If I Had A Million Dollars (for your business) . . .

Posted August 4, 2010

So goes the song by Barenaked Ladies, but I’ve also found it’s a great tool to use in diagnosing an event company, or any small business for that matter.  Here’s how it works.

ABC event company says to me, “We’re doing ok, but we can’t seem to get over this hump.  How do we get to the next level?”

Upon which I say to them, “If I gave you one million dollars today to invest in your business, or start a completely new one in the event industry, where and how would you spend it?”

Boy would you be amazed at some of the responses.  But in particular, it’s rare that someone answers the question by saying, “I’d do things exactly as I’m doing them now, only faster / bigger, etc.”  Anyone who says that believes firmly in their current business model, and deserves a pat on the back for their confidence.  (Whether their bus. model is correct is another matter.)bare naked ladies

Usually, however, people respond with surprising insight on their own business.  They would re-brand themselves differently, go after a different type of customer, offer a new service, overhaul the way they compensate their staff, etc.  And a fair amount say they would simply not invest in their business at all, but go into the industry in a completely different capacity.

Business owners are smart enough to know that the landscape in which they started their companies 5, 10 or 20 years ago is now very different.  There’s more competition, margins are tighter, clients are smarter, etc.  At the same time they see opportunities opening up in new areas in the event world.

This helps me to bring them to their come-to-jesus moment.  “If you would not invest that million dollars into your business the way it is today,” I say to them, “then why are you clinging to doing business that way at all?”  It’s really a fantastic moment of truth for an owner or manager to be confronted with their own business logic.

To be sure, making any significant change in the way we do business is time consuming and involves a degree of risk.   Our employees and customers may resist, and we may take a hit for a year or two during the transition.  But without making the changes we know we should make, I can virtually guarantee we’ll still be wishing for that next level for years to come.

And if you’re interested in what the Barenaked Ladies would do with $1 million, click here to read/listen.

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