A problem we get quite often in business, and which matters more to small businesses is when we see a prospect, or potential customer or client who makes a promise to you without actually signing a contract. He or she may say “yes, we will definitely need you in the Spring” or “I just need to get this rubber stamped by my co-director / wife / husband and we’ll start in a couple of months”. This creates a problem for us, and especially in trading in a weak economy. Do we plan to be ready for the work, do we look at getting any extra resources needed, and what about our marketing? If we got another major piece of business in addition to that promised, could we cope, or would we struggle in terms of resources?
The answer is, if we sit down and think about it, that it is no use preparing to work for a prospect if you have not got a contract in writing. The work may not come, the person may want to take you on but may be in such financial straits that he or she can’t, or it may not be solely that person’s decision. The client may never sign up; it might be always jam tomorrow, but never jam today.
Do not plan for work you do not have beyond knowing that you could do it, and never stop marketing to make space for work you do not have yet; in fact, never stop marketing. When you get more clients who have signed on the dotted line, then you can resource the work. Otherwise you will end up as Lewis Carroll envisaged in “Through the looking Glass”, waiting for something you will never get when you could be getting yourself something else.
‘I’m sure I’ll take you with pleasure!’ the Queen said. ‘Twopence a week, and jam every other day.’
Alice couldn’t help laughing, as she said, ‘I don’t want you to hire ME – and I don’t care for jam.’
‘It’s very good jam,’ said the Queen.
‘Well, I don’t want any TO-DAY, at any rate.’
‘You couldn’t have it if you DID want it,’ the Queen said. ‘The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam to-day.’
‘It MUST come sometimes to “jam to-day,”‘ Alice objected.
‘No, it can’t,’ said the Queen. ‘It’s jam every OTHER day: to-day isn’t any OTHER day, you know.’
‘I don’t understand you,’ said Alice. ‘It’s dreadfully confusing!’