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Business Acumen

By: Helena Stratford - Updated: 18 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Business Acumen

If you are running your own business, one of the most important assets you can have besides good money management, is good business acumen.

What is Business Acumen?

Business acumen is having good common sense when it comes to running a company. For Au Pair Agents, this means most importantly:

  • Being sensitive to your customer needs without having the wool pulled over your eyes.
  • Being able to recognise a good au pair application when you see one.
  • Only staying in agency partnerships which are reliable and protecting the good name of your agency.

Customer Needs

The first rule of having good business sense is to be sensitive to your customer needs.All clients want a fast, efficient, personal service which delivers what they want. This means that you need to take time to meet these basic needs. If you can offer more than the next agent, your client is more likely to stay with you than to look elsewhere.

Do make sure that at all times you are keeping in regular contact with your clients, updating them as to your as often as they wish. If you have nothing to report, then also let them know this, so that they can be confident that even though you haven’t found an au pair for them yet, you are nevertheless still working on their behalf.

Make sure you do not mix your clients up! If you have a large client base, it can become confusing, but this is an anathema to your customer. Everyone wishes to be treated as an individual and by making sure you have done your homework and know your client well, you will be building stronger business bonds for the future. Clients need to be re-assured you understand their needs and will be far more likely to return to an agency who remembers their name!

However, possessing good business acumen also means keeping the company afloat – and you will not make money by spending a disproportionate amount of time speaking to clients without finding them a corresponding au pair. There will always be customers who are very time-consuming and demanding. They will have you running all over the place doing this and that for them without perhaps ever actually accepting an au pair.

This means that not only will you not have made a match, but you will have in effect made a financial loss on the time that client took. You therefore need to be a little savvy in assessing which clients are ‘serious’ about wanting to do business.

Au Pair Applicants

You will quickly discover that most host families (your clients) are looking for girls who will make a ‘perfect’ addition to their lives. This most often means that they should speak good English, be aged 20 or older, love children, don’t mind cleaning, and are bright, friendly, hard working, and flexible.

You will also quickly discover that there are not too many of this type of girl out there! Your job, then, is to develop a sixth business sense of which girls will make a good au pair and who might end up being a disaster.

As with your families, you must also be on the lookout for girls who are just wasting your time. They might ask to see family details and not follow up their request, they might not get their documents to you, and they might go ‘AWOL’ for long periods of time.

This is your warning sign that they are not serious girls and will not make good au pairs – so don’t chase them and waste everyone’s time – let them go!

Agency Partnerships

The partnerships you make with other agencies abroad will be one of your strongest tools. Good business acumen will tell you that it is important to check whether the agencies are trustworthy and reliable.

Cultivate your relationship with them and make yourself indispensable. They are your key to receiving the applications from au pairs you need to send to clients and also a connection with the girls themselves.

However, for every good agency, there is also a bad one out there. Agencies who don’t react quickly, who don’t send good quality applications, or who are never available, are the ones to avoid. Drop them from your agency list like a hot potato, because they will only damage the reputation of your agency and lead to unsuccessful family/au pair matches.

There is a lot more to good business know-how. Some is natural, some can be learned from the many good business courses available, and some of it just comes with practise and actually running a business, but if you can grasp these principles then you should be OK - so go for it!

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