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Aliza Sherman is a new media entrepreneur, author, women's issues activist, and international speaker.

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Business Information by Gladys Edmunds

Business Information by Gladys Edmunds
At age 15 Gladys developed a travel service that would prosper for more than 30 years. She is a national award winning entrepreneur, keynote speaker, author and columnist. Visit her at www.gladysedmunds.com

The First Rule of Communication: Listen

The First Rule of Communication: Listen

Dear Gladys,

I wonder if you can give me some advice. I am a high school history teacher, and I enjoy my work. But, more than anything, I want to have my own business. I want to own a restaurant. I love to cook, and I get great joy from cooking for others. And, I constantly get compliments on my meals. The problem is that I have no qualifications nor do I know how to get started.

Thanks – Gail P

There are many ways to approach starting a business, and there are just as many books and websites that can give you technical advice and support. But keep in mind that these things are just part of what makes a business work.

Another important part to making a business work is the ability to communicate effectively. Communication is a word that is tossed around frequently in both conversations and books. Understanding what it means and practicing it are vital to the growth of your business.

Communication is about making a connection with your customer. And, listening plays a key role in that connection, and is often overlooked. Develop the ability to “listen” to your inner voice, and above all, listen closely to your customers. Listen to what they say and what they don’t say.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

In pre-Starbucks days, I met a man who owned a coffeehouse that opened for business at 10 a.m., because it was convenient for him. He claimed that he set his store hours based on when the stores around him opened. He called me because his business had never made a profit and rarely experienced a break-even month.

“My coffee is the best, and I make the pastries myself from the best ingredients,” he said. “Why can’t people see that?”

I asked him what made him start his business. He said, “It has been my lifelong dream to bake the best pastries and serve the best coffees to people.”

I suggested that he give opening at 7 a.m. a try. He countered by telling me that when you give the best that money can buy people will appreciate it at any time, and opening three hours earlier couldn’t possibly make a difference.

His business continued to fall, and eventually he sold the company for about 25% of his original investment to what he called “some fool who thinks he can make money selling coffee and pastries.”

Several years later, I stopped by the coffeehouse and had a cup of coffee and a chat with the new owner. I learned that his business success had helped him support his family comfortably, and he had even started to put money aside for retirement. In addition to his success at the original coffeehouse he had opened four other locations in other parts of the city.

He said that his busiest time of the day was between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. which was the best time to catch commuters heading to work. This new owner had listened to the needs of his market.

As an entrepreneur, you have a duel responsibility to provide good service to your clientele while making a profit. A good way to do both is to listen and respond accordingly.

You have valuable qualifications: you love to cook, and people love what you cook. Also in your favor is your desire to own your own business. And, desire is important and can be a great motivator.

Don’t cheat yourself or question your qualifications. Listen closely to what people want from good cooks and good food and go for it. Perhaps you might begin your venture by catering on the weekends and evolve into a restaurant.