I thought i would throw this in here tonight given i have not had the time to be on the forum as much as i would like lately.
I would like to leave the pros here with a thought for the day about the idea of collaboration.
In a business there are numerous functions that need to be performed for the business to be healthy and continue to operate succesfully which means different things to different people.
Now its been mentioned numerous times by those who have BTDT that to run a small business on your own invariably will involve more hours than you put in on a normal day job. These hours never let up either.
So what inevitably happens is some things in the business dont get done or totally lack adequate attention.
Many take expenses from a job etc and simply dump them in a shoebox and hand it all over to the accountant come end of year for tax purposes.
This is just one example of where a better thought out plan involving some consistent collaboration or perhaps outsourcing if you like would do your business a great deal of good.
Its a great pity that the characteristic qualities of a small business owner are in fact some of the very causes of his own downfall when it comes to growth.
Consider that in any business there are several key roles the owner needs to perform. One could have a debate about which is the most important but it becomes pretty much a chicken and egg type situation.
Take functions like sales, marketing and accounting or finance. Typically the small business person is predominantly technical in nature. Relates very well to taking pride and doing a good job. Full of the belief that the good job will bring more good jobs and normally that is the case. The result is a perception that if the pro focuses on purchasing at the right price and making a good product within the allocated time the business will continue.
But what this approach does not consider is the intensly competitive economic climate we are in at present.
Its not simply that you are competeing against another pro. No my friend you are actually competeing for a share of the dollars from the market you serve.
You see people dont think in a sale that the reason they never got the project was because it never happened. But this is often the case especially when budgets are constrained as in present climate.
I will give you a very very simplistic example taking place right now in many families across North America. A kid has desire to play a sport for which the parents need to anti up say 300 dollars for the season never mind additional costs and extras as in transportation and kit.
Now when gas prices increase to the extent they do, and food prices start rising, if the family budget is to remain balanced ( specifically in the case of fixed incomes) you could find that this sport activity is beaten out by project "buy gas" to get to work in the first place.
To the small business guy this kind of loss of the project to competeing projects or priorities does not appear to be the case from the outside. A good sales person dedicated to sales can determine this right upfront in the sale.
So in sales efforts the approach simply becomes lets just send out even more flyers with focus on the numbers game. BUt each bid or quote adds to the worked hours and they become non productive hours when you loose the bid.
But take marketing and sales role. These are not typically small businesses strong points. Specifically technical folk who believe in tangible assets such as machines and wood as opposed to intangible assets such as brand and communication.
The marketing communication should be serving as "propaganda" communicating with its target audience and keeping desire for the project high on the list to try and force something else to be sacrificed in the family budget to accomodate the sport activity.
But it does not happen....no time, thought or money is allocated to it.
Then comes the sales role.....very little method or process is adopted to determine if competeing bids are the issue or competeing projects are the issue. Dont discount this point. This is a very real significant cause of bid loss. Trouble is the usual approach from poor sales people is to simply cut price in the hope of tilting the project their way. Now you cannot do much if you keep picking up jobs at discounted rates. In fact it could even get nasty when you look at profitability or your bank account.
So why not consider collaboration. Your fellow pro down the road or in the next little town 5 or 10 miles away is having the same issues. By both of you competeing with each other you achieve only one objective that is to force one of you to loose. Its inevitable that the selling price suffers in the process of the contest or at least the gross margin. But the costs and labor remain real and the same.
Now the alternative if you collaborate and consider splitting roles by which of the two of you is the better marketeer and sales person, is one of you can focus on the marketing and sales and the other on the purchasing and production.
Collaboration has become mainstream in the software development field and its probably easier to accomplish in some ways there than in the woodworking field. But consider this, they manage to do it and software development pays pretty well. Whats more custom software has high margins.
So shouldnt you as a woodworker not join forces with that pro down the road or consider hooking up with a small marketing firm on an outsourced basis to ensure the marketing function occurs.
Consider why it is so important to consider this right now in todays climate both economically and technically.
Most of us are aware of how tech is changing at a rapid pace. The use of the web, smart phones and tools like APPs are changing the way people interact with business. Add to it the social network side and you have a revolution taking place.
How can you possibly hope to be an expert in all the fields and keep up with the changes taking place in as far as they affect your business and your relationship with your customer.
Give it some thought it can make all the difference to your success and growth never mind profits.
If you happen to read the business papers, you will notice M&R activity picking up again and some really big deals being done. There is no reason the same motives that drive the big deals should not be happening much lower down the chain at the level of the small one man shop.
Simply put its consolidation of the market or acquisition of complimentary product or process with a view to making one of the two entities involved way bigger as a result.
By the way if you still one of those who simply puts the paper work in the box and hands it over to the account for end of year tax and in the meantime runs the business on the money left over in the check book, you might want to change that very bad habit and begin to do a budget. But thats a seperate subject.
I hope some of you found this food for thought but dont leave it there. There is no reason you could not be selling some other forum members product if you have great selling ability. Think about it.