One thing about business development I know to be true is carts and horses. Yes, that’s right carts and horses. More often I am finding new and seasoned entrepreneurs putting their carts before their horses.
When we put our carts before our horses, we cannot expect to move forward. First of all the horse is very confused and second, horses are used to pulling rather than pushing. How do I see this cart/horse problem? Well, how about starting a business without having any financial management tools in place?
I wonder: How can you know how your business is doing? What are the income streams? How is your marketing working? What net-WORK-ing events are making sense? When are you in the ‘black’? Where is your business coming from? What about that new product or offering? How does it support the things that are bringing you income?
Are you guilty of not knowing your business financial picture? I see this situation when folks are in the wishing and hoping stage of business development. ‘It will all work out! I must be making money by now! I am afraid to look!’ It’s pretty straight-forward to track your expenses and income in a good system. I favor QuickBooks, but anything that keeps the numbers in order is what’s necessary. You MUST know your income sources and where to spend your time and energy.
And speaking of cash flow, another cart/horse problem is spending, spending, spending, recklessly and thoughtlessly before any income is there. Of course, some infrastructure spending is important. But, there are only a few things that are really necessary, (one of them being an accounting program/system). You need business cards, you need to register your business, it’s good to have a nice photo, and you need a one-page flyer/document that highlights your offerings, your bio, and some testimonials. Skip the brochures and folders and extensive and expensive marketing materials. Trust me, you’re going to change your Value Proposition, benefits, and fees within your first year (and beyond) so why put that stuff into a static document when you can make a one-page flyer you can update and amend as you grow your business? Most of you aren’t going to need a slick marketing package for years (and maybe never) so save your money and focus on what will build your business.
What about training and consulting? Spend a bit of money learning some traditional marketing theory and then amend and adapt it to the realities of today. Traditional marketing is based on formulas that worked in the 1950’s and 1960’s. If you are learning to market using fear and greed, or if you are going in the direction of marketing materials that don’t capture the essence of who you are, then you are on the wrong track.
Today you must understand your Value Proposition, and you have to learn how to help your customers and clients be open to listening to you. These are the core facts of life for entrepreneurs today. Anything short of the new information on business building will leave you feeling as if you are a failure. And you needn’t be a failure or feel like one. I cannot even count the number of people I have talked with who have taken traditional marketing and selling training but find the information unhelpful at best and a huge waste of time and money at worst. They feel bad because the info isn’t working. I know it’s not working because it’s not what they need. They need a simple system based on sound financial information, their real value to their clients, their professionalism and consequently a core sense of confidence in themselves.
Take care of your financial house, focus on your core business, understand and then amend traditional marketing and selling so they reflect the real you. These are the critical stepping-stones to your business development. Save yourself thousands of hours and tons of grief and put your horse before your cart (but don’t forget to bring along a shovel because things happen).
Until next time -feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.