Edited by Nicholas Olds
After a few years of running my own operation, I learned to love business the way some people love sports. I wake up everyday and read the NYSE reports like some people read box scores. Even the administrative aspects of running my business have become a passion for me. I sit down after a long day and have a relaxing night crunching budget numbers and sending response emails.
While most people I know are leaving the office to go home for the night, I am busy finishing up an article, or trying to book my next project over drinks. I cannot imagine having a side job or working full-time while trying to launch my own operation. There just is not enough time in the day to do anything else. As my friend and colleague Naftali Garber puts it: "Put a dollar amount on your time. And if don't have the time, outsource."
As I have discussed throughout the book, it was difficult to maintain a busy schedule when only one thing paid the bills: writing. In the first few months, it seemed that my schedule was 20% writing and 80% everything else. "Sure, you are efficient in doing everything for your company. But is that you what want to do all day? You're a writer, not an accountant." He was absolutely right.
Naftali has always been a beacon of common sense advice for me. His advice comes from his own experience working in a small company, and understandingthe concept of proving value, rather than gaining new business. "Increase your rate, and you can do less with your time. With the extra money, you can outsource all the other stuff and focus on making money and maintaining a high-level product."
Eventually, I decided my time was worth a higher rate, which was a whopping rate at the time. Low and behold, he was right. At first, the workflow slowed down, but over time I was able to make a month's worth of wages for one project. The decision changed my life because I had more time to make money, learn how to more effectively run my business, and work on more worthwhile projects. All while having a life. Ultimately, this was the whole point of my business. Sitting in an office all day is efficient but it is not productive long-term.
The most productive use of my time was learning how to run my business. After figuring out the basics, like managing accounts, attracting clients, and promoting myself on the Internet, among other things, I gained the confidence to not only run the business, but that I could make it bigger.
Begrudgingly, Naftali was right about one thing: "Strength is not surviving, it's thriving." Pretentious, but right. His point though, to put that into context, was that in order to thrive, I would need to take on trusted partners who can guide the direction and help handle the load. If not for my own sanity, then to enjoy what I was doing.
Because that is point of the whole business. It is a passion, so I need to enjoy it or else, why am I doing it? This thought became abundantly clear by the end of the first year, when I had lunch with Naftali one day and he pointed out that I "have all the key components for a good business, except the most important. You hate it." At the time, I scoffed at the idea because I convinced myself that I could not enjoy it until I established a viable operation for the long-term. So I put everything I had into it, and hated most of it. Until there was one point where I began to realize that I would not even recognize success if and when it happened because I was not enjoying myself.
In the end, I realized that Naftali was right. I started this business because it was fun, and there is no tradeoff for that excitement. "Don't waste your time working toward a future that may or may not ever come. Success in your business is just a series of happy moments, so it's important that you enjoy the company because you won't appreciate the success."
What gives Naftali's insight more credence is the fact that he was not only an successful former entrepreneur himself, he is now a part of someone else's entrepreneurial vision. Naftali is the Sales & Marketing Coordinator for Golan Moving & Storage, a small company founded by three Israeli immigrants in Skokie, Illinois. However, after 23 years, Golan's has become the largest storage company in the greater Chicago area, having generated $9.5M in revenues in 2011. With people like Naftali on board, Golan's has maintained their status as a small company, while expanding operations to Los Angeles.
Naftali has spearheaded this sales influx by coordinating a business development strategy revolving around location. Because Golan's is a small company, the executive team gave Naftali leeway in developing a sales and marketing strategy that would not only bring in additional revenue, but attract new customers in the greater Chicago area. So what Naftali did was implement a strategy based on exactly what he told me: "Put a dollar amount on your time. And if don't have the time, outsource."
His first order of business was to increase the company's hourly rate, and reduce their client base to eliminate lower-paying customers. He then re-calibrated their route schedule to focus on specific areas where the company had been profitable. That way, Golan's would build up their client base in places where they were already profiting, while cutting down on travel expenses (drivers, gas, trucks, etc.). As a result, the company increased profits in these areas to the point where they could expand to new areas and increase their workforce and travel expenses while maintain high-level service.
Within one year, their company expanded to the point where they were accommodating further distance travel, particularly out to the west coast. There was enough business that they decided to build an additional location in Los Angeles. This has grown the company tenfold. However, Nafatali saw a potential sales path the company had overlooked: retail.
Naftali took the extra time that he had from their redesigned sales model to research new business, which he identified as retail department stores. Shipping services such as UPS and FedEx regularly make deliveries for smaller, high-end retail boutiques. So he added new commercials clients for moving and storage, which expanded the company's client base in both Chicago and Los Angeles, while entering the company into a new market. Most importantly, this ensured that Golan's would have a full book of clients in the traditional off-season for moving. This ultimately increased the company's profit margins by adding an entirely new network of referral sources.
Golan's is now able to employ more experienced contract movers to accommodate moving projects of any size, which has sustained a long-term business model for the company. This also ensures that they can still undercut their competition, despite the increase of their hourly rate. Naftali sees this improvement as the most important of all: "My goal is to make sales and drum up business. Sure, I could be proficient in setting the schedule and making sure we're under budget. But I'm a salesman, not an accountant."
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