Steve Pavlina has an interesting post entitled “10 Stupid Mistakes Made by the Newly Self-Employed”. Don’t agree with all of it but one important point is worth re-enforcing
1. Selling to the wrong people.
I’ve talked about this before – you can waste much time chasing down the “wrong” sales prospects i.e. people who will never buy for whatever reason.
But as important is Steve’s point on “partners”:
Just because someone is interested in doing business with you doesn’t mean you should accept. In my first year in business, I probably said yes to at least 50% of the people who approached me with a potential business relationship. I wasted a lot of time pursuing deals that were too much of a stretch to begin with. I accepted lunch invitations from random business people who just wanted to “see if there’s a way we could do something together.” Virtually none of them made me a dime. If you think a meeting is pointless, it probably is. Don’t network with random people just because you think you’re supposed to network. Today I accept such invitations less than 1/10 as often. If an offer doesn’t excite me right away, I usually decline or ignore it. Most relationships simply aren’t worth pursuing. Learn to say no to the weak opportunities so you have the capacity to say yes to the golden opportunities.
It’s very easy to fill you day with meetings. You need to consider each one to say is it likely that this meeting will advance my business. Sure, serendipity can play a part and I set aside time for these at events like OpenCoffee. However, if you want to “explore”, do it in a phone/skype call which is far more efficient or better yet agree to meet up at something like OpenCoffee so that you can do a 10-15 min to open a discussion – if there’s potential emerging then proceed, if not then drop it fast but always on good terms.
Perversely, if you look at VC stats, then as an industry we have to do 10 business reviews for every one investment. That appears to be a lot of unproductive meetings in hindsight, albeit I confess that I normally learn something from everyone of them, even if it just relates to fine tuning my filter.