I have a friend who sells real estate for a living. Back in the day, before the real estate market crashed, he made a great, and fairly easy, living selling small investment properties. Duplexes, four-plexes and mini malls were his specialty. He loved those sorts of properties because they were easy to sell, easy to fund, appreciated well, and offered a quick, decent commission.
But then the bottom fell out of the market and suddenly he was faced with a list of clients who were 1) stuck with properties they could not sell, and 2) not looking to expand their portfolio. As a result, his business was suddenly in real trouble.
But rather than stay stuck on a sinking ship, my friend decided to take action. He called up all of the best, most experienced real estate agents he knew and picked their brains. This was not the first down-turn in the real estate market – how had they survived similar problems in earlier times? My friend was willing to listen to all new ideas.
He received a lot of good advice, albeit some of it conflicting, but one thing an old hand in the real estate market told him made the most sense. “It takes as much effort to sell a small duplex as it does to sell a 100 unit apartment house, you know,” the gentleman explained to my friend, adding, “but the large apartment complex will net you a heck of a lot more money.”
Sure deals were harder to get and close, but the point was that my friend could continue to do what he had always done and get the results he had grown accustomed to, or he could hustle for bigger deals, do just about the same amount of work, and possibly get much better results.
If he wanted to keep fishing, he needed to catch bigger fish.
And so that is what he began to do, almost immediately. He put out feelers to investors who had larger portfolios. He made presentations. He advertised in more high-end publications. And he entered into a continuing education crash course on how to sell large, multi-unit buildings.
Before long, his new ideas and hard work began to pay off. He got some new clients, and listings for two big buildings, both of which eventually sold.
My friend learned a valuable lesson – although it took a lot of time and effort to sell those buildings, it was no more than he would have spent selling two small duplexes. The essential effort was the same – getting the places ready to be shown, marketing them, showing potential buyers around, and then closing the deal. But the payoff was much, much bigger.
I suggest that this is a good lesson for any small business that is struggling to make it through these tough times.
Seek out and fish for bigger fish.
Are you trying to grow your business past the $1 million mark, but not getting results? You’re not the only one. Nell Merlino (pictured), founder of the Make Mine a Million program, recently talked with Bloomberg Businessweek about the difficulties women-owned businesses have surpassing this magic number.
Make Mine a Million, which Merlino launched in 2005, aimed to help 1 million women-owned businesses reach $1 million in sales by 2010. Merlino didn’t reach that goal, although she did accomplish a lot: “We’ve raised $10 million and helped women generate $100 million in revenue and create 6,000 jobs,” she told Businessweek’s Karen E. Klein.
While women-owned business grew at almost double the rate of the average U.S. business between 1997 and 2006, that growth has since slowed. Merlino says one factor is the recession, but there are other issues holding women-owned companies back. The big one? Independence.
Let me explain. A 2009 contest Merlino ran garnered 1,500 entries; only 54 women business owners who participated successfully reached the $1 million goal.
What helped those 54 businesses reach $1 million ? One factor, Merlino says, is that they were willing to get help.
They followed all of Make Mine a Million’s recommendations, including attending the organization’s webinars, participating in its 15-minute telephone speed-coaching sessions, and retaining business coaches on their own to push them toward their goals.
They were also willing to get help another way: by hiring. In a survey Merlino’s organization performed of women-owned companies with revenues of $150,000 to $700,000, 87 percent wanted to grow—but 54 percent contended they could grow their companies without hiring.
Merlino notes women tend to avoid hiring because they are worried about being responsible for employees, making payroll and losing control of the business. They often believe that doing everything themselves makes their businesses more manageable. As you’ll probably acknowledge if you’re honest about it, doing everything yourself is a recipe for losing control—which only serves to severely limit your growth.
If you’re looking to grow your business, take Merlino’s advice. Get ready to delegate and free up your own time for big-picture thinking, brainstorming new products and coming up with new ideas. Only then will you enjoy the kind of growth you’re envisioning.