We think we can do it all, don’t we?
We had an idea for a business, we got it established, we began attracting clients or customers, and we are now in the thick of it. We have signed a lease for our office or retail space, we have designed our logo, hired a printer for our business cards and begun work on a web site. We keep our accounts, design our brochures, write marketing plans and make phone calls. We write and publish a newsletter, we go to networking events and make sales calls. We write and send out press releases and seek out radio interview opportunities. We are exhausted!
The popularity of do-it-yourself TV programs is testimony to the fact that ours is a country with a DIY ethos.
When we decide that our concrete patio should be replaced by a deck of distressed wood, we tackle that project with zest. The antique chandelier we bought at an estate sale – of course we’re going to install it ourselves! We sew our bedroom curtains, embroider our tablecloths and dig our herb gardens. Then, when we start our businesses, we continue that habit.
Instead of engaging the services of a bookkeeping firm, we set up our own system and dutifully enter every expense we incur, from that conference in Minneapolis to the cup of coffee bought during a meeting at Starbucks.
We spend hours on-line, looking for a logo that we think represents our business (and hoping nobody else is using the same logo for a similar business), rather than paying a designer $300 for a proprietary logo.
We make lists of prospects to pursue, write letters to them, make phone calls and ask for appointments. Oh, my, we need a web site! Well, maybe our teenage son can put one up next week-end.
If, in the past few decades I have observed one “sin” of the new business owner, often leading to a business’s failure, it is that she honestly believes she can – and must! – do it all herself. Even when the business owner realizes that keeping her own books is not the best use of her time, she often justifies it by saying that she does not have the money to outsource this task.
A few years ago, I met a woman who had a consumer products business. There are many such home-based businesses in the south, and probably other parts of the country as well, producing similar products. What set this business apart was the product; it was exquisite, heads and shoulders above anything else I had ever encountered in this category. This was, potentially, a million-dollar business, without question. It never got close to that. Why? The owner did everything herself, sometimes with help from her husband: sourcing ingredients, manufacturing, package design, packaging, pursuing retailers, shipping, marketing, sales, customer relationships, accounting, tax filings – everything! Working hard, she grossed maybe $1,000 a month (her husband’s job kept the family financially afloat).
The smartest thing a business owner can do is to figure out what her core expertise is. If it is sales, get someone else to manufacture. If it is operations, hire a sales person. If it is market outreach, let someone else develop the marketing materials.
The idea of a DIY business owner may have worked in the 19th century, it stopped being effective in the 20th, and today it is simply a recipe for failure.