What Are You Selling?


Many years ago, a close relative of mine owned a tailoring outfit which she ran as a small business and sole proprietor. She was self employed, even though she had two or three staff and a few apprentices. She had started this business with the hope of growing it into a big clothe manufacturing company or should i say "Fashion label" in the future. But
her business had problems, and it wasn’t just going the way she wanted. At some point, she even considered changing the business to running a provision store. It wasn’t because the business was not making profits or bringing in money anymore, but because no matter how she tried, she just couldn’t systemize her business and formalize her operations. Hence, the business depended entirely on her efforts to succeed.

I remember telling her then that it didn’t really matter what particular business she chose to do, but how she did and why. I was aware that another of the main reasons why the business did not grow was because she was living on the profits of the business – she was using the proceeds from time to time to take care of living expenses in her home. Besides, she couldn’t accurately tell whether or not she made profit in a month, and was not in control of the direction of cash flow. I learnt a vital lesson from her business mistake: An entrepreneur must differentiate himself from his business (i.e. not to live on or use the profits for non-business purposes); must know the direction of cash flow; and determine if he is making a profit on a daily, weekly and monthly basis depending on the nature of the business.

Someone related a story of a bookseller who was peddling a book titled “7 Ways to Be a Millionaire”. I learnt that the bookseller was asked by an interested buyer what the book was about and why he should buy the book. Sadly, the bookseller could not relate the content and message of the book, much less one of the “7 ways” to be a millionaire. What could be more disappointing than that? Unfortunately, there are a lot of booksellers that hardly read or know the content of the books they sell. It’s like a drug seller claiming that a drug he has can cure an ailment, but does not know the chemical composition of the drug and it’s mechanism of action; or like a man saying he can take you to a city, but has never been to that city nor does  he know the road that leads to it.

It is not what you sell that is important - whether it is spare parts, clothes, food, jewelry, satchet-water, whatever. It is what you know about what you are selling, and how well you present, package and sell it that matters. Even though your product or service is not for profit, it is still selling all the same.

The Worst Thing to Sell

       Like I said, we are all selling something – a good product, a service, an idea, whatever. The worst thing to sell is time. Ironically, this is the product that is mass-marketed by the populace.
       “How does one sell time?” you might ask. Well, you sell time when you use all the productive time you have putting your personal services for sale – you get paid for working per time. As an employee or a laborer, you sell your time (and your energy).  Even though you are being paid for putting your physical and mental efforts to use, it is not good enough. The reason I say this is because, the Law of Diminishing Returns catches up much faster, and on an hourly, daily, weekly and monthly basis on your strength and mental ability. It is OK to start this way – if that (time) is all you have – but in your spare time, work on developing concepts, strategies, innovations and ideas that ignite value. Like I am doing with this blog as well as the small businesses I do in my own spare time.
As a business owner, irrespective of the product or service one provides, it matters how it is done and the purpose, reason or idea behind the business. If the entire purpose of starting a business is to make profit alone, then it would not be long before that business fails.  It is the idea or vision behind a business that keeps that business progressing, growing and expanding even after the founders may have passed on.
If you intend to sell groceries, for instance, rather than rent a shop, buy a table and chair, and start selling. Ask yourself, “How can I make my groceries available to as many people as may want it within my locality without having to charge very high prices?”, “How do I preserve my groceries to be always fresh whenever my customers want it?”, “How do I package my groceries to look most appealing and presentable to my customers?”, “How do I sell these groceries without my business depending solely on my personal effort?”. When you have answered these kinds of questions, then are you ready to begin business. As a matter of fact, one of my personal business rules is: never enter a business that will depend entirely on my personal effort to succeed.

SMART-work Greater and Better Than HARD-work

There are people who believe that those who spend time thinking and creating are lazy, because they do not physically do so much work with their hands. Truth is, people who do SMART-work are higher and greater than those who do hard-work alone. After all, it is the people who do smart-work (people who think, create, invent, systemize and strategize) that provide hard-work and give purpose and direction to the other people. Work smart don't work HARD!

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