MY FORMER editor used to frown and shake his head whenever I included exotic dancers in my column, but I saw a relevant example so I am going to brave incurring the wrath of the new management to get my point across.
One of the things I often see in small businesses is entrepreneurs who have a terrible inability to actually prioritise things.
You ask them what they actually do on a day to day basis and they tell you that they "updated Twitter" (to their 50 followers, 13 of whom are spam bots), updated their 250 friends on Facebook about what their business was doing, checked their email and "strategised".
When you repeat the question, they look at you slightly askance for a moment and then say they "built brand awareness".
In the words of my mate Scott Cundill - who wrote the book How not to start and run your own business - on the subject of marketing: "In your small business all this marketing stuff means diddly squat. The only ingredient you need to focus on is sales."
Truer words have never been spoken.The exotic dancer and the marketer
In our small and medium enterprise (SME) network there is an entrepreneur who runs an exotic dancing business, and another who has a marketing business.
When I ask for updates from the marketer, he responds with something along the lines of the above. When I ask the same thing of the exotic dancer, I get a response a few days later saying that she has been swamped going out and seeing clients.
It really is that simple: seek out clients on a daily basis, perform job and get paid.
If the business model expands – for instance, the dancer is now involved in a marketing contract for a new club - she picks up the phone and says: "Hi Marc, new club opening, it is going to cost you this much, do you want more info or for me to book you a table? Anyone else you think I should be telling?"
If she methodically works through her contact base each day, by the time the club opening rolls around and collects the fee at the end of the day, she is in business.
If I give her a "maybe", she follows up a few days later with the simple question: "Do I waste time chasing you or can I put you down as a 'no'?"
In contrast, my marketing entrepreneur can send me pages of potential leads or customers and how they would contribute to "the strategy". I know for a fact which one has money in their bank account at the end of the month.Getting the priorities right
Here are some suggestions if this is hitting home for you.
1. Believe it or not, email doesn't have to be answered immediately. One of the most successful entrepreneurs I know has a very simple auto responder on her account. "Thank you for your email. I will do my best to respond to you within 48 hours. However, due to the high volume of emails received, this may not always be possible." I promise you, she doesn't get involved in long and involved email conversations which achieve nothing.
2. When you wake up in the morning, work out who owes you money and what is the quickest and most sensible way to get that money in your account. I promise you will feel more inspired about your business if there is money in the account.
3. It is unpleasant - but quickly remind yourself what your real cash flow position is. It helps you stay focused on what is actually important.
4. Finish work you actually have and then go back to your clients and ask them what you did well and whether you can do the job again or expand on it.
5. Make five sales-related phone calls or introductions in the day.
6. If you like admin, do it then and there. If you despise it, stick it in one of those alphabetical filing things and summon help at the end of the week to make sure it is all traceable.
It might not fit the glamorous ideals of entrepreneurship, but I come back to my exotic dancer – it is only a business when you are successfully getting money in the bank, not just thinking about it.