Doing the Dirty Jobs

No-one likes unblocking the toilet. Cleaning the floor. Climbing up the damn ladder and trimming the hedge. But those jobs can’t be put off for ever. They’re an essential part of running a home. Sooner or later, they have to be done.

And it’s the same in business. There are certain jobs that just can’t be ignored. Last week I mentioned the conversation I had with Rob Blake from the Law Wizard. That was one of the points Rob made:

It’s very easy to focus on the bits of running a business that you like, and neglect the bits that you don’t like. TAB challenges us on how we’re doing on the bits we don’t like each month and makes sure that we actually get on with it.

Everyone, in every business, has jobs they don’t like doing. The trouble is, there’s that irritating, but tried and tested, quotation. ‘Successful people do the things unsuccessful people don’t want to do.’ In my experience one of the main causes of business failure is neglecting the jobs you don’t like – whether it’s credit control, hiring and firing or simply asking for the order.

Want to make a new year’s resolution that will really impact positively on your business? Then resolve to do the jobs you dislike, and do them on a regular basis.

To get you started, here are the six ‘dirty jobs’ that crop up most frequently when I’m speaking to TAB members and clients…

1. Chasing outstanding money – essentially you’re ringing up and saying, “Can you please send me the money you owe me?” It’s not easy but it has to be done. And a customer that doesn’t pay isn’t a customer. I have never seen a successful business that didn’t have an effective credit control system, or one that didn’t clearly explain to both new and existing customers how and when they expected to be paid.

2. Asking for the business – again, it’s not easy and none of us like rejection, but sooner or later you have to ask for the business. Why did that kid in your class with acne still have more girlfriends than you? Because he asked more girls out. Simples.

3. Charging what you are worth – if I had a pound for every time I’ve seen a business owner shrink from increasing his prices because he’s afraid of losing business, I’d have…well, hundreds of pounds. In my experience you very rarely lose clients – and remember, you can be too cheap. Everyone is now familiar with Sybil Fawlty’s view on why something is cheap.

4. Making plans – you’d be disappointed if I didn’t mention making plans for next year at some point in December. But very few small businesses really take the time to plan properly – unless, as Rob said, someone is making sure that they “actually get on with it.”

5. Hiring and Firing – if I had to point to one area where owners of SMEs delay making a decision, this would be it. I wrote a few weeks ago about the misgivings many of my members had about taking people on in the current economic climate, and there’s an equal reluctance to get rid of underperforming staff. But sometimes a member of staff is underperforming. Sometimes you simply can’t afford them. You’re not in business to make easy decisions and, tough as hiring and firing are, they have to be done.

6. Taking risks – similarly, you’re not in business to avoid taking risks. But make sure that they’re calculated, managed, well-thought out risks. And remember that if it was easy and everything was guaranteed there’d be no need for entrepreneurs like you.

Inevitably, some people take too many risks: some don’t take enough. In fact we all perform well on some of the points above and poorly on others. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses – just as everyone has dirty jobs they don’t want to do. For me, that’s where TAB scores: there are other people round the table who’ll compensate for your weaknesses – and make sure you don’t overplay your strengths. Just as importantly, they’ll make sure you do the jobs that unsuccessful people don’t do.



  1. Jo Yeates · December 14, 2012

    Hmmm……you hit the nail on the head there. Here I am hurtling towards the end of the calendar and financial year, with a big pile of dull admin to get through. Serves me right – I’ve been busy doing the bits I enjoy (sorting out employment problems) but I cannot ignore the admin any longer. I resolve to do better next year. Wish me luck…..

  2. Steven Partridge · December 14, 2012

    And I have a whole load of regulatory stuff to do ….., which won’t wait until next year! So, this weekend …..

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