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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Cost of Doing Business

I got this email from my good friend who was the best man in my wedding. We were exchanging email back and forth and reminiscing about the good old days.

[you are] Giving me flashbacks with all that talk about AIT, Duane and Jennifer - man, she was cute, little anal retentive though (like Kari wasn't.) Weren't we trying to blow up fish in Duane's pond that trip too? Any idea of what he and Mike doing now? Soooooo many good times! Camping at Arrowhead, going to Iowa games with you and your folks, Model UN trips which were basically about checking out brainiac girls, torturing Fiscus and Martin constantly, joining the cross-country team with you (sorry - at least I joined the golf team though - and sucked!) That party at your place before I left for Basic is still the best sending-off I've ever had, and definitely helped keep me going during that 10 weeks of hell. I remember getting back and laughing because I had no hair, and you had more-or-less a curly-haired afro. All things considered though, we really were pretty good kids back then, eh? We didn't really drink, never touched a drug, never got suspended from school (more than a few detentions though!). Hope our kids are as good as we were when they hit their teens.
Reading this, and then re-reading it about 3 times made me think about how much different my life was back then and how much different I imagined my life to be now. At age 16 I was going to never grow up. I was always going to blow with the wind and be carefree until the day I died and wear my curly haired afro til the day I died. Somewhere along the way, I came to the conclusion that I had to grow up if I wanted certain things in life.

So, along the way, I sold off portions of carefree and cut my hair (or maybe it just fell out) for more responsibility and something I wanted more than being able to spend a whole day doing nothing. I'm not sad about it. I knew what I was doing and would never want to go back with my receipt and try to get a refund. It was a necessary expense to get what I wanted more than to be carefree. It was the cost of doing business.

Now here's the business analogy. When you started your business, did you say to yourself, "I'm always going to provide the best quality at the best prices possible." Did you make promises that you would always serve the customer no matter what? Did you swear on a stack of Bibles that you would never cut corners no matter what the savings and you were going to donate a percentage of your business to a charity - you probably even had the charity picked out before your first sale.

Most entrepreneurs make these kind of 'curly haired afro' promises to themselves. But, the difficulty is that as you get into your business, things like cash flow and that pesky Accounts Payable keep trying to take a priority over your promises.

What makes this hard is when we hear the successful business owner talk about how they made a commitment to customer service, or some other promise you tried making but haven't been able to keep, and that's why they are so successful. Just remember, it's easy to talk a big talk when you're making money hand over fist. But, when you're in the trenches trying to make payroll by Friday so your employees come back to work on Monday and you can keep your clients, it is much harder said than done.

So, while lofty ideals are good to start with, don't be discouraged if you find yourself in the predicament of cutting a corner or two to get the job done. Remember the old saying, "If you shoot for moon and miss you'll be among the stars." Which isn't such a bad thing either, it is just part of the cost of doing business.

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