The Cost of Doing Business

I’m an advocate of keeping what you make. That means that a lean and mean practice is best. As you know, I don’t even have an office or an assistant. I met someone just last week who, at $127,000 in annual revenue, feels the need to have part-time help to run errands. When I need supplies, I drive over to Staples myself (albeit, due to lack of expenses, I do so in a Ferrari).

However, there are some legitimate expenses which I classify as “the cost of doing business” which, ironically, many people try to eliminate. Here are some egregious examples:

  • A consultant going on vacation for two weeks leaves a message on his voice mail and an auto-respond on his email simply saying that he’s gone on vacation and will not be in contact until he returns. If you were to call and check email from Hong Kong once or twice a day for two weeks, the total cost might be $1,000 in phone charges. That’s a necessary expense if you intend to attract and maintain major clients. (Please don’t talk to me about life balance. Taking less than an hour a day to attend to your business does not ruin your vacation-in fact, if you land some business it pays for your vacation.) 
  • Some people use the same line for their business phone and fax machine. It’s inefficient and amateurish. A second line costs a few dollars a month. 
  • There are those who refuse to travel on a sales call if the prospect doesn’t pay. I wouldn’t pay for someone to visit me to make a sales call, would you, really? As long as you’re seeing an economic buyer, the investment is probably worth it, and can be maximized by setting up other calls while you’re in town. 
  • I sometimes receive complaints that recipients can’t open attachments or view certain graphics, and that I should send them another way. Someone said, “Hey, it’s an AOL problem.” No, it’s YOUR problem. You should have hardware and software than can handle 90% of electronic transactions, and you should not have an address that ends “aol.com.” You should have your own domain name, reached through an independent Internet access provider. AOL, in the sense of an entrepreneur, can stand for “amateur on line.”

Okay, I know I’m being harsh, here, but there comes a time to save money and a time to spend it. When you get those two conditions reversed, you’re going nowhere fast.

Invest in:

  • Building your marketing gravity
  • Efficient equipment and support facilities
  • Polished materials and image
  • Appearing in front of buyers
  • Vacation, personal time, family time, and down time.

Be frugal in:

  • Hiring people, especially full time or regularly part time
  • Outside courses, seminars, and coaches which don’t come with highly credible endorsements
  • Advanced degrees, unless you want to do it for the sheer learning
  • Handouts, materials, reports, manuals
  • Promoting self-published works and creating self-published products

If you simply change your investment strategy to support the legitimate costs of doing business and avoid the accoutrements that are unnecessary even for General Motors, you’ll find a lot more in your bank account at the end of the year. And you won’t need an assistant to help you count the money.

Alan Weiss’s newest book now available on this web site: “The Ultimate Consultant,” the first of his seven-book series for Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.