Monday, February 7, 2011

It's That Time of Year: Questions to Consider before Changing Your Business

It’s that time of year ...

I got an email from a friend on Friday. She was on her way home from a long day at work. She was depressed. Getting her business going has been a long, hard battle. She feels like she’s doing most of the things she needs to do. She is involved in civic and community functions and she makes sure the clients she serves are really happy. With all of that, when she and her husband sit down to review her business it is clear that she is not yet making money. Is she a failure? What radical changes does she need to make in her business to succeed?

She is an interior decorator.

I serve professional photographers. It’s funny that the challenges my friend faces in her business are so close the the challenges faced by so many in this business. My advice to her, and my advice to you, is the same.

We may be at the end of one of the most disruptive economic phases in our life times. I say we may be, not because I am qualifying the measure of disruption, but because I am not sure whether or not we ARE at the end. No one is.

I think it is important to remember this because we are always so focused on what’s right in front of us. We are able to access any information with little to no effort and in little to no time. Why are we not able to create positive change in our businesses in the same timeframe?

Many of the workshops and various experts who speak in our space exacerbate these challenges. “If you do this you will succeed.” I’ve heard a lot of these and I have to say that I find the common themes almost comical. It’s all about your branding and standing out from the crowd! Price your way to success! Make sure what’s coming through is the real you and when that happens you’ll succeed. Only sell to the rich, they’re the only ones who buy! This list goes on and on.

The challenge I have with all of these theories relates to the advice I gave my friend. Why do we always think we’re the cause of our problems? To be sure we sometimes are. There is merit in the underlying theme presented in most of these seminars. Your branding does matter (at least a little). Pricing matters. Making sure you are authentic matters. Your target audience and their spending ability matters. However, sometimes I think you have to stand back and look around you and notice what’s going on outside of your world. Taking that ‘macro’ view into consideration is of paramount importance when considering any big decisions.

The macro view, in a nutshell, is this. We’ve spent the last year and a half going through the most significant economic turmoil in our lifetimes. While the markets may be rebounding, they seem to be doing so in a void. As far as the every day life of the average person is involved, there is very little difference between January 2011 in the emergence and January 2010 in the disturbance. We still fear for our jobs. We have friends who have lost homes and more. We are much more careful with our spending and much less frivolous with our credit. All of these things will be true until the stimulus stimulates something that actually reaches our wallets.

My friend’s business is interior decoration. Yours may be photography or something else. Whether we like it or not, these are ‘want to have’ businesses. I have another friend who is a plumber. White van, pipe smell, hard work, etc. I asked him if he thought things were getting better. He said he didn’t know. He said that a lot of the folks he saw were asking him if he could just “patch things up.” He said others were going ahead and really getting things fixed. “A little better, maybe.” Any homeowner will tell you that plumbing is a “have to have” thing. It should be clear to all of us that the “nice to have” world won’t really come back until the “have to have” world is in much better shape. That’s a macro view.

What I told my friend is pretty simple. Check yourself. Make sure the things you’re doing are the things you believe you need to do for your business. Make sure when you are working that you are making money. Make sure you’re not spending money on anything you don’t need. But. Don’t make any big decisions until we really know what is going on in the Macro space. Be good. Be efficient. Be opportunistic. Do not be reckless.

Measure what you are told and let bigger decisions take a little time. I’m not saying don’t make the big decisions. I’m saying make them, but make them with all of the information, or at least enough to really know where you are ...

Successful businesses are business that think in the long term. That’s true whether you are a sole practitioner or an auto manufacturer. I hope that helps.


Jules Bianchi said...

good advice Jim. I was just about about to be reckless.

Melissa Jill :) said...

Thanks Jim. This is such a helpful reminder. Having a macro view doesn't come naturally for me. I get so wrapped up in my own little world of my business. Thanks!

Wendy said...

Wise words, Mr. Jim. It's really quite simple...we have to get back to basics in every area of our lives. Consumers AND business owners need to be sure before they buy.

Hopefully this means the days of waste are slowly fading.

Brienne Michelle said...

Excellent. Just the kind of reminder I needed right now too. Thanks!