Dear B. Todd:
I know you are a successful entrepreneur, a savvy business leader and, I would say, a marketing genius. You are also a very handsome man.
With all of that going for you, I would like your advice. I am starting a small service business. I would like to know what I should do first?
Dear Astute Reader:
Yes, I am all of those things, but you forgot to mention humble.
To answer your question, however, let me start by telling you all of the things you should not do. Don’t create a logo; don’t spend time writing a sales letter; don’t tell your best friend your idea and then agree to give him or her half, while the two of you spend the next three months in his/her garage planning every last detail of your enterprise, including what kind of car you will buy and what kind of driving moccasins you will wear when your sure-fire business idea makes it big.
Don’t hire any employees. Don’t spend family gatherings talking about your business idea and offering your crazy uncle a piece of the business for the use of his pickup.
Don’t buy advertising. Don’t write a press release. Don’t join a networking group. Don’t bore your wife by making your business idea the only topic of conversation you have with her for six months. You aren’t that interesting, and you should listen to how her day went.
Don’t create a glossy three-fold brochure. Never use the word unique. Don’t buy a golf shirt with the logo that you weren’t supposed to create and wear it all the time to all events including church services, funerals, your real job or the shower.
Don’t look for office space. Don’t print up business cards, letterhead or purchase anything with a dot com on the end of it. And don’t buy accounting software to count the money you haven’t earned yet.
But most of all — don’t ever consider failing.
Now that I have told you what not to do, here is the first thing you should do. Go get a client. And I am not talking about your mom.
The road to success is littered with carnage of good people who started down the path of success with nothing more than a tank full of thoughtless words offered by well-intentioned people who didn’t have the heart to tell them the idea stank.
People in the success-selling business tell you to ignore the nay-sayers. Persistence overcomes resistance. Never give up. It is all true, but sometimes you have to face up to the facts. Some ideas suck and just shouldn’t be unleashed on the free world.
The only real way to know if you can make a run at a successful enterprise is by earning a paying client who doesn’t call you on your birthday or who didn’t attend your wedding. Until somebody who doesn’t have a rooting interest in you is willing to buy it, it isn’t really a business.
In my personal, and as you noted, expert opinion, the core of a business in reality is just a series of transactions. You do something, and I give you money for it. Both halves of the transaction are essential.
A business can’t be in business if clients don’t pay and/or you don’t deliver. After you win the client, hire somebody to do the work for you, and go out and do the most important work — win another client.
Once you have landed a few clients and mastered the art of the transaction, then change the don’ts to do’s (except for the failure part). Advertise. Buy a Web site. Get more clients.
Design a logo. Put it on stuff. Have it tattooed on your bicep. Start wearing sleeveless shirts. Get clients to refer you to other new clients. Call the press. Count your money. Network. Get more clients.
Lease office space. Hire employees. Print business cards. Get more clients. Start a training program. Buy Successories. Pay your taxes. Get more clients.
Earn buy-in from stakeholders. Purchase one of those headsets for your cell phone. Make sure it is waterproof. Wear it everywhere — including the shower. Get more clients.
Buy the car of your dreams. Buy driving moccasins that match your floorboards.
Be happy. Spend time with your family. And never lose sight of the fact that your relationships are more valuable than any business — then get more clients.