Do what we say, not what we did...

January 27, 2009 / by Michael K. Redman


I like to tell the story about the plumber who has bad pipes at home or the cobbler whose children all need new shoes.  I like to tell these stories because for a very long time my wife, who is my business partner, and I have had bad pipes at home. 

What I mean by this is that for most of our formative years in business we didn't pay much attention to our own marketing and we didn't execute our own business affairs in the same way we advise our clients.  I don't completely understand why 

but part of the problem seems to be that it is hard to hold your own feet to the fire.  You also get so busy working for your clients that you neglect doing the right things for yourself.   So the following is a brief confession of our trangressions in business and the lessons we learned the hard way. 

When we started our business we had lots of experience at everything but running a business.  Especially the parts of the business that are required in a startup.  Oh, don't get me wrong, I had started many businesses and all of them, well... let's just say they no longer take in revenue... and in the beginning this business wasn't much different.  I was doing the best I could but that was not good enough.  When we started this business we had no clear plan.  We lumbered along the entrepreneurial path hitting every pot hole in the road.  Occasionally we had some success but it didn't usually last and there were several times we had the painful discussion of whether we should give up or not.  Fortunately we are still alive and have made it to this point.  Here is a list of just a few things that almost sank us.

  • We didn't have a business plan

  • We didn't fully know what our business was about

  • We didn't really know who our ideal client or target market was

  • We never spent enough money on marketing so we never primed the pump

  • We didn't have a mentor for a long time

  • We didn't have any experience running our type of business

  • We spent too much on the wrong things at times and not enough on the right things

  • We were confused about what we did for way too long

  • We didn't understand financial reports

  • We didn't know how to evaluate our industry ratios

This is just a short list and I'm sure that if you sat my wife down she could give you several more.  These mistakes cost us time, money, peace of mind, some dignity and almost cost us our business.  Since I am writing this it is probably obvious that we survived but at no small cost.  Business is hard enough and there are good reasons that some 90% of all new businesses fail in the first 5 years. 

So I am writing this blog for three reasons.  The first is to try and save you some pain and the second is to get you to your goal of success (and I do mean profitability) as quickly as possible.  The day you say, "We're profitable" is a good day.  The third is to encourage those who are barely profitable but every month it is a struggle.  You can have a thriving business.  But now that I think about it there is maybe a fourth reason.  That reason is a selfish one.  Every time my wife and I help a company be more succesful and avoid the blatent mistakes we sleep better, we laugh more and we find that life and our vocation is that much sweeter.  So please, do as we say and not as we did, we're professionals... I think...

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