Volume 6 Number 2 | February 2016
What Business Are You In?
Every business has to have a major direction and thrust. You must achieve "escape velocity" in order to truly launch your company effectively. However, too often we surrender the navigation and thrust.
We accept any job that offers us money. We accept tool low a fee, boring work, unpleasant conditions, high labor intensity and other detriments because we think we're in business to make money.
In fact, few businesses truly have financial gain as their mission or cause celebre. (The exceptions are true conglomerates, disappearing from the landscape, which merely sought a certain net profit. Hence, the old ITT could own both insurance operations and bakeries, and GE had made appliances, light bulbs, and locomotives.) The vast majority have value as their driving force: creating new options for comfortable travel, inventing faster communications, discovering new treatments for chronic health conditions.
If you're in business to create market domineering strategies for high tech firms, and a non-profit approaches you and offers your full fee to do the same for them, you're not suddenly in the non-profit business. You've simple accepted a one-off client (I call this "side door" business). Similarly, if you're working with Fortune 1000 firms in six-figure projects, and a local law firm offers you $7,500 to coach some senior partners, you shouldn't do it, even if the firm is across the street and you feel you can do it in your sleep.
You're allowing yourself to become distracted, and chasing money.
We love to smugly point out that dogs will drop whatever they're doing to chase a squirrel. (This isn't as stochastic as you might think, since dogs are hunters by nature and the need to chase moving things is known as "predatory drift," and is quite natural and reasonable.) Bentley will catch the Frisbee, and on the way back to me, stop in some bushes, go inspect what Buddy Beagle is up to, and even relieve himself.
Humans shouldn't be subject to predatory drift. We are, however, in that what we tend to chase isn't an animal and isn't even animate—we tend to chase money.
I admonish all of you to think about your ideal buyers and how to reach them, and to eschew pursuing anyone else. IF someone else comes along who can pay you for relevant work you would find interesting, then by all means accept is, acknowledging that it doesn't change your focus. And by all means, resist all blandishments to take on irrelevant, labor-intensive, or low paying work just because you can earn a few bucks.
I don't know about you, but what I've learned is that I can always make another dollar, but I can never make an other minute.
© Alan Weiss 2016
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