Spend A Little and Get A Lot
There are a ton of articles and blog posts and videos about how your small business should spend whatever money it has from revenues, capital investment, etc.
Spend 30% on IT, spend 90% on social media, allocate 50% to cost of sales, spend whatever you have to on a good retail location with lots of walk-in traffic. And so forth. Everyone’s got a formula for success, and this varies by type of business, location, and other factors.
But, have you thought about other types of costs to you and the company, types of small expenditures that are quite important to the success of your business?
Let’s start with the one closest to our beating corporate heart.
Bookkeeping/Accounting/Payroll/Taxes – If you’re an accountant, skip to the next item. If you’re not in this business, you’re probably spending way too much time on these activities, and with varying degrees of success. Your time has value, and if you’re self-employed, time spent doing anything else besides growing and managing your business is time you’re stealing from the potential success of your business. Yes, that’s right, it’s a zero-sum game. There is a finite amount of you, there is no more of you that can be manufactured, and if you’re spending time doing copious amounts of math and looking up regulatory code, that’s probably not the best choice you can make for your business.
Yard work/house cleaning/laundry/home repairs – See above for zero-sum rationale. And is there anything more dispiriting than coming home after an exhausting day of making your small business successful to piles of dirty laundry that need to be done, grass in your front yard that’s a foot tall, or, a toilet that runs all night long? Unless you enjoy doing stuff around the house, and it transports you into some close-to-Zen state, and you like vacuuming at 10 PM at night, there is someone where you live that will do these things more cheaply then you can. And, in the specific case of home repairs, probably even better than you can as well.
Good food – Self-explanatory, I think. Both good-tasting and good for you is the duality we’re looking for here. Spend the money. You’re going to be exhausted, and you need the right fuel, and some pleasure while consuming it.
Good coffee – even more self-explanatory, to my way of thinking.
Graphic design/website design/interior design or architecture – Think you can design an attractive logo for your business? You probably can’t. In fact, I’ll go a step further and state that you probably also can’t design an attractive business card for your business. How about a website for your business? Do you think there’s no need to have that developed by a professional? There is. And if you have a retail store or a restaurant or even a physical location where clients and customers come to, it’s money well spent to hire someone to give you the look that’s going to assure your customers that they’re definitely in the right place to get the service and product they desire. And while we’re on this subject, when I have someone assure me that their business is high-quality and looks after all the details, and then they hand me a business card that’s obviously been printed from the laser printer at their home, and has an email listed on the card that says something like, firstname.lastname@example.org, it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in what Mark just told me about attention to detail and doing high-end work. He doesn’t want to spend a little bit of money on decent business cards, and he can’t spend 80 bucks a year to get an email address with his own domain name? If his own business isn’t that important to him, what’s he going to do when I give him my business? Don’t go cheap on the little things. Pay a printer to print your business cards, don’t let your partner’s teenage son who’s “really good with computers” design your website, and so on.
Your appearance/employee appearance/office-store appearance – You should make certain everyone and everything looks the way you want to be perceived by your clients/customers. And make sure your place is clean, the furniture is in good shape and everything looks orderly. I’ve been in small businesses where the office chairs have broken arms or chunks out of the upholstery, the desks are broken and held together with duct tape, there are piles of customer files stacked up in empty cubicles, and there are huge stains on the carpet. And I’ve also had business owners say something like this to me: “Oh, none of that really matters. My customers are interested in one thing, and one thing only, and that’s the lowest price. My customers are the bottom-feeders, and they wouldn’t appreciate any improvements I made. They only care about price, not how things look.” Well, first, I want to point out, places like Wal-Mart and McDonalds would disagree with that statement, but second, are you saying this is your long-term strategic plan, to always be the last choice among customers in your segment, to be the default choice when you have no money and no other options? That’s your business goal, to exist on the thinnest possible margins, and not ever get bigger in your current market segment by offering cleanliness and uniformity (see Wal-Mart and McDonalds), or, conversely, eventually move upmarket where the margins are better? Why are you even in business?
And now, the bell has rung, and class is over.