In business, you eat what you kill. As an operations manager, I’m always interested in the caloric potential of the business we catch. In less abstract terms, my perpetual concern is this: does the work we land cover costs and meet profit goals. The answer depends, in part, on the energy expended in the hunt. And this boils down to a simple question: are we hunting squirrels or deer?
Consider the squirrels. They seem like a good idea. There are a lot of them around and they aren’t much of a threat. However, to catch a squirrel requires a lot of effort. They are wily and fast. And scrawny; you finally catch one and discover there’s hardly enough meat to replenish the effort. You know this kind of work. Lots of running around, chasing client stakeholders, policing scope, constantly reworking the timeline, and when it is done, there’s a blip in the bank account.
Let’s turn our attention to the deer. Certainly they take effort, but the payoff is commensurate to your investment. They sustain you for longer stretches, and the risk is nearly as low as a squirrel, right? Deer aren’t risky. This hunt does require more training, skill, and patience. But these investments nearly equal the time spent running around after squirrels.
I’m really stretching this metaphor, I know. But I find the shorthand incredibly helpful when discussing new business. It can focus your sales goals. You listen differently when a potential client is explaining the workload versus the budget. What kind of account is this?
Squirrel accounts have their place. They can feed a team of 1 or 2. Once you’re larger than that, diversify. Leave a few team members still working on squirrels while you start landing deer.
And for the gatherers out there who feel less comfortable hunting (metaphoric or otherwise), there are acorns. These are small accounts with usually a gesture of a budget. However, a long-term opportunity is clearly there. So you collect the acorns; some you plant in faith they will grow and yield more than where they started. Maybe others you snack on to tide you over until the next hunt. The acorn should be respected for its innate potential.
So assess, what is the return on your time? Are you satiated or are you starving?