Fifth Anniversary Celebration
It’s hard to believe, but Anchor Advisors, Ltd. is turning five this month. In recognition of this milestone, I would like to share the top five lessons I’ve learned as a business owner during the past five years.
1. You Can Never Have Too Much Cash.
Cash is my best friend. That’s because it’s always bailing me out, and I don’t mean from jail either. What I’ve learned is everything costs more than I think and takes longer than I want. I can make a budget and plan my cash flow to the smallest detail, but the unexpected, unanticipated or just overlooked issues are enough to make a mockery of my plans. The only way to handle this situation is to have cash in the bank. An available line of credit can help you in a pinch, but money in the bank is, well, money in the bank. It’s there when you need it – and you will need it.
This is not to say I don’t plan. Again, I plan for what I can and review my plans quite often. But, I also know that there are only two kinds of forecasts: lucky and wrong!
2. Business Development is a Continuous Process.
I was discussing business development with one of my clients when she said, “To me, business development is magic; to you, it’s math.” When I first started, I considered selling to be a single event. I would find an opportunity to make a sales deal (seemingly by magic), and I tried, really hard, to close it. As I learned more about business development, I realized selling is more of a continuous process than a single event. Rather than looking at opportunities one at a time, I started looking at the process of obtaining prospects, understanding their needs, analyzing their fit with my services and, ultimately, working with them. I devised a process to sort out those opportunities that were a good fit for me. The more consistently I could execute the process, the more likely I was to find good clients. This transformed my way of thinking – instead of looking for opportunities, I was optimizing a process.
3. Business Owners Need Bosses.
I don’t care who you are, or what you do, you will do your job better if someone is holding you accountable. Early on in my growth as a business owner, I asked a friend to review my calendar every week. She wasn’t a business expert, but she held me accountable for the goals I set for myself, including hours spent in business development, new contacts made, number of discovery appointments, etc. She would ask me every week about my progress toward achieving my goals. If I wasn’t at the desired point, she asked me why or what I would do differently. On the other hand, if I was on track, she congratulated me. This simple process improved my performance significantly.
4. It’s All About the Customer.
Thereis only one thing you need to have a business. It’s not a corporation, office, computer or web site. It’s a customer. Once you have customers, you concern shifts toward satisfying them and away from the other aspects of business. But, eventually, those seemingly neglected parts of business catch up. However, if you don’t have customers, those other aspects of business become quite meaningless, no matter how good they are being done. To maintain your customer base and successful track record, your daily focus should be on providing something of value to your customers and delivering on your promises. Success is learning to balance the process of finding new customers with the discipline of delivering quality services and products to old and new customers alike. All the other processes in a business are important, but only to the extent that they serve this dynamic.
5. You Can’t Count on Being Lucky, but you can cash in on it when it comes along.
At some point in your career, you will be the recipient of things you didn’t expect. It could be unexpected referrals or a big deal falling into your lap. Or perhaps, a speaking engagement or promotional opportunity catapults you to prominence in your industry. We cannot plan for these things, but when they happen, we have to capitalize on them. Having cash in the bank, a solid operating plan and a band of advisors that you can call on for support make it possible to take advantage of that “lucky break” and run with it.
What lessons have you learned as a business owner? Send them in to me at email@example.com and I will find a way to include them in a future newsletter.
Photo credit: bfick