Sorry I can’t help you. 9 reasons why passing on cash and new business will make you richer. This blog post is important to every business owner. And it’s a really fun one for me to write, since I recently cruised on an Amtrak train to Aspen from Denver (77 bucks and a priceless experience).
No we can’t do lunch either.
Originally posted 9.2.10
This is way cool! I’m in an awesome, relaxing environment and working too.
Plugged in, computer on my lap, beautiful views of the mountains and bears, a glass of wine, jamming to Amy Winehouse and wearing my Bose headphones, so the screaming kid two rows in front to me does not even bug me. No consistent Internet, but that’s OK, a break from it is healthy.
All week I’ll be blogging from the road. Thanks for coming along for the ride.
Now back to “No, I can’t help you”.
Saying no thank you to a gig, a sweet opportunity or some cool cash is no easy job, especially if you’ve got bills that need attention and staffers to pay. New business prospects in any category can be so seductive. It often feels like a new admirer, or sometimes a life raft or better yet, a way to breathe, like my inhaler if you’ve got asthma like me.
Why the rush of adrenaline and excitement? Because as entrepreneurs many of us are programmed to think that any cash flow is good cash flow and without it, you could be another dead fish sinking up the shore of economy. Whoever started that thinking is likely broke and wondering what happened. The fact is, not all business and opportunity are created equal. There is smart money from great customers and there is toxic money that will wear you down and be a time sucking, distracting poison that will also slow down your journey to achieve success. The key is knowing the difference and having the ability to say “no thank you”, when it’s not the right fit.
Last week a prospect contacted me. She had discovered my consulting web site via a Google search. Her first note to me indicated she was an accomplished doctor, who had a new book and needed everything, brand name, brand program, blah, blah, blah etc. I responded ASAP and we scheduled an initial phone chat. I’ve learned many years ago, that before you jump to a person-to-person meeting, first talk on the phone, be armed with some qualifying questions (what is your schedule for this project, do you have a budget, who else is doing this? Tell me about your support team etc.) do a lot of listening, and in advance check the prospect out online.
Our call followed and was productive. We had good chemistry, she explained her product and where she wanted to go with it. It was a diet product that I had an affinity to (the wellness space) and there seemed to be a large enough opportunity to continue to invest time with her.
I recommended that the next step be, that we meet in person. However, before then, I needed to see an executive summary to be clear on her goals and assess if they had their ducks in a row. Being a branding or any kind of consultant is a collaborative effort. If the client is a train wreck, the program results will likely be similar. We scheduled an in person meeting for that following Friday. I followed up with an email clearly outlining what I needed to see and included a non-disclosure agreement, so she would be comfortable sharing her business plan.
I got no reply from her or confirmation that our 2nd meeting was set after my email. I sent her a second email and still no reply. Then 24 hours before our scheduled follow up meeting, she resurfaces with her executive summary. By that time, I had already booked the Friday time shot, so I offered an alternative time next week. After reviewing her documents, I also got a sense that this was a business operating in a bit of a fog zone. No hard research. No business plan. No business financial model. No target market. And unrealistic view and budget of what it takes to launch a brand and produce significant income results. These deficiencies are not deal killers, as long as they are open to getting some professional assistance in filling in the missing pieces. One of my favorite business planning tools is called Business Plan Pro. This PaloAltoSoftware is easy to use and priced for the entrepreneur. I highly recommend tapping in to a resource like this to help create your business plan. But no matter what, if a client does not know where they want to go, what their goals are, it will be a high-risk road to get them there (flag 1).
Additionally in my email back to her, I shared a range of costs for my branding and marketing firm to produce the marketing pieces and provide the consulting that she was requesting. The 2nd meeting was scheduled for Tues. and I needed to drive about an hour from my office to get there. Monday night I received a reply to my rough budget range, the questions about the holes in her plan and some inquiries about her 50/50 business partner. Her reply concerning the business plan was stretchy at best. Her detail about her business partner was also suspicious to me. He was 50/50, but not a funding source, not medial authority and his area of expertise a bit fishy too, financial advisor and astrologist. His web site was even more troubling, cheesy and no screaming signs of marketing guru-ness (flag 2). The entire reply was a collection of more red flags. It went from the initial reach out of “we need everything, branding wise” to “we have no money until we sell the book” and need some initial consulting (flag 3). These new discoveries seemed unfortunate. Because, I really liked the doctor, admired her achievements and love anything that helps people feel good and be healthy.
It was evaluation time for me. Do I meet with her and her partner on Tues. or punt?
Here are the 5 questions one should ask when evaluating an opportunity. No matter how appealing the cash is, if you answer NO to more than three, pass, punt and abort all efforts and get back to something that will get you closer to your most important goals.
1) Do you believe in and love the category? Yes, I did.
2) Will the work be fun? Could be.
3) Within 6 months will you be fairly rewarded for the value you contribute? No.
4) Is there a leader who can make decisions? For me, committees or a 50/50 partnership are no better than a bad nightmare.
5) Does the company or prospect know where they are going? And have accountable goals documented? No.
6) Do they (today) have the funds to pay for your value? No.
7) Do you believe they have their ducks in a row? No.
What is your gut telling you, go for it? No.
9) Will taking on this project be a direct stepping stone to one of your top 3 goals in life? No. Are there less than 3 big and bright red flags? NO.
Mine red flags: 5 day before a reply after our first call to confirm meeting, a light weight business plan, no funds, betting on a brand to be their business and a 50/50 business partner that I was not clear on their contributions. This one is likely a no brainy for you to know what I did. However, it’s not surprising when it’s a real prospect, with some real green cash, and a smooth talking prospect—it not so clear or easy.
If your time, (which we all have only so much of) could be better allocated to something that is going to get you closer to your real goals, then. . . Just say NO to business you should not be doing. Focus on the right stuff that matters, stick to your plan, your standards and enjoy your success.
I wish this doctor and all startups well. And maybe this one will pull it off and I will have missed a great opportunity. That’s OK, there is a ton of right fit business out there, use your energy on finding and serving them and you’ll be a richer entrepreneur for it.
I’m loving this train ride. I should be in Aspen in few hours. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on how to identify, other pass, punt and abort prospects too.