Tips from Julie Morgenstern, renowned author, organizational guru, and owner of Julie Morgenstern Enterprises
1. Follow Eleanor Roosevelt’s sage advice: “Do not be afraid of mistakes, providing you do not make the same one twice.”
Julie says: “I live by this adage — except when I was worried about money and made the same mistake twice of taking on a client who I knew would be incredibly difficult. I didn’t listen to that little voice in my head that told me not to take on a client sure to give me grief and refuse to pay the bill.”
“I took her on anyway, and boy did I pay the price,” she laments. “It didn’t happen again until years later when I had a large staff working for me, and again I was concerned about making payroll. “I didn’t listen to that voice, and paid the price. But I made a pact that whenever I heard it again I’d see a big red flag with the words printed on it, ‘This one won’t pay.’”
2. Think like a consumer, and you will know what to do.
Julie explains: “When I was first starting out, I made an appointment with the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE — www.score.org), and asked how to price my services. My advisor told me to see what others in my industry were charging, and then charge $10 more.”
“I thought that was crazy, until he explained people have a ‘designer tag mentality.’ They believe the most expensive sweater or diamond or lawyer or doctor is the best, and who doesn’t want to own or work with the best?”
For her first job she charged the industry standard — $25-$50, at the time. But on the second job, with a little experience under her belt, she knew her service was valuable and charged $60. The customer didn’t blink. “Once I realized that she felt that way about pricing, I began putting myself in the shoes of my customers in every decision I made — and everything fell into place.”
Of course, in today’s teetering economy that philosophy is being tested. “But there is a sweet spot in pricing. Don’t go too high, but don’t go too low either. If you are clear about not underselling yourself, you’ll find the happy medium.”
3. Establish core values for your company, and stick to them.
Julie believes: “I want every project I touch to be valuable and useful for the consumer, so I never launch a new product, service or idea without first thoroughly testing it. I hate when I buy something that is half-baked, and never want to do that to my clients. It’s one of my core values, and I take pride in that.”
4. Business solutions should come from your bones.
Julie says: “I know some serial entrepreneurs who come up with businesses, or products, based on a thorough analysis of the market. They see a need, and fill it. It’s an intellectual pursuit for them, and plenty of people are successful using this approach. For me, I have to feel it in my bones.”
That’s how she knew how to begin her business, she says, write her books, establish her corporate training program, and create her Organizing Institute. “I’m one of those intuitive people who gets gut feelings about things. If I don’t feel it, I can’t do it. My advice to others who are instinctive is to follow that. It has never led me astray.”
5. Hire people who are as good in their fields as you are in yours.
Julie admits: “This is a tough one to master, because most entrepreneurs — especially those just starting out — want to do everything themselves. Or they think they don’t have the money to hire anyone to help them.”
This is a classic mistake, Julie says, for there are three core skills that every entrepreneur must have: the ability to develop useful products and services, financial management skills, and marketing savvy.
“It’s very rare for any one business person to have adequate doses of all three,” Julie believes. “It took me a long time to learn this, and my advice to other entrepreneurs is to take your time building your team — but do build one.”
“Not only do you need the emotional support, but having other professionals take on some of the important tasks frees you up to do what you love to do and what you do best.”
“After all, being able to do that one thing is why you went into business for yourself in the first place.”