Business owners have to take care of themselves before they can really take care of everyone else.
I met with my mentor Rob Slee at a restaurant in the Marriott Hotel in Charlotte, N.C., around 10 a.m, purely to accommodate my next two meetings at the same location. Rob and I were discussing the importance of having the right vision when starting a business. Oftentimes, we're so busy working in the business that we forgot to look at our business from the "what's in it for you" perspective.
In Slee's book, Midas Marketing, he defines "what's in it for me" as a value proposition, or solution, for customers, vendors, advisors, employees, shareholders and the local community. WIFU is the value proposition for you, the owner.
Rob and I were discussing a client of mine--let's call her Rachel--who is quite a successful woman business owner. But we were having a hard time finding the right woman mentor for her. Ideally, the right mentor has owned many businesses, has successfully sold them for intended profit and is a good match for the client. Rob and I concluded the same thing at the same time and said it simultaneously: "Women take care of everyone else in the world but themselves!" There is lots of WIFM ("what's in it for me") from the women's perspective, but very little WIFU ("what's in it for you"), the owner.
Our ValuePositioning method defines a business as having four stages--survival, growth, positioning and significance. Each stage has a different focus and behavior. Some businesses will go through the growth stage and come back to the survival stage. In today's economy, some businesses are in the survival stage regardless of how well they did before the economic downturn.
Rachel has been in business for 25 years and was named one of the 50 fastest-growing companies in the U.S. in 2007. She's been featured in many magazines for her outstanding achievements. Today her biggest issue is cash flow, both for her business and personally. Because of the business cash flow, she plows more cash from her personal savings into the business. My partner David completed a personal financial plan for her, and one of his recommendations was to sell her empty retail building because it was such a cash drain for her personally. A lack of resources derailed her plans to develop a retail store there.
I have a totally different view of the empty building. We discussed her options at length. One, she can keep doing the same thing--that is, keep plowing cash into the building. Two, she can keep doing the same thing with strategic changes in her overall business vision. Three, she can sell the building as David suggested. It's obvious that the numbers do not work in her favor.
Rachel chose to go with option number two--keep doing the same thing with strategic changes. Instead of selling or shutting down the empty building, she has the potential to convert the empty building into office suites and earn extra income for herself. Her current office can move into that building upon completion. The office rent she currently pays can pay the mortgage on the building while she earns extra office rental income.
Why did she choose this option? She finally realized that she needs to start using "what's in it for you." She has to do what's right for her and take care of herself before anyone else. The good news is that, by solving her cash-flow problems, she also is able to continue taking care of her employees--the WIFM equation--at the same time.
We as women business owners nurture our businesses like our own children. We want the best for them. But before your gut gets you into WIFM, try the WIFU first. Ultimately, you'll get WIFU&M--"what's in for you and me!"