I love getting a little extra. The extra shot of espresso or added whipped cream to my coffee drink, the discount for being a frequent customer, and even receiving some free expert advice – it adds up over time when I am considering how to patronize the businesses in my area. As business owners, when do you provide value (for free), and when do you ask for a commitment (by way of a financial payment)?
Being in commercial real estate, having additional experts on speed dial is a great added benefit to my clients (who are business owners) and for my own business.. A few areas of expertise that I value in my business is that of an attorney and a CPA. Reviewing complex real estate contracts, to evaluating how a business is established (or dissolved) and the profitability model are some of the areas I like to lean on my expert friends for. Over the years, I have had these experts provide a quick insight or perspective to my clients, as well as develop long standing and profitable (for both sides) relationships. When I followed up recently with one of these friends, I asked him how he determined how much advice to provide up front without the expectation of a fee?
That can be a tricky question for a lot of us. If you are in real estate, like me, your paycheck doesn’t come until the business is fully complete (and sometimes not at all if a deal falls through). For others, a payment structure is established at the beginning and an invoice is provided for payment for the time it took to complete the job – whether the outcome was good or bad. If your business sells a product, then the exchange of payment for the product usually happens at the same time (unless the product needs to be ordered, then payment is usually placed up front and the delivery of the item comes later).
As business owners, we need to carefully consider how much up front value is comfortable for each of us. Here are some things to evaluate about your business:
- Will up front value increase the propensity for a sale?
- Will up front value create a higher sale?
- Will up front value set you apart from your competition?
- Is there a cost to providing up front value?
I am asking you to think about value in a little different terms. For many years, the term “value added” was the norm. I think it was a very popular fast food restaurant to coined the phrase “do you want fries with that?” The value add proposition was born. In this day and age, value can be tangible, but value can also be perception. The expectation of value needs to be established at the start, so the buying decision can then commence.
The beauty of our businesses is that we can determine what value we can and want to provide. What you may become surprised with is what your customers actually are willing to pay for. Those “value add” offers could work in your favor if structured and marketed the right way.
I LOVE working with business owners – especially those who have an amazing idea of how to start and grow their business. For many of you, setting out on your own may be just a pipe dream. For others, the idea of taking the leap into starting or expanding your business has been rolling around in your head for quite some time. What’s stopping you?
In working with many new and growing businesses over the years, I’ve heard a lot of your concerns. Most people tend to fall into two categories when it comes to why they aren’t willing to take the leap. Those two categories are: Logistics and Head Space
If you are an analytic thinker, then these ideas will appeal to you:
- I need to be an “expert” in all areas of my business
- I don’t have the capital to start or grow a business
- I don’t know what the next step should be
If you are all up in your head about starting or growing a business, I bet you are thinking:
- Can I handle this?
- What will others think of this new idea?
- What will others think of me trying to tackle this new venture?
- What if I fail?
Here is what I can tell you…if you can’t get the idea out of your head, then you need to start taking action. You will never have all of the answers to your questions (at least not all at one time). You will also never be 100% prepared. Your comfort level is unique to you.
So where do you go from here?
- Identify what areas of expertise are needed to support you. Is it an accountant, attorney, commercial realtor, insurance agent, financial planner or small business resource expert? There are a multitude of experts in their fields that exist to help businesses like yours.
- Test your fail rate strategy. Here is the reality: you will fail at something. This may not mean you fail and have to close up shop and file for bankruptcy, but that an idea, system or plan will fail and need to be reworked or scrapped altogether. Don’t be afraid of failing. It is part of doing business.
- Head traffic beware. I have spent many nights staring at the clock wishing for sleep when my brain just won’t shut off. Most of the time, it is due to planning new ideas that I want to incorporate into my business. The same can be said about negative head traffic. I want you to surround yourself with people who believe in your abilities. If there are people in your life who do not want to encourage you, then they do not need to have space in your head, day or even life. I realize that I may be talking about some of your very close family members, who can’t be turned out. With these relationships, you will need to decide what information is shared with them and to what extent you are willing to let their input be a relevant piece of your story.
I had the wonderful opportunity to engage with a group of business professionals and have a much needed social time recently. I have been invited to join these phenomenal women for a scheduled social time for many months now, but for the first time was able to attend due to my busy schedule. I left some emails unattended, and some work left to be finished up later, because the opportunity to engage with these fellow power people was the most beneficial part of my week.
I feel that sometimes the busyness of life forces us to react instead of being proactive. Why don’t we give ourselves permission to push the “pause” button and truly engage with people in the moment? The life lessons we are able to glean from others, when no agenda is set, is sometimes the most important lessons that we can gain in life. Those moments when you are not talking about a business deal, or a logistic for your household, can be the most eye-opening.
What I am grateful for, is the people in my life that I only get to see for little bits of time, but when we are together it seems like no time has passed at all. The hour that I got to spend this week with these powerful women made me feel powerful, too.
That leads me to a question for all of you: How do you feel most powerful?
My friend and executive coach Jay Pryor has asked me this question many times over the past few years. At first, this question threw me for a loop. If you are in sales, the power play comes at the close of the deal or when the client says “yes!” In other parts of the business world, it may mean getting the job, promotion, recognition or new opportunity to expand yourself. Feeling powerful is important in so many ways. To know that you have a voice that matters and to know that you are heard is one of the most redeeming qualities you can have.
On the flip side, the ability to listen to others, reinforce others in their dreams, and be that support system for your family and friends can make anyone be powerful. Sometimes the sheer act of being present for others is the best way to create power within your life. Cherish these moments you have, and make sure you have the opportunity to engage with others that not only make you feel powerful, but that you also provide a powerful source to their lives.
I have always been the type of person who thrives in a crazy busy schedule. If I don’t have a back-to-back schedule, I don’t feel productive. Call it obsessive compulsive, or a bit neurotic, but my day from 8am to 5pm is most productive when my plate is full.
When those pockets of your day creep up when you don’t have a tight schedule, how do you get it to fill up? Do you turn to research, prospecting, organizing, or…? What if your calendar is light for the week? What then?
Busywork does not always produce results. If you choose to utilize your down time to organize your desk / briefcase / contact data base, then only commit to organizing for 15-30 minutes. You can easily loose track of time if you allow yourself more, and your day is wasted. If you are trying to achieve more activity, then start the activity that will get the ball rolling: cold calling.
I have learned over the years that cold calling is like public speaking. It makes your heart beat a little faster, your palms get sweaty, and it’s so easy to ask someone else to do it. But when you take the plunge and go for it, the adrenaline rush you can experience can push you ahead to do it again and again until you get a “yes.” It takes time to feel comfortable with this activity, and also some planning. I rarely make a cold call without having some background knowledge of either the individual, business, or reason for my call first. I want to appear informed and helpful, and the ability to access requested information is key.
How do you get started? Put your head down and go for it! Don’t second guess yourself. Don’t worry about what the person on the other end of the line / email / text / desk will think of you. If you represent yourself in an honest, professional and sincere manner, you will achieve success.