As bad as taking on too much work may seem, it is an unfortunate reality for many small companies. Quite often it is their only way to survive, especially if they constantly reduce price to win new work. On the other hand, a lot of small business owners use this to show off their position on the market. In both cases, the situation is slowly killing their businesses.
I am often being very critical about small business salesmanship, I admit it. I openly criticize many small business owners for not actively selling their services and products and I think I am right in doing so. Most small business owners don’t do so at all, which in my opinion is more than crazy. However, there is the other flip of the coin, there are many who forget what selling is really all about and go out there trying to win as many new clients as possible. Just as if selling was a race.
I can understand some of them (I cannot justify them though). Reducing their prices in order to get a job seems like the most logical solution for many, however, once they do so, they need a large volume of clients and jobs in order to make a profit and survive.
On the other hand, many consider being flooded with work as a sign of a healthy and thriving business and deliberately create a situation in which they have too much work on.
Some take on too much work as a result of poor productivity planning (or inability to say no to a client) however, I will focus on the sales aspect of the problem in this article.
And, here is the problem, you can’t build proper business relationships if you spread yourself thin across many clients and prospects. You can’t give your clients the time and attention they deserve, and as a result, you reduce your chances of building long-lasting business relationships, repeat orders, and referrals.
In other words, by deliberately taking on too much work you take the three most important ingredients of a business success away from it.
What you should do to prevent taking on too much work? Again, these tips are sales related, your productivity or your lack of confidence in client relations are some completely different problems.
1. Work out your rates well and stick to them. As I already mentioned, one of the main reasons for taking on too much work is the fact that you can’t make a profit from the manageable amount of clients. The usual reason for that is that you don’t charge enough for your services. Work out your rates and stick to them.
2. Focus on a specific market. You can’t build a successful business without knowing who your prospects are and who you want to service. You can’t succeed in business by trying to work with anyone, a gimp from the street perhaps. In order to make it and to make it big, you need to know what market or niche you would like to (and are most suitable to) work with and focus on it. Work hard at establishing your brand in it.
3. Learn to sell. This may sound trivial, but, taking on too much work is usually a result of poor sales planning. Learn sales, don’t just do what you think is right but really discover what it is all about. There is more to sales than telling your neighbor about your business and unless you learn about it, you may have some serious problems with growing your company.
4. Develop a solid business foundation. Another trivial-sounding advice, however, from my experience, most small business owners never work on it. Develop your vision and mission for your business, know where you are going, and stick to the plan. This way you will be focused not on the immediate gain (potentially higher sales this month if you take on twice as many clients) but your long term business goals.
5. Start grading your clients. Work out who your best-paying clients are and focus on them. This doesn’t mean that you have to ignore the rest but pay special attention to your best clients. For some tips on establishing who your best clients are, read my tips here. To find out how to manage them so that they feel valued, see my post here.
6. Define success. Last but not least, define what it means for you to be successful in business. Sure, some might argue that this is not really business advice. To me though, knowing what is a success means knowing when to stop. If your definition of success in business states that you want to work on your own part-time to have more time for your kids, then by taking on too much work, you simply go against it and are unsuccessful. Focusing on what success means to you will get you very focus on everything you do for your business, simply.