Opportunity cost

Having undertaken some more training this week - this time all about business finance - I learnt a little more about the costs of making choices.

Choosing whether to spend time, or money, on this thing or that thing, because you can't do both.

There's only one Zoe Howard - at least only one who is Director of this fledgling company! - and it is time that is my commodity. Spending money is not an issue as I have very low overheads and so far making choices in folding stuff has not been difficult.

But time matters and choosing to spend time doing one thing means I can't do another, as there's no Zoe clone to help me out.

This has meant some tough choices and I expect many (all?) small business owners when they start out have similar dilemmas. The issue I face is this: when you are just getting started you want to build the business as quickly as possible, get the money coming in so you can pay your bills.

And believe me, there is no shortage of available work. The public sector in particular seems to be commissioning more and more from businesses like mine. Good news.

The bad news is that they are wanting more and more from bidders so that it begins to feel like you are almost delivering the contract in the process of putting in a tender! Apart from the issues regarding intellectual property, there is a lot of time spent on making your tender the best it can be, hopefully better than the competition and, in my field, it can be like putting the cart before the horse.

For example, for a recent tender for a branding project, by the time I reached the pitch stage there would have been an almost fully thought through brand concept - without having the opportunity or time to conduct any meaningful stakeholder engagement - they key to any good branding exercise. Which would inevitably mean wasted effort, if I was to go back to the start to do it properly, or going with an identity just because the client likes it.

Don't get me wrong, client satisfaction is very important, but what's even more important is to satisfy the client's customers. With a tender situation like this, the customers don't even get a look in.

So, the upshot is that I have had to make the difficult choice to walk away from a couple of really great contracts. And it hurts!

Back to my trainer earlier this week who reminded me to "go with your gut". I know she's spot on as this has always worked for me whenever I'm faced with a choice. Head says "grab the money"; heart says "nah, leave it this time".

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