Selling yourself short


At Greve de Lecq, Jersey


As I said the other day, restaurants so often show the best and worst examples of how to do business, all in an hour or so.

On our recent trip away, my wife and I visited another bar-restaurant for lunch, looking for a snack to leave plenty of room for dinner later. My wife ordered squid and I ordered a steak sandwich. A steak sandwich is rather more than a snack you might think, but it was priced at £6.95 which is about US $11 at the time of writing. At that price I thought it would be only a small snack-sized sandwich, but when my dish arrived it consited of an absolutely enormous steak with fries, an excellent dressed salad and Dijon mustard, plus a long bread roll. The squid dish was of very generous proportion too.

The meal was delicious, but it was a really big meal. On those grounds I would absolutely recommend the restaurant, so please ask if you are going to Jersey. (Channel Islands, not USA).

Don’t be too cheap

So what is the problem? Well, none for me except I had no room left for dinner, but for a meal of that quality and size I would have paid twice as much, especially to eat it in that setting. The problem is that the restaurant owners are not valuing themselves and their business highly enough. At the price they sell their food, their margins surely cannot be great, yet they could make far greater profit selling quality food in good surroundings and still have very happy customers.

The race to the bottom and staying on top

In terms of competition so many businesses compete in the race to the bottom on price, when often if they checked properly, they are not comparing like with like. If you have a great product or service you really should sell it on its true value to the customer. You can make yourself more money which you deserve for your hard work, and if you feel really guilty about making a good profit (and no one should) you can reward your employees better too, so everyone will be happy.

Have you sold yourself short in the past?

Business is so simple – no science involved.

Get to the point!

I meet lots of business owners. They may be highly gifted, but in one sense they are simple souls. They are in business to make money. That means profit.

We who are business owners but who advise other businesses need to remember this. I always try to remember that I am in business to make money too. I am one of those simple souls.

When I had some additional training a few years ago I remember that there was a great deal of jargon involved in understanding how to be a management consultant and especially someone like me coming from an accountancy firm background. My training talked about such things as ROI, lead generation, cash accounting, conversion rates, list brokerage, pull marketing, push marketing, audit trail, conceptual thinking, risk management, thinking outside of the box, accrual based accounting and Sarbanes-Oxley. Gosh, what a list!

The average person running a small business is not interested in hearing jargon from me or anyone else. She will not know what many of these words mean. Heck, there are a few I have to think about myself, and I never understood what “thinking outside the box” meant if it was anything different from “lateral thinking” (I never really knew what that meant either). Actually I think using the words “thinking outside the box” should be an arrestable offence punishable by a jail sentence of not less than two years; it is so annoying and meaningless.

Improving a business is about increasing profit, which means more sales, and managing expenses so as to have more money with which to enjoy life and to save or spend on useful things. We may know the jargon labels, but let’s not blind our customers with science (there’s another cliché). Let us concentrate on keeping it simple so that our business customers are not distracted by our language. They need our help, not an earful of buzzwords.

Then again, even “management consultant” which I once trained to be is one of those words. Consultants are seen to be people who take your money to increase their profit at the expense of your own.

Definitions of consultants:

  • A know-all charlatan from outside your organisation
  • Someone who borrows your watch to tell you the time, and then keeps your watch
  • Someone who comes in to solve a problem and stays around long enough to become part of it.

Practical hand on help is what business owners need from service providers. They don’t want to hear jargon. They don’t want to be told they have a problem they already know about. They don’t want to be told what to do. They may need some practical training.

I fix tax problems. I tackle wasteful spending in client’s businesses. I know other people to bring in to deal practically with increasing sales, or meeting ‘Elf and Safety requirements or whatever.

What everyone wants is more money. Let’s help them get it. It’s not rocket science. But there’s another expression which should bring a prison sentence of at least eighteen months. How do you feel?

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Let another brain take the strain

Local businesses

Image via Wikipedia

Are you good at everything? I’m not. I doubt many people are.

Do you like having to do everything in running your business: both the creative and the mundane?

Of course what is mundane to some is interesting grist to the mill for others. My business started very small and once upon a time I did everything myself. Now I only do the things I enjoy doing and which I find most rewarding, and the things I am best at.

It took me a while to realise that there were some tasks that were no fun at all, and that I wasn’t very good at some of the work my business was expected to produce. Also, I didn’t have time to do everything, so it seemed a good idea to concentrate on doing the fun stuff, the premium higher work. That didn’t mean that I stopped supplying the other services. It seemed logical to me to subcontract work to those who were better at it than me and who enjoyed doing what I didn’t.

Subcontracting has been great for my business. My subcontractors are good people, otherwise I wouldn’t use them. They deliver to me on time so that I can deliver to my clients, and I can negotiate a rate which gives them a steady income, but allows me to sell on a great service at a margin. That way everyone is happy and my business makes money without my having to do all the work.

You might ask why this system differs from having employees. Well, that would be a commitment, and in a small and growing business, I would not always have enough work to keep them on. They supply other businesses too and they have their own customers, so we are not tied to each other, but what we have between us is trust.

The business model I have suits a supplier of services. If my business made anything or was in retail, the concept wouldn’t work.

It is just no good trying to do everything yourself. I think all small businesses should use their networks (and build a network if they haven’t got one) because there is someone out there who can do for you what you think of as the boring bits, and you can profit from their expertise while concentrating on your favourite most profitable and valuable stuff. Your subcontractors can be your best referrers too.

Do you subcontract? If not, should you?


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