I’m a poor businessman and proud of it.
Many CFOs would develop aneurisms upon discovering not all HAPI’s business decisions are bottom-line driven.
I’m sure after careful scrutiny by a CPA, my agency financial statement would get the red pen treatment, and be returned with countless circles and suggestions on easy things I could be doing to bolster revenue. Any bookkeeper could tell me HAPI’s income-to-expense ratio should be based solely on FTE calculations. With performance so tied to profit and agencies under so much pressure to make numbers, there is a great temptation to make up for lost revenue through nickel and diming – something I refuse to do. I don’t believe it’s a sustainable business strategy. But that’s why I’m a poor businessman.
HAPI won’t bill clients for anything a monkey can do.
We don’t bill clients for small administrative tasks and office minutia. Clients hire us for our thinking and that’s what we bill them for. We don’t invoice for color copies, office supplies, downloading and emailing files and other small tasks that, amazingly, have become accepted practice in our industry. I recently had to bite my lip in a client meeting when I heard its vendor was sending over an estimate to upload images to Dropbox. To witness our nonprofit client getting raked over the coals over the price of such a simple request was maddening. But that’s just me and I’m a poor businessman.
If we agree to a flat rate, we stick to it.
Big ideas are the life-blood of HAPI and what attracts clients to us in the first place. Sometimes, the big idea just isn’t there yet and we need to spend more time on it, even if that means going beyond the hours we agreed to with the client. That’s a tough financial call I’m willing to make to get the job done right. And we don’t make up the difference by finding other small things to bill to clients or by putting through change orders on the back end. If a client gets a better idea for cheaper, I take full responsibility. As I a said I’m a poor businessman.
We invest in HAPI’s culture.
I believe a happier workplace leads to greater productivity. Culture can’t be billed back to a client. I’m willing to close shop and take the crew on an un-billable adventure and do other fun things to keep employees fresh and inspired. Financial consultants would say I treat my business like family. I do. That is why I’m a poor businessman.
My business philosophy has taken its toll.
My refusal to haggle clients at every turn has had a dramatic impact on business. HAPI recently led the strategy and creative for a capital campaign that achieved record-breaking donations for a client, even in the absence of a major donor. HAPI promoted an event for a second client that set a record for attendance and food donations. HAPI’s digital strategy and creative execution helped a third client reach $16 million in sales directly linked to our advertising. We completed new positioning and communications for a fourth client that helped increase campus enrollment to the point where they’re now exploring the idea of a second campus. We created an integrated print and digital campaign for a fifth client that achieved the most ever calls to its sales center in one month. We didn’t hit our margins on all these initiatives, but we exceeded our clients’ margins. That is a greater statement of success than a little extra change in my pocket. But don’t take my word for it. I’m a poor businessman.
Short-term concessions yield long-term gains.
While intelligent billing practices are paramount in any business, HAPI’s opportunity cost lies in the confidence we instill in clients over the long haul. I’m willing to forego painful client conversations over minutia such as charging for color copies and downloading files because they don’t establish enduring trust. If my crazy philosophy catches up with me some day, I hope it’s in the form of a sterling business reputation and steady agency growth. That’s just me. I’m a poor businessman.