has also become a sensitive issue.

Having reached a place in my life where money is no longer a matter of life and death, sink or swim, I am fortunate to have the freedom to negotiate nice rates with long-term clients that I respect and who have expressed their anxiety about loss of income. due to the reduction in business that everyone has felt. Once you reach a certain age, you realize that life doesn’t last forever and it’s more important to live life for the pleasure it can bring than for some arbitrary dollar figure you once aspired to. Since my house and cars are all paid for and I’m assured of some relatively satisfying investments, it’s more important to me to have clients who seek my intelligence and skills, and keep me busy with interesting work, than trying to amass a fortune doing it. . I’m also lucky (and have been for most of my career) that I don’t have to look for a job. It just comes, as always, from clients I’ve been working with for most of my life. Those customers refer others. And, there are always new clients finding me through my website. Yes, my office was a beautiful representation of my polished business image, my brand… but I’ve achieved the same thing through my website, at a greatly reduced cost!

I have written this article, which is really more of a glimpse into my life, for the purpose of sharing the kinds of things that bring success. Not so much for the specific information, but for the attitudinal and philosophical truths that shape a person’s life. Always putting the customer first; do the best job possible; respect for the client’s needs and time; be frugal with spending; and above all, being fair in every way; These are the ways I have found success in my life. It doesn’t take much to make me happy, thank God. Not being destitute, having a perfectly ripe avocado available, a good apple, my favorite balsamic vinegar, skim milk, oatmeal, nuts, my Taster’s Choice decaf. These are things that make me happy. And, a kind word from a happy customer every once in a while! Do I mind working full holiday weekends to meet client deadlines and work goals? No problem. I thrive on it. And this would define it as success in business.

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