ARE YOU ALLOWING YOURSELF TO MAKE GOOD BUSINESS DECISIONS?
Don’t put yourself in a spot where you have to think with your pocketbook. This is definitely a “been there, done that” subject.
It is hard to make good decisions in life if every decision being made is done with one eye on the checkbook. Don’t put yourself in a spot where one of the factors determining your decision is always money. Now this does not mean that you don’t plan things out. Effective money management is always part of any small business key to success. Let’s take for granted that you are not wasting money.
We launched Bulldog Marketing in 2003. It was a small business that did basic marketing and database work for Pizza Ranch, the chain where I have been a franchisee since 1992. We had a small office and a couple of employees with low fixed overhead. Truth be told, it was more of a hobby at this point in time than a real business. In 2007, I decided that I was going to either get serious about this small business or set it aside. My sister was involved at this time and we had to decide whether we were going to make a go of it or not. We decided to go for it!
There were many mistakes and good decisions during the past decade of this business. You’ll probably get sick of me referencing the LESSONS I learned from this experience. In the end, it worked out for us in many ways, but we were lucky and stuck with it. Things did not work out because of good decision-making.
Ok, now on to decision-making…..
In late 2008 we decided to build a technology platform for our marketing program we had already built. At this point, we were trying to boot-strap our small business and we borrowed the money to build out the platform instead of taking partners. We also needed sales now to make payroll. This caused us to consider money when we were building out the features in our platform.
On one occasion, I wanted to include vehicle verification in each customer’s data. We were a sales retention program and could use this data to show that we were improving customer retention within a dealership. This data was going to be expensive. We were bleeding money and watching every check we wrote. There was no way we were going to spend an extra $3,000 a month at this point in time.
Our solution? Try to up-sell our customers this data. You can imagine what happened. This was not core to what we did and so we weren’t very good at selling it. The end result was we didn’t send this report to most of our customers. The funny thing now, is that our break even would be retaining just an extra two customers per month.
We had the money. We should have spent it here. We didn’t because funds were so tight at the time, we couldn’t see the obvious and give the customers the information they needed to evaluate our product. It is a shame. This was a wonderful product, but we let money cloud our judgment. We couldn’t see the obvious until it was too late.
I know that you can’t spend more money than you have, but good decision making here would have dictated that we find another place to save so that we had the data. There were some obvious hard decisions looking back that should have been cut in its place.
This is just one example of many that I could give. How about you? Are you stressed out and find it hard to focus on making the right decisions because money is weighing on you?
What should you do?
Obviously try not to let yourself get in this situation.
- Only add fixed expenses that are absolutely necessary to the core of your business. Outsource as much as you can and resist the temptation to spend any money on things that won’t be noticed by your customers. This includes fancy offices and equipment.
- Don’t add people until you have no choice because you will start to lose sales. These sales should justify the employee cost. If not, you need to look at your business model. Trust me, it is very hard to part with people after they have been brought on board and made financial commitments based on their position.
- Plan on doing whatever it takes. I mentioned this in the last post. What are you willing to do to make it successful? If you’re not willing to work a few 80 hour weeks to make this a success than you shouldn’t do it in the first place. Besides at this point, your time isn’t worth that much anyway. Your business needs everything you can give it.
- Finally, remember that sales will cure a lot of ills. One mistake that I’ve made repeatedly and I see it with other people over and over, is to not budget enough on marketing and sales. We spend too much on the product and also things that don’t get us revenue. You can make an awesome product with the huge sales revenue to back it up. It doesn’t work the other way around. This is a common mistake that entrepreneurs, (me many times!), make. It doesn’t matter if you have the world’s best product if no one knows about it and it doesn’t sell. Make the most useful product and sell the heck out of it. You can add the bells and whistles after you have tons of revenue.
- What if you feel like you are already there? Start by cutting all expenses that do not result in revenue. Next find someone to talk to. This stuff gets heavy and sometimes you need to bounce ideas off of someone who is not getting crushed by the weight of it. The answer will probably be obvious to them.
A little long winded this month. I hope it made you think a bit.
If possible, share this small business info with one person.
As always, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if there is ever anything I can do for you,