Submitted by Don Doman
One of my clients passed away last month. He was a tough old bird, but I got a big kick out of him. When he first signed with me he wanted clients to come to him for a/c (air conditioning) tubes and hoses. He didn’t expect any because he hadn’t ever had marketing pay off for him before. He made sales one-on-one. I also didn’t deliver . . . at first.
Finally, I discovered that his custom connections, tubes, and hoses had very little to do with a/c, it was just how he saw his business. His market really were the owners of custom and classic cars, motorcycles and ATVs. Old hoses and tubes wear out and they don’t make them any more. He could supply what ever lengths his clients needed. He began making sales.Not air conditioning, but old motorcycles, custom cars, and ATVs was the service area my client needed.
I saw this same misconception about product and services when I recently watched “The Founder.” It was the story of Ray Kroc who made franchise history with McDonald’s. Well into the film he’s being successful at finding franchise buyers. They are making lots of money and yet, Kroc can’t meet the obligation on his home. As he argues and pleads with his banker to extend his loan and even provide him more cash, someone nearby is listening. As Kroc leaves the bank he’s followed by Harry Sonneborn. Sonneborn crunches some numbers with Kroc and explains that Ray Kroc is not in the hamburger business, he’s in the real estate business. Kroc sees the logic and begins buying ideal real estate locations, which he in turn leases back to his new franchise owners. Sonneborn eventually became president of McDonald’s.
Sometimes it takes a person a step or two away from a business to realize missed potential. Number crunchers can do more than deliver totals. Dan Nicholson of Nth Degree CPAs in Seattle says, “I like to think of myself as an anti-accountant. Instead of just dutifully checking boxes on tax to-do lists, I’m constantly peeking into the rest of my clients’ processes and actions and offering plenty of advice for how to achieve real financial certainty. For most of my clients, early on it can be a challenge to think more holistically about their finances. But as they begin working through the issues, they discover it makes for a stronger and more clear path to financial certainty.”
Business author Mike Ramidden in his on line article “Seeking Business Advice is a Key to Business Success” says “Simply stated, no one single person knows everything about what it takes and what needs to be known in order to make a business successful. Business leaders simply must rely on recommendations from mentors, consultants, partners and even experienced employees if they want to make their business competitive and to help it survive growing pains and changing market conditions.”
Every morning I read two local newspapers, and review the latest headlines on Yahoo News. I frequently go for coffee and a breakfast sandwich at McDonald’s, where I can sit undisturbed and read a third newspaper, “USA Today.” I sit close to a group of retired businessmen who gather each morning. I make notes to myself from the paper as well as comments I overhear. You never know what you can learn unless you are open to new ideas and old know-how about making a profit. These guys have seen good business years and bad business years and come through it all. Business is never static and evaluations and adjustments go hand in hand. They say rust never sleeps and the same goes for evaluating business from service through concept and process.Services and processes should be constantly reviewed.
As CPA Dan Nicholson reveals,”Crunching numbers is part of the game when you’re running a business. When you’re reviewing your financial records — whether it’s reviewing the latest report or double-checking your accountant — it can be easy to see financial problems and start looking around the rest of the spreadsheet to see if you can crunch things together to make it all better.”
Step outside the box. Somethings will add up and sometimes they just never add up. I like to ask myself counter-intuitive questions that let me look at a problem from different viewpoints. I like “Why?” and “Why not?” Answers can often tell you what business you are in and what direction in which you should be going. But you don’t have to do it all by yourself. Listen to others. You don’t have to do all the work yourself. After all, you deserve a break today.