It is amazing how time flies when you really focus on something. Have you ever started a project in the morning only to realize that it was 4 pm and you were a little hungry, or 10 pm and a little tired? It happens.
As business owners it can be very difficult to step back and look around to see what is really happening. All of the problems of the business become overwhelming, and you just keep pushing forward. The problem is when you forget to look up and make sure you are still pushing the right direction.
Recently I was sitting with a business owner who was telling me that he needed more business so he was going to start doing some work in an area he had never worked. He was looking at this new area of work as instant income. He never considered what it would take to do it, he just said yes to the first customer. He asked me to help him put together a plan.
In business the smartest thing anyone can do is 1. Make sure there is a market, and then 2. Deliver what that market wants.
So far, he had the right idea. The problem was he didn’t really check for a market, he just had one customer requesting the new service.
I let him do the service and we did a little exercise listing all of the time, materials and effort he put in since he uttered the words “Yes, I can do that” to his new customer.
What we found out might sound a little familiar. He didn’t really know how to do it, so he spent 3 hours online “learning” how to do it. Then he spent another hour at the wholesale warehouse asking them if what he learned was right. 4 hours invested already. After drive time and materials, he was able to bill 1.5 hours and $100 in materials for 7 hours of research, learning and work with $70 in materials costs and $13 just in fuel. Do you see a problem here?
It has been a month and this type of work hasn’t come back yet and by the time it does, even he admits, he will not be very good at it, and he has agreed not to accept the work any more. Saying “No” is hard in this economy, but now he realizes that just because you “can” do something, it doesn’t mean you “should” do something and worse yet, it might cost your business real money to do it. Aren’t you in business to make money?
During the post brief, he realized that the job he agreed to was not part of his core business and he would have better invested the time in the business he is already good at. A couple more customer calls could have brought in real income with less effort. Knowing what to do is easy, doing it is hard.
As a business coach, it is easier for me to see the bigger picture, just like you can see more from the stands during a football game. The quarterback is focused on the play and his scan might be limited to the guys he “planned” to throw to all the while you are looking at a guy standing there with a 40 foot circle of space and a straight shot to the end zone.
One of the reasons I still like to fly is I get to be reminded of how much opportunity is out there. When I was flying into the SF bay area a short while ago I took the picture you see here. It was an amazing evening, and all of the lights reminded me again of how many potential customers are out there. More than enough for everyone for sure. We just have to go earn them by being the best we can be at what we do. That holds true for me and my clients, and every other business owner out there.
Tell me about when saying “yes” wasn’t right for your business, and get your name in the hat for our Starbucks gift card.