No single factor determines the difference between success and failure. But one contributing factor has a high correlation to success: cleanliness. Possibly you have not given much thought to the many ways cleanliness can affect your small business. Here are seven of them.
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Small Business Success Tips - Cleanliness

No, this is not your mother talking. This is a hard-nosed, long-time businessman who has watched many small businesses fail and a few succeed. No single factor determines the difference between success and failure. But one contributing factor has a high correlation to success: cleanliness.

Possibly you have not given much thought to the many ways cleanliness can affect your small business. Here are seven of them.

1. First Impression. If you work from home and no client ever sees you there, this is not as pertinent. But if you have a shop or office, a customer's first impression is critical. Messiness, dirty windows, tools scattered helter-skelter, dust kitties in the corners, graffiti in the rest room, etc., all make a customer or client uncomfortable, and so less likely to return. Who wants to go to a place that makes him uncomfortable?

2. Personal Cleanliness. You have all heard of the book Dress For Success. Well, extend that idea to Present Yourself Well For Success. Dirty skin, fingernails or teeth, unshined shoes, unprofessional clothes, and such shortcomings all tell a potential client that your personal standards are not very high. It is a short step for him to assume that your business standards are also not very high.

3. Printed Materials. Inexpensive printing does not have to be bad printing. Look at your invoices, estimate sheets, promotional flyers, business cards, letterhead, and see if they are crisp and neat and easy to read. Fuzzy type, broken lines, misalignment, and typographic errors all declare that you are a rank amateur in business who does not understand the basics. Maybe you are, but you don't have to advertise the fact. Get help from your printer, and if he can't give it, get a different printer.

4. Cleanliness of Product. No matter what you sell, whether it is a professional service or a virtual product or a physical product, at some point you have to deliver it. Say you are a business coach, and all you do is give advice. That advice had better be clean, i.e., easy to understand and suitable for its purpose, without dribs and drabs of unwanted and unneeded advice hanging all over it.

5. Safety. Accidents are expensive. Slipping on a wet floor or stumbling over a misplaced box can cost you time and medical bills, or if someone else does it, a lawsuit. Cleanliness is some of your cheapest insurance.

6. Equipment. In case you haven't already figured this out, up to 90% of equipment failures occur because of dirt (including rust). Computers overheat, printing presses jam, engines explode; the list goes on forever. When something mechanical fails, try cleaning it before replacing it. Better still, keep your equipment clean, inside and out, so it doesn't fail.

7. Language. This may sound moralistic, but people do know you by your words as well as by your actions and appearance. If your language is vulgar (also see First Impressions above), keep in mind that "vulgar" means "common," not exceptional, not worth much attention. Hardly the way to attract interest.

Yes, "everyone knows" all of the above. So consider this a reminder, and perhaps a bit of a hint to take a fresh look at the above points in your own business, to see if one or more two of them apply more than the others. If nothing else, they are inexpensive routes to improvement!


Don Dewsnap is the author of Small Business Magic, published by Oak Wand Publishing. Small Business Magic details the principles of quality necessary to business success, applying to all aspects of business from production to sales. The principles of quality are not well known, and almost never applied to their full potential.

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