How to solicit business

Keywords: how to solicit business
Description: Is it the best practice to allow your co-workers to conduct business with you and your personal business? I have recently launched my own business, but still have a full-time job in corporate

Is it the best practice to allow your co-workers to conduct business with you and your personal business? I have recently launched my own business, but still have a full-time job in corporate America. A few of my co-workers are interested in conducting business with my private company. My business is in no way related to my full time corporate career.

I have often heard it said that the answer is in the question. Let's take a look at several things and we will start with the most important. What is your company's policy on solicitation? There are many companies that do not allow soliciting in any way. If you are unable to locate the company's policy on this subject the next move is to discuss this with your supervisor. Surely someplace within your company is their position regarding this matter, especially since it is not unusual for employees to have businesses on the side.

Andrea, considering that you say that your business is in no way related to the type of work that you do it would seem to be somewhat harmless to do business with your co-workers. However, where does it stop? Let me give you an example of what I'm trying to say.

A couple of months ago I was having a pedicure at a day spa that I frequent. The woman who provided the service is an employee of the spa and has launched her own business that involves selling gourmet kitchenware via home parties. Now, I must add that I am a strong advocate of entrepreneurial endeavors. However, I couldn't care less about kitchenware and would have no desire to have a party nor attend one. My only concern was to relax my feet in the whirlpool and enjoy the luxury.

Instead, for one hour she and one of the co-workers that she had recruited wasted my time trying to convince me that I should at least take a look at the catalog and consider making a purchase. I like these folks and did not want to appear rude. So I glanced at the catalog.

In yet another case I stopped by the bank that I use and instead of hearing about the latest in low interest rates from the banker I was encouraged to buy a couple boxes of Girl Scout Cookies. Again, in an effort to escape I told the banker that my granddaughter was a Girl Scout and had hit me up for 12 boxes of cookies. The banker told me how I could buy more cookies and then instructed me on how to freeze them. Don't get me wrong — I love the Girl Scouts, but I don't want to buy cookies from my banker who is selling for her daughter.

My point is that it is very difficult to put the brakes on soliciting when you are on your job. My feeling is that if you can sell to your co-workers after work hours everyone is better off and there will be no chance in spilling over into the customer base of your employers.

Finally, I would suggest that you turn the tables and imagine that you have an employee who has an outside business and is encouraging her co-workers to patronize her business. How would you feel about this? Also, how you would protect your customers from being solicited?

By the way, I haven't been back to that day spa since the incident, partly because I don't like being sold something that I don't want and partly because I felt that the whole situation was inappropriate.

As I said at the beginning, the answer is often in the question. I am confident that if you were smart enough to launch your own business you know what to do in this situation.

Gladys Edmunds' Entrepreneurial Tightrope column appears Wednesdays. Click here for an index of her columns. As a single, teen-age mom, Gladys made money doing laundry, cooking dinners for taxi drivers and selling fire extinguishers and Bibles door-to-door. Today, Edmunds, 52, is founder of Edmunds Travel Consultants in Pittsburgh and author of There's No Business Like Your Own Business, a six-step guide to success published by Viking. You can visit her Web site at

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