Monday, May 09, 2005

The Unknown

In any business, the real stress comes from the unknown. We spend a great deal of time planning, scheming, studying and measuring in order to try to eliminate uncertainty, but the truth is that no one can be 100% sure of what is going to happen.

Will this make money? Will we cover our costs? Will there be sales in the next month? All of these things are the basis of my stress. If the future was certain, then business would be easy.

Take RentQuick for instance. Our main business is in renting audio visual equipment to people who then use the equipment for meetings. I cannot be certain how many meetings will take place in a given month. Nor can I be sure of how many people will actually rent their equipment from me. Every month is somewhat of a surprise.

Yes, I can look at what we did the year before. I can look at what we did the month before. I can see what that particular customer has done on average over time, but none of these things are accurate predictors of the future.

Business people try to make themselves believe that they have some control over their sales. When in fact, they have very little control over sales. The only person with the control over whether or not we get business is the customer. The customer may choose to buy their equipment, they might cancel the meeting, or they might hold the meeting in a field using pine cones instead of projectors. None of these things are under my control. I lie to myself every day and say that I have control over what the future revenues will be. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I am scared to death that the phone won't ring.

Anyone in business would lie if they said they weren't concerned about sales. When sales are bad, then you worry. When sales are good, you worry. In fact, I worry more when sales are great because it means I am investing more money into equipment and people in hopes that sales stay good.

Everything I do is easy compared to generating revenue. Revenue generation is by far the most difficult function business must undertake. Oh, and don't look to to consultants or ad sales reps to give you the answers. They are both in the business of selling something, however, neither has the magic wand that will make your business grow.

Ultimately, you must have faith. Not the religious faith. But instead faith that if you treat each client with respect and serve their needs as best as you can, they will be back. You must believe that by treating the customer with utmost respect that they will not only purchase from you again, but that they will encourage others to do the same.

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