Finding value

I started my business to work with people I liked, who make vino I like drinking. Simple, no?

I didn’t want to deal with the industry twerps who engage in belittling reps for fun. Or with wineries who changed the rules on their staff half way through the game. Good vino. Good people. Good sales. 

And essentially I want these businesses around me to succeed. So yes. On occasion – or, if I’m honest, as a rule – I give extra to my tasks. I conduct tastings on my own time at no cost to the wineries. I provide advice to many at little to no charge. I let many pick my brain without a fee. Because I want them to succeed. 

And to date, there have been only a couple of moments wherein I have felt the need to terminate an agreement, or switch things up. 

I’ve been lucky that way. 

But perhaps the word has escaped that I let my brain be picked. Or maybe I am just a teensy bit nervous. Because I have – both personally and through friends in the game – begun to see a rise in businesses forgetting that it takes time, energy and money to generate sales and to market themselves. 

For the most part, it is businesses who have done some degree of this work themselves in the past. And have not accounted for this time as a cost to generating business. Because it’s just their time. 

Sure. If you see your time as having zero value…

As a small business, we should all put a solid value on our time and our input into said business. As a writer, we would count in words. As a seamstress, in stitches. As boot maker, in, well, boots. Whether it is the ephemeral – words – or the literal and solid – boots – the work and the time invested in it has value. 

For a sales person, much of that value is in the contacts. The relationships. The knowing which venue and when, and which ones are tottering. That can take time to relate to sales but it ALL has value. Whether that sales person is a big company rep, an agent or a winemaker spruiking their own wares is irrelevant. The investment of time, the accumulation of contacts and knowledge, the cognisance involved in successfully matching wine with venue? Has value. 

Our experience has value. The knack of adapting accounting software to the wine industry. Of how to set up effective social media. Of event management. Of media management. Of wine list training. Of good sales practice. 

And things of value, should be accordingly given a price. Anything we do as a small business should be accorded a value. Then whether we pass on that value as a cost becomes a separate decision. 

As an exercise, I totted up a basic cost for an imaginary client – an amalgam of several clients over several months. I gave each task a fair cost, and worked out exact hours spent, billable time, expenses. And looked at what I had actually billed for those tasks. 

I have fallen, to a smaller extent, into the same hole I advise against above. Doing the job because it is there and needs doing without actually reporting or billing my time. Like a winery who does not account for their time managing sales, I’ve been nice about getting stuff done because I want people to succeed. Letting people get away with picking my brain as if it had no value to me. 

But it does. So: new rules. I value my time. It is my business. 

Any small business should be accounting for billable hours. Expenses. Experience. 

A butcher does not give away the bacon once it is cured. An accountant does not hand out free, professional advice. A vet cares for our pets but bills us for their expertise and tonics. As they should. 

Small businesses – and especially wineries – are no different. Samples should be counted, and accounted for as a part of the business. Expenses incurred generating sales – from petrol to parking to snacks to delivery costs to time spent – must be a part of our business model. 

Spend money to make money. But know exactly where it goes…


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