In 1991, I made a decision that thousands of people make every year—I decided to start my own business. Why not? I was a good CPA and, like many employees, I believed that I could do a better job than most of the bosses I worked for who owned their own CPA firm. I hear this same line of thinking dozens of times from new business owners who come to see me before they start their new business. I tell them there are two things that they must understand in order to survive and succeed:
1. Being good at something does not mean that you will be good at running a business doing that something. I was a good CPA when I opened my firm. I had been trained well and had sixteen years of varied accounting experience. But I had no experience running a CPA firm. I tell every new business owner that it took me years to figure out how to run a successful CPA firm. In fact, I tell them that the learning really never ends.
2. Every business is really a marketing business! This is one of the main concepts that Dan Kennedy stresses. Dan is a master business consultant (check out www.dankennedywebsite.com) and author of the highly successful NO B.S marketing books (www.nobsbooks.com) who I wish I had discovered ten years earlier.
My experience is similar to most new business owners. I announced that I was opening my new firm in August of 1991. I quickly picked up six new clients. All of them were friends and people who had worked closely with me at one of my previous jobs. I excitedly thought to myself, “Wow! That was easy! I should have gone out on my own much earlier!” It then took me six months to pick up my next client. In my first tax season I did eight returns (now we do that many in most days during tax season!) In my second year I did a little over 20 returns. It got so bad that the only reason we survived is that my wife took a full-time teaching job and I took a part-time job teaching at the local community college.
What I didn’t understand when I started my CPA firm is that every business is a marketing business! A business without customers is called a hobby. This leads to the major problem that most new business owners discover—they may be good at what they do, but they must become an expert at marketing and selling if they want to have a successful business.
I think Bill Glazer (the author of Outrageous Advertising That’s Outrageously Successful) explained best when he said,
“I have a two thing business—Getting new customers and keeping them as long as possible.”
So what does this mean for the business owner? It means that you must become an expert at marketing and selling your products. This is the secret of every successful business owner. They were either good at sales and marketing when they opened their business, or they taught themselves.
Those that refuse to learn how to market and sell their product continuously struggle and often end up out of business. Now I have seen many business owners outsource sales and marketing, but I have never seen this work. I have seen just about every other part of the business outsourced with success, but not the marketing.
Even hiring a good salesperson is often just a short-term fix. The person who can bring in the customer has the power. I can’t count the number of sales employees who decided to open up their own shop and took their employer’s customers with them.
Remember, every business is a sales business first! That means that every business owner must become an expert marketing and sales professional in order to be successful.