I was not conversing with a dumb fellow. The man who sat across the table had almost 30 years of solid HR/corporate training experience.
He is not alone.
There are many folks who have left the corporate world — by choice or downsizing — who have never had to drum up business in their lives. There were always sales teams to bring in the bacon, supporting everyone on the corporate farm. So when these folks go out on their own, what’s to be done?
I answered his question:
“Find what it is that your competition feels is ‘beneath’ them to do. That’s where the business is, and that’s always where the dough resides,” I told him.
He looked confused.
“What does that mean?” he inquired.
“You know your business better than anyone,” I told him. “But when it comes to new business prospecting, small business people and consultants make a huge mistake by only going after ‘the big kill,’ the contract everyone is fighting over. Meanwhile, there’s smaller business hiding in crevices out there that you can take to the bank. The small potatoes fill you up, my friend. Think about it. It’s out there.”
So we finished our coffee and went our separate ways. A month later, he called me, very excited. He had his first contract.
The “little guy” wins big.
“For days I thought about what you told me,” he said. “One afternoon I was driving along the highway and noticed a work crew along the side of the road. There was one guy supervising them. It made me think, ‘Hey, maybe those supervisors need training.’ When I got home, I visited the state’s Web site, and sure enough, there was an RFP for management training of the state’s road crew supervisors. I did a proposal, went to see ’em, and got a year’s contract. And you know what? They told me they had trouble finding a professional who would take it on.”
Plain hard work.
This is no fairy tale, folks. He worked extra hard that first year. He traveled all over the state, teaching some people who could’ve cared less, others hungry for the knowledge. It was not a glamorous gig. It was something his suited competition would never consider taking on. But my friend treated every class as if he was still in the corporate training room, and it paid off for him in many ways:
- He gained solid, real-world experience on his own that lead to bigger business.
- He had receivables he could count on to support his family.
- He made more money that first year than he would have made if he was still employed by a corporation.
Remember the quote from master Thomas Edison: “Many people miss opportunity because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
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