The Empty Briefcase


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I know what you’re thinking. Who would get involved with someone like that? Well, running a business always has some twists and turns. As your business grows and you get busier, your time to plan and market your business slowly diminishes. And as a small business owner your resources are usually very limited. How do you find the right person to help, how do you pay for them? Your decision making becomes clouded, because you just want to get this great idea happening.

We often turn to friends or people suggested by friends who may be willing to ‘give it a go’ for less money than a qualified person.

In our business, we had decided to stretch out a little and try an in-store radio service, the kind you hear when shopping. We had the technical know how and we were very capable of creating a programme. What we needed, was a salesman. We needed someone who could cold call and get a lead. Then follow that lead and turn it in to dollars! We did not have a enough budget to hire a real salesman, (save that story for another issue) so we opted for someone who would work on the basis of getting a cut of the business.

Now this is nothing new. Many people start and operate businesses in this way. Of course the major factor is, get to know whom you are dealing with.

We got to know this guy through a series of meetings. His appearance was good, he spoke well, and he was quick to understand the concept. He had even worked in community radio for some time. It all seemed OK. We worked out a business plan and a target list for him to attack. Everything seemed to be moving along.

However, one thing that did make us a little uneasy was that he carried a brief case that was empty. Well not completely empty. It usually had only one piece of blank paper in it. And maybe his lunch. We over looked this because he seemed to remember where we were up to with things.

Once we had arrived at the stage of starting to make those cold calls, everything started to change. He did not deliver. We had found his flaw. Of course from there, it just disintegrated until he left.

So what had we lost? What was our flaw? Time. Now we had this ‘other business’ that had gone from nowhere to nowhere. We had spent a lot of time on researching the technicalities of producing the product, producing small demonstrations to be played at meetings, had some basic stationery made. But it was time working our normal business that we lost most.

While our heads were in that new exciting space, we neglected the very business that was putting money in our pockets each week.

It is so easy to lose focus on your business. Let’s face it; once you have something working well, the challenge is not as big as it used to be. A new business gets you right back at that blank page and a new challenge is set. But don’t let it interfere with your current business. But not letting it interfere is a tall order for small business owners.

The real challenge is to keep your business profitable and growing. But sometimes we need to make new products, try different ideas as a way of growing your business. You really need to plan. Spend plenty of time making a genuine attainable plan, which includes a realistic budget. Don’t spend three months taking your eye off the ball for nothing.

Remember that any new business is bound to require as much attention, if not more, as your current business. Sometimes it’s better to look in your own ‘backyard’ to see if you can get more sales and thereby increase your profits rather than taking a punt on a new venture.

And I guess you’re wondering how you find those good people? Well, if you have the money, you’ll find them. If you don’t, you may just have to be a little smarter about how you get your new idea off the ground. If you do bring someone in who will own part of the new business there a few things to make sure you do.

Firstly. Make sure they can have no part of your current business. You’ve worked hard, so don’t give it away.

Secondly. Make them financially accountable. If they want 50%, then they have to put in 50% of the capital. Don’t accept any other answer.

Third. Make some sort of escape plan. The business may not work, you may end up fighting. Have an agreement up front. Once you’re fighting, the possibility of a good outcome is severely reduced.

And lastly, dealing with a partner can be difficult. Make sure your jobs are clearly defined so in the event of a dispute, you can show that you held up your end of the bargain.

We never did get that idea rolling again, which is a common outcome. Never did see that man with the empty brief case again either.

Geoff McGarvey is a member of the team from Makes Business Easy. Our website is devoted to gving you real world, useable advice about business. Learn about how we made it through sixteen years of business as well as great information from our regular contributors who specialise in many areas of business. We also feature our ‘Millionaire a Month’ interview where you get to hear strategies and tips from business people who have made a million or more. We think you should hear it straight from the mouth of those that have done it. Find out more at


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