1. Keep customers top of mind.
Many people decide to start their own business because of personal ambitions: more flexibility and freedom to be their own boss, financial independence, and a chance to fill a gap in the market. But some of the most successful business owners maintain momentum because they always make sure to look beyond self-interests. In other words, when making decisions about the company—adding or removing products; expanding to new locations—they stop to consider, “Who are we benefiting and how will this impact their lives?”
Take Moonlighting cofounder Jeﬀery Tennery, who started his company in 2014 in response to the 2008 economic downturn. Like many people, he was scared of losing his job and determined to never feel that way again. He created a mobile platform that would help others find work as fast as possible to stay afloat during uncertain times.
For Moonlighting to work, Tennery and team need reliable internet service. “You can’t be a top-10 app in the App Store® if your app doesn’t work right, and that really relies on a really great network,” he says. “It’s not only just us connecting to the servers and the things that go into our back oﬃce, it’s actually how our users are able to connect and use it interactively because the platform is all about peer-to-peer connectivity.”
Today, Moonlighting is used by everyone from DJs to graphic designers, truck drivers to personal trainers. Tennery is determined to help each and every member get the most bang for their buck. “One of the reasons why people come to Moonlighting is [that] we don’t mess with your paycheck,” he says. “You keep 100 percent of what you earn.”
For Alexandra Daras, owner of retail boutique The Pretty Pink Rooster, customer service is all about emphasizing people’s best qualities.
“The most fun part about running my business is helping women look and feel great without spending a ton of money. That’s what my business is about,” she says. “If I can touch one person by helping them feel good about themselves, I can leave my work that day and know that I did the right thing and a good job.”
Small boutiques like Daras’ are able to compete with e-commerce giants by keeping their online stores up to date with the latest merchandise and ensuring that online payments go through without fail. Some are even experimenting with augmented reality (AR) to let customers try on outfits before buying them. To pull this oﬀ, retail owners need the ability to quickly upload photos and videos, which requires fast download and upload speeds.
Having a website makes it possible for Daras to market her small business to women who might otherwise never learn about her store. By oﬀering the same products and quality service online, she’s able to reach even more women who might need that extra boost of confidence from The Pretty Pink Rooster.
2. Get ready for growth spurts.
Growth is good, but not if you’re unprepared to scale quickly. You need to be proactive and take steps to ensure you can keep customers happy no matter how big your business gets. This is especially important if you have any chance of becoming an overnight success.
“We got featured in the Apple® App Store, which was a big deal, and they put us in the top 10 next to LinkedIn and Glassdoor. So, we grew to about 100,000 users in that first couple years, and then over the last 18 months, we are now at about 660,000,” says Tennery.
Now known as “the Swiss Army Knife of the gig economy,” Moonlighting is one of the fastest-growing freelance marketplaces, helping people find jobs, promote their skills and build either their own freelance businesses or their own small businesses right from their mobile phones.
“We’re spending a lot of time making sure that our apps work great,” says Tennery. “When you’re doing that level of testing, making sure that your app works for 660,000 people—and we’re scaling that to millions—it’s important to have a really great network.”
Moonlighting runs on fiber internet to keep customers connected. Why? Traditional cable transmits data as electrical signals. Fiber internet transmits signals through tiny strands of plastic or glass using light, which is a faster way to send data. It’s also easily scalable. Once the network is in place, technicians can quickly update speeds with a keystroke to keep your business running. This flexibility allows the service to adapt as a company grows or to seasonally scale its business operations and services.
If your business is located in an area that doesn’t oﬀer fiber, make sure your internet is still as fast and as reliable as possible to keep pace with your biggest fans (your customers).
3. Stay scrappy.
Social media platforms can help small business owners market themselves and stay competitive. With Facebook® Live and Instagram® Stories, businesses are able to take customers behind the scenes, announce 24-hour sales and, in some cases, ask for real-time feedback about what they’d like to see more of in the store.
Alexandra Daras uses social media to market herself. The cost-eﬀective strategy keeps her clothing and jewelry boutique on customers’ radar. All that’s needed to pull it oﬀ is ingenuity, ambition and a strong internet connection.
“I’m on Facebook Live streaming new products and information that I have for the store. That’s something I didn’t do prior to when I was online,” says Daras. She also uses a landline to communicate with merchandisers and shipping companies.
Just as AR can help small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) stay competitive, fast upload speeds make it much easier to match the always-on pace of social media. “The internet has changed the boutique industry,” she says. “You can have an online website, you can have a brick-and-mortar store, and you can touch and reach thousands of people.”