One of my favorite Disney characters is Dug from the movie Up! In the movie, Dug is a golden retriever. His master is a genius adventurer who has created a collar that allows the dog’s thoughts to be transmitted into sound. Throughout the movie, all the dogs will be talking away and then get distracted by something off screen, turn their heads and yell, “SQUIRREL!” It cracks me up. I have a golden retriever, Bailey, who is the quintessential dopey golden.
As new entrepreneurs, it’s easy to be distracted by every shiny penny that crosses our path. Some of this is simply because we need work and every opportunity is the BEST opportunity. Part of it is that we have yet to identify our perfect client, and so we think every opportunity is worth pursuing.
When I got serious about real estate investing, I jumped on every opportunity that came across my radar. What I realized pretty quickly was that there is a shit-load of opportunity out there! When I was no longer a noob (newbie), I had a certain kind of investment I was looking for. I was no longer interested in any other opportunities outside of my niche. I only wanted to buy single family homes with 3 bedrooms and 1.5+ bathrooms, and I preferred ranches. I then proceeded to sell off everything that didn’t fit that model and I laser-focused on my niche. I then was able to become an expert in my market in that area, became known as the person that buys those houses, and freed up my time by not being distracted by all the other distractions (read: other opportunities that didn’t fit my model.)
It doesn’t matter if you’re investing in real estate, editing books, selling products, or own a construction company; you need to identify your perfect client and opportunity.
When I was a project manager in construction, we worked with a regional transit government agency that needed projects built each year. They didn’t represent a large percentage of our work each year, but they were a huge pain in the ass to work for. While the projects didn’t amount to a big portion of a volume each year, it required a huge amount of management time to handle the client and their needs. The management hours per revenue dollar was probably 4-5x any other project for any other client. At one point, I remember suggesting that we stop working for that client.
The looks I received from upper management, you might have thought I suggested we quit construction, and take up knitting sweaters in France instead of Cleveland, Ohio.
The reality though is that the hours we were spending on those projects could have been reallocated at a much higher return for other clients that actually appreciated our work! It might be no surprise that it’s been three years since I worked for them.
So who is your ideal client?
I’m sure if you sat down you could think about the projects or opportunities you’ve worked on that were a blast, incredibly rewarding, and allowed you to develop greater relationships with the client. Contrarily, you could also think about the nightmare projects you’ve worked on where no matter what you did, the client was pissed off and unhappy. Regardless of how much money was involved, you’d be happy if you never heard from those clients ever again!
Now, think about the characteristics of the two types clients/projects. Literally, make a list of all the attributes that made the great projects and clients so great. Do the same for what made all the miserable projects and miserable clients. When you finish making these lists you can start matching up the characteristics of new opportunities against these qualities and see how they shake out. You can also start marketing to the types of clients that represent your ideal match. This marketing will ideally attract your ideal client while repelling those you don’t want to work with.
How do you say no?
At the end of the day, turning down work becomes easy when you realize that it doesn’t fit your perfect model. But instead of simply saying “NO” to these potential clients, refer them out to colleagues that you know need work or target clients like the ones you are turning away. Most industries offer some kind of referral fee and so even though you’re turning the work away, you can still get paid. Even if you don’t get paid, you’re making a deposit into the bank of Karma, and that bitch pays nice dividends!
What you’ll find very quickly is that you’ll start attracting your ideal clients and projects and automatically repelling those that aren’t a great fit. When it all shakes out, you’ll be working with the clients you actually want to work with on projects that not only make you great money but bring you joy to complete.
When you find yourself in this zone, you’ll find your momentum and your motivation to do these projects dramatically increased. When motivation and momentum both increase, revenues follow.
Cheers to greater contribution and increased revenues!
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