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Five Lessons Every Small Business Can Learn from Dr. Horrible

By Duncan C. Client Engagement Manager at Company.com Corp.
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If you've never heard of the movie or TV show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the name Joss Whedon will likely mean little to you. But then, so will the word "Internet." A couple of years ago, Whedon assembled some friends, including Neil Patrick Harris of How I Met Your Mother, and made a three-part web-based series, available to watch online, download from iTunes, and finally on DVD. It was hugely successful among nerds and geeks. It was called Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, and this is some of the wisdom we can glean from Dr. Horrible, himself.

...so that's, you know, coming along.
Sometimes there are expectations in your industry sector that you have to meet in order to establish credibility. Whether it's an evil laugh or a specific certification, being credible is the key to building a customer base, and with no customers you have no business. Working towards meeting those expectations isn't enough, you have to know what the next step is going to be, and if that means you think a coach of some kind will help you, it's a pretty safe bet that the cost of the coach will be money well-spent.

The world is a mess and I just need to ... rule it.
Have a goal. An endgame. An exit strategy. Mitch Jacobs, founder and CEO of New York-based On Deck Capital, says "Build a conservative plan toward a really big dream," and it's great advice. Knowing when you plan to call it quits is something you should consider when you start your business -- whether you sell your company because you've achieved your goals, or close the doors because you're not prepared to keep investing more of your own money month after month, knowing when to get out when you get in will give you something to shoot for.

...successful in that I achieved my objective.
There will be times when you get side-tracked by the things that didn't go as planned, even though your main objective was met. Obsessing over the details that didn't run absolutely perfectly is not productive. Learning from those obstacles absolutely is productive. If your mass marketing campaign got you a better than three percent conversion rate, you did very well, and spending days wondering how you could have achieved five percent takes you away from planning the next strategy that will win you more customers. Conrad Hilton, founder of the hotel chain that bears his name, said "Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit." Success is not about everything being perfect, it's a simple question of whether you met your goal.

I need to be a little more careful about what I say on this blog.
The Internet is permanent. Anything you put on Facebook, anything your employees blog about, anything that a prospective employee puts up on YouTube ... it's all searchable, and it all reflects on you, your company, and how you might do business. A small business owner can ruin their business in a morning, or add a thousand page-views every second (which was reportedly the traffic that Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog saw when it launched). Be careful about what you put out there with your name on it, because it will stick, and you can change how people think of you in less than five minutes.

I'm qualified for this job and I can't seem to get my foot in the door.
You might have a product that solves world hunger, cures cancer, and keeps Ryan Seacrest off the TV, but without a sales and marketing plan, you're not going to be successful in selling it. Getting your foot in the door of resellers, distributors, and (gasp!) customers is the only way to give yourself an opportunity to show off your product, and to do that you need to give them a compelling reason to listen to you. Elevator pitches are good, being informative, genuine, and confident go a long way, too.

Read more company.com articles about:
Building Credibility
Funding Your Business
Being Successful in a Recession
Online Reputation Self-defense
Ten Common Mistakes Salespeople Make

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