It's pretty hard to sack the bloke who runs the office footy tipping competition, even if he is completely useless.
Charismatic people have a knack for making themselves indispensable, owing to their stand-out role in the staff cast. Skill and talent will only get you so far. Small business people need to ask themselves: "am I disposable?" A more personal approach could help ensure you're not just another faceless creditor. Whether you're an owner, manager or employee, here are some ways to be unforgettable to the people you do business with.
Do other peoples' work
Help yourself by helping others. That's the tip from Michael Shevers, area manager at Drake Recruitment Services.
"Every manager can tell you that they don't have enough time in a day to manage every one of their employees equally," Shevers says.
"They would be grateful for the assistance of a pro-active team member who can help other team members solve problems, troubleshoot issues and find information."
Shevers says helping out – especially at your own inconvenience – will earn you kudos and forge strong team bonds and trust.
"Employees who help in this way are often the first to be thought of as indispensable."
Be an ideas' person
Shevers says finding ways to save money, increase client satisfaction or make a process more effective is another way of cementing your position.
"Being seen as an employee who, from time to time, can generate cost-saving or money-making ideas or company improvements is often a excellent way to be seen as indispensable.
"Time-poor managers would love to see staff who are engaged enough in the business to generate ideas like this and volunteer to follow through with making things happen.
"Don't overdo it. But always look for an opportunity to improve what your company does."
Be the bearer of good news
Don't shy away from blowing your own trumpet. Pass on positive company feedback – especially when you get a mention.
"Don't hide your light under a bushel when you get good feedback from a customer. Let your manager know that there is a happy customer on the phone, or forward that email with glowing feedback," Shevers says.
"This isn't gloating … most companies love to hear good feedback and would normally save this for marketing or other business purposes.
"Your manager is also likely to send this around to your colleagues, so you become unforgettable for all the right reasons."
Be an expert … at something
Create an "identity profile" and promote your expertise in an area you're familiar with.
"No one in the business knows everything about everything, so pick a topic that relates to your company and become an expert in it, a go-to person," Shevers says.
"Whether it's the company policy manual or the computer system, study up and soon you'll have a profile for the right reasons – knowledge that everyone will want to use at some stage."
Remind clients why you're needed
Being indispensable means your client feels that without you, their business will "suffer in some way," Shevers says.
"This kind of relationship is more than promoting your latest products or services.
"It's a way of integrating yourself into your client's business where they think of you as a partner, not a supplier."
Schedule time with clients so you have more opportunities to remind them why you're needed.
"Offer to sit in, or even present, in any of their regular business meetings where you can learn more about their business and teach them about how yours can assist them," Shevers suggests.
"Provide information that helps your clients. Regular, useful information about your client's market, customers or industry would be both an effective way to show you care and also that you know their business well.
"Invite your clients to your office or premises to show them how you do business and allow them to learn what happens when they ask for your products or services. It's like inviting an old friend into your home – it genuinely builds trust and loyalty," Shevers says.
Keep it real
Career coach Kate James from Total Balance Group says it's important to be "totally authentic".
"That doesn't mean being rude, but it means just be yourself," James says.
"Don't try to put on airs and graces, don't try to impress people – just learn to be comfortable in your own skin."
Under-promise and over-deliver
Don't forget the promises you made when pitching your business to clients, because they will remember.
"One of the worst things that we can do is to say we're going to do something and not actually follow through on that because we get busy or distracted," James says.
"Be true to your word."
Improve the office mood
You might share the same role as many others at work – but there is only one of you.
It's OK to demonstrate your individuality in order to stand out from the crowd, James says.
"Make a positive contribution to the culture of the organisation – I think that's really important. People do notice that positivity."
James says it is important to "set healthy boundaries" and find a workplace that shares your values.
Extra hours do not always result in extra recognition.
"I don't think you want to be the last person to stay there at night. I think it's important to have a sense of self-respect," she says.
Never stop marketing
Just because you've secured a new client doesn't mean you should stop trying to win them over.
Michelle Gamble, "chief angel" at Marketing Angels, says taking clients to lunch is "an oldie, but a goodie".
"Nothing beats face-to-face time. It gives you an opportunity to build your relationship further when there's no other agenda." Provide the client with information or contacts from your network.
"Take the time to put together a review outlining what you've done and what you've achieved.
"If you have connections that could benefit your client, don't be afraid to use them.
"It could be introducing a potential new client to them, a great supplier, introducing them to a journalist you know or a networking group you know they could benefit from.
Do something unexpected: "surprise your client with new ideas, an unexpected gift or referral to them."