Since I've been co-running this publishing / newspaper / design and sometimes total gong show for almost a decade, I occasionally get asked what my top tip is for running a successful business.
It's simple: Start as you mean to finish... and have cash. Okay, I guess that's two tips. But they are both really important.
Being that our main commodity is selling advertising, we have seen MANY businesses start up. Some have succeeded while many more have failed. I don't begin to claim that I know what happened or why they shut down but I can speak to how we have endured despite one of the toughest economies in recent history.
'Start as you mean to finish' is a saying that a manager of mine told me years ago, when I was in the insurance business. I was starting out as an accident benefits adjuster, handling claims for people who had been injured in a vehicle accident. It was a TOUGH job: you were encountering customers at their worst and when they weren't yelling at you, they were crying pitiably into the phone, begging you to pay for 'just two more massage treatments!'
As I sat in her cubicle and cried, completely boggled by the work and how to handle these irate or inconsolable customers, she said to me: "Start as you mean to finish: If you want to be in control of the claim, you have to start that way. If you give away the farm at the beginning, you will lose control. Be professional. Be polite. But don't give away the farm because you feel bad for them: you will not be able to stem the flow later.
She was trying to tell me that if I wanted to keep my job, I needed to keep my claims, and my emotions, in check. Not an easy task and I didn't last two years. But she was right. When I approached the claims with the thought of 'start s you mean to finish' in the back of my mind, things were much smoother. I treated each situation with compassion but did not get 'involved' in the emotions. It still required a vodka martini or two at the end of each day to shake it off, but that's another story.
So every situation in our current business has been ruled by 'start as you mean to finish'.
? Getting paid on time. When we bought the business, the previous owners warned us that the advertising bill tended to sit at the bottom of most customer accounts payable piles. If we wanted to get paid, we had to get creative. So we set out our expectations clearly and simply, at the beginning of the transaction and offered positive incentives for prepayment / payment in full before the ad copy deadling instead of hitting people with interest charge / late charges (negative reinforcements). In our almost ten years of business, we have only a handful of bad debts and only a few that have dragged on for more than 60 days.
And what about my other tip: have cash? Well, that's nothing new, but it is something we learned the hard way. Cash flow is the bane of almost every small / micro business' existence. It's very often the cause of business failing and closing. The old saying that it takes money to make money is true, so while it is possible to start a business on a shoestring, it's VERY difficult to maintain let alone grow one that way. There are always down times and slow periods. If you can't weather them and even improve over your competition during those times, something that requires money, your business might stagnate or worse.
So take my advice. If you want to run your own gong show, get some money and start as you mean to finish. You won't be sorry you did.
Tags: flow, CRM, methods, payable