I get into this conversation all the time with clients and colleagues – what are the stand-out small business models? What works for us small business owners and what will set us up for frustration, poor income, and unhappiness?
The small business model you pick is critical – it's the basis for how you make money from your expertise. It's every bit as vital as your marketing plan, your ideal client or your target market. Here's why – without a business model that works specifically for you, the engine of your business will be hard to start and will easily wear down. How you go about selling your product or service (your business model) is your driver. Drew Sanocki made a great point in a presentation I attended a few weeks ago. You need a flywheel, Drew said. Something that you can sell over and over again, that gives your business momentum. Your flywheel won't start and keep going until you've got the right business model.
If you don't find the small business model that stands out for you and your business, you'll get worn out from the constant effort of running your business. Over time, your energy and perspective will change and your clients will suffer from it. You'll start resenting the very people who spend money with you. Sounds pretty bad, huh?
Believe it or not, my own primary care physician here at the beach (I live on the Gulf half the year) has a stand-out small business model. The other day I went in to see him and came to a full stop – there stood Dr. Koser dressed in a flamboyant multi-colored western-style shirt with coordinating jeans – flourishes and shiny details included. “Wow!” I said, “You look like you'd fit right into the Nashville honky-tonks! You look like a rock star!” He flashed a grin and said, “If I wasn't a doctor, I'd be a rock star.”
I already knew that Dr. Koser had a great attitude toward his patients. Here's what I noticed the first time we met last year:
- He has a small, single physician practice (I like this)
- His staff is warm and responsive
- There is never more than a five minute wait to see him even though he has an extremely busy practice
- While he's forced to use electronic medical records now, he sits and looks at you with perfect attention while talking – unlike every other doctor I have who stares at the computer screen while talking to me
- If you are really sick, he'll find a way to work you in
- He is a primary care physician but he has specialized in a few things that give him great ability to stand out in the market
- He always seems low-key, easy-going with the staff, and willing to take the time he needs with his patients.
So, after finding out he was a wanna-be rock star, we started talking about music. He said, “I love blues almost as much as I love medicine.” Come to find out, Dr. Koser is a blues musician, has a small band, and has even cut a CD (You can find his Chicago-style blues CD, “Good Lovin' Doctor” on iTunes and on Amazon). Music makes him happy. Along with sticking my finger to check blood, he told me the 3 best blues clubs in our area. He found out that when I was a kid I trained to be a concert pianist and that I love blues, too. His stress level was non-existent while we talked. As a result, so was mine.
Dr. Koser has found his own stand-out business model. He stays small but focused, has a large team to which he delegates everything but patient exams, takes plenty of time off (he and his staff are off the entire week of Christmas), and puts on his rock-star hat several times a month. His business model ensures he will not lose his passion for medicine. His second passion, music and blues, is also key part of his business model.
I often startle new clients by asking them right off the bat, “How much time off do you want each year?” The truth is, every one of my clients needs their own stand-out business model. It needs to include business and life, because as a small business owner these two parts of you will always be somewhat blended. (For my blog post about “blended not balanced” click here.)
I'm very happy that I found Dr. Koser. And it delights me to think that I might walk into the Blue Rooster one weekend and find him up on the stage in that rock-star outfit I saw peeking out from under his white coat. Find your stand-out small business model. You'll be prosperous and happy, too.