This Week’s Assignment

Let’s talk about profitability.

In an ideal world, every single activity in your business would lead to immediate money in your pocket.

  • Post a tweet? Ka-ching!
  • Send up a new blog post? Ka-ching!
  • Organize your desk? Ka-ching!

This is what we all secretly wish a magical genie would make possible for us.

(Well, truthfully, not me. I’d prefer the Ka-chings! to arrive, well, just because.)

In your business, you kind of know what activities are profitable for you.

Generally, there are a few core things that either make you money now or demonstrably make you money on a regular basis.

If you send an email out with a “buy now” link and you make money that day, excellent.  Ka-ching.

If you build up your list by 25% via Facebook and you make more money on your next promotion, excellent.  Ka-ching.

If you have a product link at the bottom of all your blog posts, and one out of every three posts you publish results in a sale, excellent.  Ka-ching.

If you’ve been schmoozing it up on LinkedIn and you’re starting to see clients come in from there, excellent.  Ka-ching.

But! Sometimes it’s not so straightforward.

There are lots of things you might be doing in your business that do not have a clear path to money.

You might be putting up new posts with no increase in traffic.  You might be hustling on Pinterest and no one seems to be interested.  You might be networking like crazy on Facebook, and you’re getting lots of faux friends, but no customers.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you should stop doing those things.  

If something’s not working for you, maybe it’s because you haven’t figured out how to do it right.  (We have a post about how to figure out if that’s the case.)

But it does mean that if you did stop those activities, you wouldn’t suffer a loss.  You are currently not receiving any gain, so there’s nothing to lose in the first place.

Let me float a crazy idea by you.

Think of one thing that’s not working for you right now that takes up three hours of your week or more, on average.

(Take your time. It’s kind of important. Think of your thing, and figure out how many hours you put into doing it.)

Got it?  Great.

Now.

Imagine that starting today, you never did that thing again.

Remember, it’s not currently generating profit, so you’re not taking a loss if you stop.

Now, imagine you took that same amount of time and put it into doing more of the things that are already working for you.

You don’t have to do it.  You just have to imagine it.

Keep that idea with you this week.  And when you get to Friday, consider if you should go ahead and make that switch.

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.

Innovation has become a weird word. It conjures up images of inventing the next iPad, or revolutionizing an industry, or doing something so epic that IT. CHANGES. EVERYTHING.

But it didn’t always mean that.

It used to also mean “figuring out a way to do something you didn’t think could be done.”

Sure, inventing Post-It notes was innovative.

But so is bartering with a web designer so you can get that $1,500 website without having to pay the cash you don’t have.

So is taking a laptop with a broken screen and plugging a used, $50 monitor you got on eBay into it. Poof. Now you don’t need a new $1,000 computer.

So is taking a weekend part-time gig so you finally have the money to put into advertising.

I am personally tired of business owners saying “I can’t do that.”

In the days before pixels, very small businesses operated “by hook or by crook.”

If there was something the business needed to have, owners found a way.

If the business needed to be doing something it couldn’t yet do, owners found a way.

Generally, it couldn’t be the normal way. Time, money, or some other resource just was not for the having.

That meant non-normal solutions needed to be found.

Maybe the reason “you can’t do that” is because you’re only looking at the normal way of doing it.

I have been in offices where my desk was a piece of plywood laid out on two filing cabinets, and makeshift tables were put together out of bankers boxes with a blanket thrown over them.

I have seen people who can’t afford advertising decide to wear orange t-shirts saying “Am I your next accountant? Talk to me.”

I have seen people who can’t afford a full time (or half-time) assistant start out by paying their neighbor’s teenager to help out for three hours a week, for $10 an hour, and they used those three hours like they were manna from heaven.

Maybe the problem is the internet. In earlier days, where people had to lease a space to get their venture started, they had more skin in the game. Maybe “working in pajamas” for many people opens the door to complacency.

But business tends to get a lot better when you decide that you are going to make a way.

Next time you think “I can’t do that”, replace that with “I can’t do that the normal way.”

If you run a business in the first place, you’re not normal. Normal people walk into a building every day and do what someone else tells them to, and say “okay” when they are told they can’t do something.

But you’re not normal.

Maybe it’s time to start acting like it.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Tom Peters:

“Early in the life of every project, there’s no substitute for the scrounging mentality. If you don’t have enough money, you have to innovate your way around problems that you could otherwise simply buy your way out of.”

Take that with you through the weekend.

(And click those ‘share’ buttons, while you’re at it.)

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.

If there’s any question I hear at least once per week, it’s this: “How do I know if my idea for my [business/product/viral blog post] will work?”

That’s a valid question.

No one wants to intentionally put years of hard work into a business and have it fail at the end.

Here’s a secret for you: Most businesses don’t “fail.”

I’ve been running this website since 2006. (Damn!)

Out of all the blogs and small business ventures I remember in the first, say, three or four years of being online, I’d say 10% of them are still around today.

If you happen to be the type who cruises the internet for online marketing and business blogs, you’ll know who they are. Half of them are what you’d call the “big names” in the industry. The other half are chugging along, doing pretty well, even if they’re not (industry level) household names.

So what about those other 90%? Did they fail?

No, in most cases, they did not fail.

They quit.

Some of them quit because they realized, “Hey, this business is actually beginning to work, but I realize that it’s not what I want to do with my life.”

But most of them quit for other reasons.

They quit because they had no idea running a business would be so much work, and they bailed.

They quit because their heart was never really in it, and they had just been sucked in by the promises that money falls from the sky online.

They quit because they thought they wouldn’t have to engage in marketing or selling, and that was out of their comfort zone.

A business “fails” when it becomes impossible to fund continued operation, not because the owner quit.

Here’s how to know if your business idea will work:

The short answer is… you don’t. As the great philosopher Clint Eastwood said, “If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster.”

But the answer I’d give anyone who cares to listen is this:

The idea that will work is the idea you are willing to throw yourself into 100% for as long as it takes to make it work.

Screwing around with lukewarm effort won’t cut it.

Saying “But I don’t want to do [activity]” won’t cut it.

Lamenting “It’s so hard, you know?” won’t cut it, either.

Your business heroes knew this.

Look at your business heroes – anyone you want to emulate, be like, or outright unseat from their throne.

Chances are high that their business had more than a little bit of a rough and rocky start as well as a few lean years.

How did they make it work?

They decided to never quit, and to give it everything they had, especially when it was hard.

Despite the promises of riches on the internet, this is the way it actually works.

Give your all. Don’t quit. Devote yourself to the activities of success, and not just the dreams of it.

(Clint Eastwood would back me up here.)

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.