It was my lucky day when Emile told me he had some road kill in his freezer that he would give me in trade for a couple of cases of beer. Not so lucky for the cow that had been hit by the semi truck, I guess.
Emile told me there were lots of steaks in the boxes he was clearing out of his freezer and if I was to marinate those steaks for several days, they would be fine to serve at my company barbecue.
Serve them I did, grilled over a cut-up shopping cart in the back yard of my family home, to the investors in my fledgling startup.
The company was running short on money and for two years I had held our required annual general meeting with a barbecue. The only thing different this year was that the meat had been tenderized by a truck!
As business owners, sometimes we need to think outside the box to make things happen. When we’re running short on cash, we need to resort to non-traditional means that result in success. Jay Conrad Levinson, in his classic business book Guerrilla Marketing, recommends that small businesses do that all the time.
Whether we’re trying to reach prospective customers, doing research for our companies or just serving meals to unsuspecting investors, being creative can not only save us lots of money, it can get people talking. When we get people talking about our business, we’re often on the road to success. When we run lean companies with few extraordinary expense, we reduce waste and put money away for times when we really need it.
Running a lean company doesn’t mean being cheap with the important things – employees and customers. Running lean means we think of ways that help us get the end result without spending cash we often don’t have. This means that before investing huge amounts of money in big changes, we try small changes. Then we get feedback, tweak our plan and try again.
In our retail stores, we would make changes while the store was still open, in some cases completely changing the layout over a couple weeks with customers milling around. Not only did this get our customers interacting, it allowed us to use our staff to help out and get involved.
We would have a pretty good idea what the end result was suppose to be. However, because we were trying things out as we went along, the result was often better than intended. If we saw that something wasn’t going to work or needed tweaking based on our customers’ comments, we would make those changes.
Many times, staff who hadn’t been involved in the planning would come up with ideas that were fundamentally superior to ones I had thought of.
Often as business owners, we think there’s only one way to do things. But the fastest way to the end result is often the most expensive. When we slow things down, look for other options and are creative in our thinking, we can save money, time and energy.
I served road kill to my investors because I didn’t have any other option. My startup was low on cash and this was going to save me hundreds of dollars. Not only did my investors enjoy the steaks, which were nice and tender after marinating for two days, but many asked for my recipe. The meeting was a success, and I was able to move forward and find a buyer for the business that ensured that my investors would get most of their money back.
I never did tell my investors that the meat at that shareholders meeting was road kill – but then again, they never asked.
David Fuller, MBA, is a certified professional business coach and author who helps business leaders ensure that their companies are successful. David is author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy.
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