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 the early days of starting my business, I remember having some ugly moments. I would find myself looking around at the other entrepreneurs I knew and wishing for a piece of their action. There always seemed to be someone else doing more, making more, and achieving more than I was. And when I wasn't careful, those comparisons would deflate me and cause me to wonder if I should just give up and throw in the towel.
Maybe you've felt that way, too? Maybe you've watched friends, colleagues, family members, anyone else do or achieve something you wanted to and started to hate them for it (even if you never tried)?
Success can feel hard, and when you're climbing up a hill, it's so easy to look at others and think of how much easier/better/luckier they have it, and then to want some of that for yourself too. But from the time we are born, we are never told how to handle jealousy. We're never given the tools to manage it responsibly.
But like so many things in life, jealously doesn't have to be bad. It's just a feeling. And it's what we do with that feeling that makes it "good" or "bad."
When I was in my jealous-woes all those years ago, my partner said to me: "It's normal to be jealous, but don't leave it at that. What can you learn from their success that will help you create success for yourself?" And just like that, I was given a formula to turn something ugly and destructive into something productive and helpful.
Jealousy is okay. We don't have to wallow in despair and self-pity when we see others being successful. We don't have to see their success as a reason to give up on our own. (There is enough success out there for all of us). We don't have to quit just because someone else already did what we want to do. And we don't have to stop just because someone else is ahead of us.
We can choose to be inspired instead of jealous. We can choose to open up instead of shut down. We can choose to see a role model instead of a rival. And most important, we can choose to use our envy to fuel us and drive us instead of stopping us in our tracks.
It's not easy, but it can be that simple. We can use our envy for good.