We've all heard the saying "A penny saved is a penny earned", but in my family, my mom often reminded us that "A penny saved is two pennies earned..." What she meant by that, I think, was that earning is the hard part so saving what we earn and being smart about how we spend/invest it is worth twice as much as simply earning more. (She may also have been thinking about pre-tax and post-tax money, but I never clarified!)
And I think of that Patel-family wisdom often, especially whenever I am looking to grow, introduce something new, or "do big things" in my businesses. Because it's so easy to chase after shiny new-ness for shiny new-ness's sake, but I've found that it's usually better to focus on protecting what I already have before I go looking for more.
Now as business owners, we all know that it takes money to make money. There's no escaping that. But there is a difference between spending money (throwing it at something new for new-ness's sake, for example) and investing it (protecting what you already have). The trouble is far too many people do the former instead of the latter.
When was the last time you sat down with your P&Ls and looked at where your money was being spent or invested? When was the last time you looked carefully at all of the big and small costs and worked hard to eliminate the unnecessary or negotiate the price of the essential? When was the last time you reviewed your prices? Or chased up missed payments? Or went to the bank to cash that check sitting on your desk? Or simply decided NOT to throw money at a problem and think about a better solution instead?
I get it. There is always so much to do and there are so many pulls on our time and attention and energy, but if we're not careful, we can start to take our business for granted and neglect the important things. As in all relationships, our relationship with our business and our money and our customers needs to be nurtured and attended to ALL THE TIME or it will suffer. Protecting what we already have means closing the door on Neglect's smug little face.
Neglect wants you to think it's okay not to review your financial statements because that's what your accountant or bookkeeper is paid to do. Neglect wants you to think new customers are sexy and seductive unlike your boring old customers at home. Neglect whispers oh so sweetly in your ear about expansion and growth and new-ness that your body tingles at the thought... But what Neglect fails to confide while slowly courting your business brain is how potentially deflating and expensive and fruitless all of his advice could be! (Who put Neglect on your Board of Advisors anyway?)
When I sat down and regularly started reviewing my costs and P&Ls, my profits almost literally exploded. Because I am committed to keeping my existing clients happy, they are great brand ambassadors who stay with me for years. And due to the focus I put on treating my suppliers like equals and partners, I get priority service in return.
All of these things took time and effort, sure, but it is time and effort invested, not spent, in protecting what I already have. I front-loaded the hard work of building a business, getting customers, establishing great service delivery mechanisms, finding reliable suppliers, and building relationships and consistently told Neglect to hit the road.
So the next time you find yourself itching to run a new marketing campaign to get more customers, or reaching for the phone to buy a new asset because the old one just won't do, or strategizing how to do more, more, more in your business, stop yourself and consider whether you could do more with what you already have (make more profit from the income you already have, offer more to the customers you already have...) and whether your business wouldn't be better off if you did.
Less sometimes really is more. And protecting what you already have is often the best, smartest, and easiest thing to do.
Back in 2014, I remember hearing a speaker talk about how, when he was first getting started with his business, he bought a load of empty binders to remind him of how many clients he wanted to have.
Every time he saw those binders, it subtly prompted him to get going (or keep going) with everything he knew he needed to do to start and grow his business. I loved the idea (and the "woo-woo" behind it) so off to Staples I went.
Now, I am not naturally prone to superstition or woo-woo (and I definitely wasn't back then), but the thing with the binders made sense to both my left and right brains. It was the perfect combination of practical and philosophical.
Because it wasn't as if the speaker was expecting the binders to fill themselves with new client details. And neither was I. But having something concrete and visual to represent my targets prodded, reminded, and nudged me forward each day.
And as I've gotten into the habit of setting goals and targets and then diligently making them happen (I'm at a 100% completion rate after years of learning how to properly set goals and execute on them; there is an art and a science to it), I've realized that some of the "magic" behind those empty binders was that they were, well, empty.
I had created a void.
And nature abhors a void.
And what I've realized is that whenever we want to bring anything into our lives - better health, deeper relationships, more knowledge, bigger business, anything - we have to make room for it, mentally and physically. We have to create a void so it can then be filled, ideally with something, or someone, better.
Saying no to a dinner invitation creates a void we can fill with learning about something we care about. Spending less time with people who drain us creates a void we can fill by spending more time with people who fuel us. Opening up a new savings account creates a void we can fill by putting some money away each month as we've always been wanting to do.
It's not technically "magic" but it can feel magical. Because when we create space in our lives for the things that are important to us, when we declutter the thoughts, relationships, and activities that no longer serve us, amazing things can come in to take their place.
We just have to guard the gates and make sure we fill the void with things that are worthy of it, and that are worthy of us.