Groundhog Day: How to Prevent Repeating Bad Business Decisions
It’s too bad that “I Got You, Babe” by Sonny and Cher can't play when you read this. After all, that’s the song that played over… and over… and over again in the 1993 hit Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day.
That movie forever sealed the connection between Groundhog Day and the idea of repetition -- Murray's character relived February 2 endlessly until he learned from his mistakes -- so we decided to take the time to give today a bit of a business spin.
Here are six tips to help you avoid repeating bad business decisions.
1) Get everything in writing – This has become my best business practice for every project I work on. I send estimates in writing, get the client to sign them, and invoice promptly. Every time I fail to do this (as my wife loves to remind me), I don’t get paid. This is a Groundhog Day moment that I’ve made more than a few times in the past, and now I've started to use an invoice template to ensure I send consistent and professional invoices. Also, don’t forget to follow up on your invoices after 30 days to make sure you’re in the payment queue.
2) Don’t give your time away for less than you’re worth – One mistake I’m tired of making is to work for clients for a fee that I know is below my value on a given project. So no matter how much future work the clients may dangle on a carrot, for 2011, I vow to work smarter, not harder, for what my experience is truly worth. I won’t accept that a client “has a limited budget” when I know they can afford more.
3) Don’t work with abusive, time-draining clients – I’ve worked with them. You’ve worked with them. They dominate your time. They test your patience. And it seems like you can never do anything right for them. Just walk away and don’t agree to work with others like them.
4) Don’t ignore your client base – We all know that our customers are our most valuable source of repeat business. So reach out to them in emails, calls, and client lunches. Don’t be bashful in asking them for a new project, to cross-sell your services or products to them, or to request a testimonial that you can put on your website.
5) Don’t forget to pay your quarterly taxes – Even if you’re cash-strapped, it’s better to borrow from your business line of credit or credit cards to pay your quarterly taxes than to put it off for a quarter or more. Those taxes can really add up.
6) Don’t sweat the small stuff – As the book of the same title explained, it’s all small stuff. I used to wake up in the middle of the night worrying about all the projects I was juggling. Now, I just roll over and think of how much those projects are worth and know they’ll get done, one by one, soon enough.