In my last column, we discussed getting anything you really want by being willing to pay the price. Of course I was talking philosophically about being willing to pay the personal and emotional price of doing what it takes to get what you want. Today we’re talking about spending real money. Why and when is it better to spend more rather than less? I don’t believe the expression “you get what you pay for”, frankly because so often you get far less than you pay for. Further, most of us have had experiences when we paid top dollar only to be disappointed. In our next few articles, I’ll be discussing various categories where saving money is only sometimes a good thing. This week, let’s tackle the category of “cheaper to do it yourself”. As an avid do-it-yourselfer, I know this is sometimes really stupid.
"This life's hard, man, but it's harder if you're stupid!" This quote is often attributed to John Wayne, but my research says it’s actually from the Steven Keats playing Jackie Brown in the movie The Friends of Eddie Coyle. Regardless, never have truer words been spoken.
Certainly, when I act stupid, my life gets harder. Success comes easier when you do things you know how to do (or can learn how to do). I’m stupid when it comes to certain projects, so I hire people smarter than me to do them. In other areas, where I’m smart enough, I do those things myself when I have time. Life is hard enough. Know when you’re too stupid to get involved in something and get help with those things. Remember, confidence should not get confused with ego. If you have experienced that you are able to learn similar skills, then, by all means, have the confidence to jump in and learn new things. If you know deep in your gut that your ego gets you in trouble beyond your skills, you must let it go. Take comfort in the fact that you’re smart enough to know when to hire someone smarter than you.
What do you need to be able to do yourself? You need to be able to think about and analyze your business like an entrepreneur. No matter the expertise you have in your particular industry or trade, you need to understand the business that does that work, not just the work it does. You need financial expertise including an understanding of industry benchmarks, you need hiring and supervisory skills, negotiating skills to deal with landlords, suppliers and employees – the list goes on. With very few exceptions, such as medical and legal professions, this is not something you can “sub out”. I agree with a widely held sentiment that this is the root cause of most small business failures.
The next thing you must master yourself, is the difference between doing work and creating systems that do the work. The only way to leverage yourself is to create systems that replicates the work you do.
For most other issues, you can decide which to do yourself and which to hire out. You need to know basic computer software such as email, web searching, MS Word and Excel and probably a bookkeeping program at a minimum. Technology is easy to overdo. I think some more advanced gizmos out there offer more distraction than benefit for most people.
Do you need to be able to create your own website? Clearly not, but some knowledge of what you’re trying to accomplish might save you big bucks. Do you need to know how to create/write your own advertising? Do you even know if you should be advertising? You need to know how to write your marketing plan first. Get help, buy a book, take a class – do something. When implementing advertising, basic graphic design work costs from $25 - $100 or more per hour. Learning to do this yourself is easy enough if you have a knack for it, the time and interest - otherwise, hire it out. Do you need to do your own bookkeeping? You need to be able to understand your books and make decisions based on them. You also need to control your financials and know when things are off. Learn how the books work and if the books are done in house, be able to step into the work from time to time. The actual full-time work may be better left to a professional bookkeeper or bookkeeping service. This is especially the case when it comes to making a mess of complicated payroll taxes or similar issues that carry huge fines when you mess up. Do you need to be able to do your own office or store build-out? Build-out can contribute from $2,000 - $200,000 to start up or moving costs. When we opened Soyfire Candle, our shelving costs went from $20,000 - $5,000 for the same shelves by shopping for a factory rather than a commercial display supplier. The counter, (or cash wrap as it’s called), cost about $200 and a few hours to build ourselves. It looks almost as good, and works better than what costs about $3,000.00 to buy. Most people think they can paint the walls – if you don’t have a written marketing plan yet, that may be a better investment of your time, so just hire it out. If you’re on a shoe-string budget, you work all night and get it done. When you are hiring help, I remind you to check references, communicate expectations clearly, monitor progress, and pay on completion.
You certainly can’t know everything, but you should know you can figure out just about anything. If you’re not a huge fan of always wanting to figure out how to do something better, faster, smarter or cheaper – this may not be the game for you.
Michael Kline is a local retailer, success coach and trainer. He may be reached through his website, www.klineseminars.com, or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.