Most professionals focus on what is happening today, and in the immediate future, in their businesses. This is the short-term play, and is, of course, critical to getting the bills paid and keeping current clients happy. What I notice is that very few focus on what is going to happen (or could happen) over the coming months and years: the long-term play.
In my opinion, a solid, stable business that will last includes focus on both. Here is some food for thought to keep you in the black today, and over the long-term, too:
- Keep your clients extremely happy. Provide amazing service, the kind they can't help but talk about to their friends and associates. Call them when you have nothing to say but hello, to check-in and make sure they are, indeed, thrilled with you and your company.
- Develop relationships for today and tomorrow. It's not what you know, it's who, and how well. The earlier and deeper you build your bench, the sooner it will yield results and revenue. Even if you're a second-year associate at a law firm, you should be out getting to know other second-year CPAs, insurance salespersons, and bankers. You'll "grow up together" and before you know it, running the show (and bringing each other in on deals). You didn't think to start that early? No problem: start today. Pick complimentary service and business providers, and get in relationship with them over lunch, coffee, drinks and baseball games. In business, we are most likely to do business with people we know, like and trust. And, we're most likely to share business with those same people.
- Leverage yourself, and if possible, your business. This is a long-term play that will provide revenue for you long after you've stopped working (or working so hard). Can you provide an additional service by getting a license? I know an estate-planning attorney who got his insurance license. He passes on the referrals to an insurance professional, but brings in an additional six-figures each year in referral fees. How about an additional product? If you have a strong knowledge area, write a book. Being an author gives you credibility, and in some cases, a nice stream of additional cash. Another option is to expand your business by having others work for you and provide an income stream. You can pay them a salary while they earn 2-3x for your business. Think and act creatively for this step, in 5-20 years you'll be glad you did.
- Invest and allow your "babies to make babies." This is Honorée-speak for "your money makes you money." Perhaps the market has you spooked, but you're open to buying a franchise or investing in someone's small but growing business. I know couples who own multiple Subways and make more than $250,000 a year just from their stores. Investment opportunities abound, and you can receive a large pay-off when it's done right.
Both the short-term and long-term plays are important. You need to eat today, but you'll also need to be eating many years from now. Take some time to come up with a plan that empowers you to act immediately to ensure you have a terrific May 2012 and a fantastic May 2032!
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