"Wise are those who learn that the bottom line doesn't always have to
be their top priority."
William Arthur Ward
For those of us who must work to earn a living, it is wise not to spend
foolishly. We all know the value of a dollar earned. We're aware that our
employers expect us to produce what is expected so that, in the long run,
the company not only is profitable but survives. In most cases, however,
we spend little time concerning ourselves with the employers' bottom line.
On the other hand, let's assume for a moment that you do not work
someone else but rather that you own and run your own business. In this
situation, you soon learn that if you don't work, you don't get paid.
In addition, it is likely that you have no sick benefits, nor vacation time.
In this regard, the bottom line seems to mean the distinct difference
between surviving or going bankrupt.
In your business, you understand that for every penny saved by prudent
management means that you will increase your bottom line. As well, you
also know that when you are in business, you are not engaged in pro bono
work (for example if you are a lawyer), or to give your products or services
away for free. To engage in such well-meaning and worthy causes could
eventually lead to the death of your business.
Let's move the story forward a few years. At this point, you are able
to make a relatively good
living from your small enterprise. Sure it has meant
a lot of long hours often times working through the weekend when others
are able to have their weekends off. But, you realize that the harder you work,
the more income you'll make at the end of the year. And, you are keenly
attuned to the fact that your business like every business has its ups and
downs. In business no matter in years gone by or today, there are no
guarantees that what your earnings have been doesn't mean that they
will stay the same.
This type of life that I have been describing sounds kind of bleak, doesn't it?
It would appear that everything we have been talking about pertains to money.
Money is necessary: to live on; money to keep the business flourishing
despite the downturns in the economy; or, money to invest in new equipment.
To own your own business does not mean you are going to be walking
on easy street. As well, owning your own business often means feeling that
you have very little personal time
or resources to squander. Even though
you may be sitting in the evening watching a television show or a movie
with the intent to relax, business issues seem to creep back into your
Is Money The Issue?
Part of any business owner's life,
however, is the necessity not to always
be driven by money. Money is a tool not and end in itself. Money provides
for some aspects of life, that is a given. But, money does make a life.
Money is only one result of your work. So, what are the other results,
you may be asking?
Moving Beyond Money
Let me attempt to explain moving beyond money by relating a story about
two shop owners. These shop owners needed to augment their pension
income. I'm sure at one time or another, whether that be right now
or in the near future, you may find yourself in need of additional income.
In this case, the owner's good fortune was to come across an opportunity
to start a seasonal craft business in a small but busy tourist area with the
ocean attraction right at their door step. They came across this location
quite by accident as the story goes. But, the decision to start a new business
selling local artists' works wasn't difficult.
And, even though the decision to start a new business at this beautiful
location wasn't difficult the first tasks for these small business owners
wasn't without its' own unique challenges. First of all, they had to be able
to pay the owner of the small building they wanted to rent. The sum
required couldn't be paid for in installments but had to be paid in one lump
sum. The rent amounted to several thousands of dollars and the
first problem was where to find the money. Bear in mind, in this particular
case, that the small building was in terrible shape without character and
in need of a makeover. Plus, the new owners needed to be able to stock
their business with suitable and quality products, plus office supplies,
bags, etc. and the money needed for a debit machine and telephone line.
You probably have heard before that it takes money to make money.
Well, that's true; there is no way around it. You have to invest before
you can earn. The issue for almost everyone starting a small business isn't
the desire to start, it is more what are you willing to do to put your desire
into motion and to carry through in completing part of the end goal.
Or, in other words, sometimes starting a business isn't the biggest issue;
it's more about maintaining step by step growth that propels you toward
your goal of running and managing a viable and sustainable business.
Giving and Receiving
Now, let's move forward with the story. These small business owners
had to borrow money to start their business. Part of the borrowed money
was to pay the entire seasonal rent upfront; part was used to start renovate
the building so it was more attractive and welcoming; and part was used
to buy the necessary supplies, rent a debit machine and to connect a phone
line for the debit machine.
As I mentioned earlier, this small seasonal store focused on selling local
crafts and not imported products. Part of the marketing strategy was
to become known as a destination for purchasing all locally made
products that differed from the other small businesses in the area.
And, with each passing month, their reputation evolved without one
penny spent on advertising. How did they do it?
There were several factors that help propel these small business owners
forward toward their goal but the propulsion mechanism wasn't simply
more and more earnings without a special ingredient that played
prominently in their business. This mechanism was comprised of
three main features. The first feature was their dedication to their customers.
It was a demonstration of not only great customer service
but was more
focused on relationship building. It didn't matter to them if they realized
that they would never see the customer again given that the customer
lived in another province, or state or country. The focus was on people
not on sales.
Were the owners only focused on developing relationships with those who
bought? No. It didn't matter. There is a lot more involved in running a
successful business than just sales. The continuing demonstration of
concern and caring about anyone who walked into their store highlighted
the contact, not a sale. Many, many times, those store visitors
(the non-buying ones) were the ones who not only came back
and purchased an item, but also either brought family or friends with them,
or recommended their store to others they met.
And, another factor that propelled them forward was their demonstrated
caring and compassion
for those people who weren't interested in buying
anything. In fact, some of these people never came back again, nor did
they recommend the store to others. So, what was the dividend for
the owners? What was the factor that propelled them forward despite
a non-sale visitor? Why did the visitor come in the first place?
These visitors walked into the store carrying hurts and pains, or family issues,
or challenges in their jobs. The owners went beyond a warm greeting;
they took time to engage these people in a loving, caring and compassionate
way; through only listening, in some cases; to listening and exploring possible
solutions, in other cases; and, providing spiritual guidance and reinforcement
in other cases.
The third factor is one that will strike most business owners as both
odd and ridiculous. This factor, however, led to warm relationships,
an appreciative parent, or the revival of knowing that not everyone is
focused on the dollar. This factor, this mechanism, wasn't about a
unique marketing plan either. This mechanism, this action was a
genuine expression of warmth, of caring and friendship. It had no
strings attached; no expectation of a reward. Have you guessed what it was?
The mechanism, the factor was the action of giving
away a product.
That's right, you read correctly. These owners would give products
away to various visitors and customers. This act wasn't driven by
selfishness nor by some unique and different marketing strategy to
gain buying customers.
Most of the recipients of these product gifts were flabbergasted; they said
they had never received anything free in any store they had ever visited.
Many who received such a gift thought they were then obligated to
buy something; but they weren't and, in fact, they were discouraged
from doing so. The gift was a gift; a no strings attached gift.
What was the reason for giving away products? Maybe it is as simple
as receiving a reward but not of money - a simple thank you and a smile
was reward enough.
It's not all about the bottom line!
Inspirational Quotes for Reflection:
"Our work aims to serve others, and contributes to increasing the health, wealth, comfort and insight of other beings in an honest and supportive way."
"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."
"But make no mistake, what I've described here is what makes great salespeople great. The best ones honestly care about the people they're selling to, they thrive on meeting new people and hearing new stories, and they're certain they're giving as much as they're getting in return."