Basic steps to building a business

In January I wrote about how need, luck and persistence played into my decision to become my own boss. Next, I introduced Sylvia and Barb, two women who were instrumental in helping me get my business going. They were the first of a number of people who have shaped (and continue to influence) my success. Therefore, I want to share with you some of the specific actions and ideas they gave me.

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You’ll recall how my corporate job supervisor suggested I become the “office Avon rep.” Like you, I thought this included people in the office already ordering on a regular basis. Not so!

As it turns out, the only person buying Avon was that supervisor – leaving me with two customers; my supervisor and myself! Furthermore, no selling was allowed during work hours between 7:30 and 4:30. I had to find time and make a commitment to work the business. I decided to do this three days every week, which meant two days during the week before 7:30 and after 4:30, and all day Saturday.    

Every time my supervisor put in an order, I came in a half-hour early to collect. I also choose to do this on payday. (In those days, you didn’t pay for your order until you received it.) I put her order on her desk for everyone to see (to build some curiosity) and started to get some interest from other workers. But it would not build income fast enough.

This is where Sylvia and Barb came in. They saw something in me. Sylvia, who was actually an employee of Avon, worked with me in the “field.” This meant building business while taking care of errands. Everywhere we went, Sylvia would approach women and simply ask them “When was the last time you saw an Avon brochure?”

Yes, it’s bold and one time we did get asked to leave a Wal-Mart when another customer complained. Sylvia wasn’t discouraged. In fact, she felt if she didn’t talk to people at every opportunity, she wasn’t doing her job.

I’m not going to tell you this was easy to do. It takes practice and Sylvia did it so well that it seemed like a natural question. I realized this was something I would have to do, and I did. Since that time, I have created other approaches which I’ll detail in the next blog.

Barb’s help was of a different nature. As an established independent rep and a mentor, when someone inquired about buying Avon or becoming a rep, she would assign them to one of the people on her team. (She passed my inquiry to Toni who never followed up after the first contact.) That lack of follow-up may have led to Toni slipping off of Barbara’s list. It also meant more opportunities for me.

For example, after working my full-time job plus Avon for a while, I was ready for a weekend off. My husband at the time (Beau) and I decided to go to the sand dunes for a weekend of riding. Before we left, Barb called with three leads. I told her where we were going and I would follow up when we got back. That’s when she asked me the ‘what if’ question.

“What if you could get paid while you were on vacation?”

Leads are precious and urgency is critical. As Barb pointed out, I could spend 15 minutes out of my weekend to make the initial contacts before they cooled off. She was right. That one question made me look at my business differently. Not only could that 15 minutes turn into more income, it showed Barb how serious I was. And this would turn into more leads down the road. 

What’s important is that getting started took a lot of effort and required a commitment. Sylvia and Barb saw this and were willing to work with me. By example and ideas, they helped me earn a steady income. In the next blog, I’ll share more ideas and actions and how they played into bringing in more income.


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