As founder of The Marks Group, a consultancy firm that sells software applications to small- and medium-size businesses, Gene Marks is well aware that the businesses he works with are very different from large corporations and have their own unique sets of problems. With his latest book, Outfoxing the Small Business Owner: Crafty Techniques for Creating a Profitable Relationship, Marks endeavors to highlight the key problems and situations that are likely to arise when dealing with smaller businesses. He suggests actions and responses that will work in your favor.
Divided into 10 chapters, Outfoxing the Small Business Owner is further broken down into subchapters, each dealing with a specific point. “Foxy Facts” and “Foxy Tips” throughout the book highlight the author’s main points, bolstered with statistics. Do not be fooled by the generous serving of humor or the cartoon on the cover. Marks provides a wealth of practical information and suggestions, gleaned not just from common sense but also from his years of experience.
In chapter 1, “Show Me the Money,” Marks explains why selling to small businesses (foxes) is a unique experience. He uses his personal experiences to point out differences between small businesses and corporations and assures us that he is not alone in his thinking. American Express, for example, has services specifically for its small businesses and merchants; Dell has a product line specifically for small businesses. Marks argues that these corporations have learned that small businesses require a very different set of skills than do large corporations.
Chapter 2 breaks small business into seven categories and describes how to recognize which category you are dealing with. The “fat and happy fox,” for example, is a small business owner who is comfortable with his situation. This type of owner is older and does not aspire to be head of a Fortune 500 corporation. His bills are paid, his overhead costs are low and he can afford a vacation when he desires. The “micromanager” is a different fox. This owner, while pleasant and affable, is unable to delegate responsibility. He must do it all. He will pore over every invoice and count every item himself. He rechecks every employee timecard and signs every check. The “fox with the half-empty glass” is never satisfied. He is actually quite successful but never seems to see the positive. Instead of accepting accolades for his accomplishments, he will lament about the one client he lost. Marks stresses the importance of recognizing which fox you are dealing with, since it will impact the outcome of your business with that person.
Chapter 6, “The Check Is in the Mail,” is a chapter that is as funny as it is important. Here, Marks lists the different tactics or responses that small businesses use to avoid paying that invoice on time. More important, Marks also suggests ways to anticipate these problems and avoid them. Small business owners will have memory loss and forget to send the check. They will misplace the invoice. The check will be sent out without a signature. They might just disappear for a while—vacation, out of office, in meetings. They will try to convince you to lower the bill in exchange for a cash payment. Small business owners can certainly be wily. How else could they manage to stay in business? Marks believes that knowledge is the key to maneuvering through all the excuses.
Other chapters address going on the offensive, overcoming sale objections and keeping the small business owner happy. Chapter 4, “The Real McCoy,” discusses ways to recognize whether an account is worth going the distance for. Marks stresses the importance of distinguishing between a client who will help you now and one with potential for later. You may have to let go of a small business owner with possible long-term benefits in order to concentrate on the small business that pays on time. After all, if nobody pays, chances are that your business will fail.
Overall, Outfoxing the Small Business Owner: Crafty Techniques for Creating a Profitable Relationship lives up to its title. If you are interested in offering some service to a small business, then this book should prove very helpful as you find yourself dealing with a variety of people and situations. Preparation is key, and Marks provides important information that should certainly prove beneficial.
Outfoxing the Small Business Owner: Crafty Techniques for Creating a Profitable Relationship Author: Gene Marks Publisher: Adams Media Pages: 227 Price: $12.95 ISBN: 1-59337-157-8
Reviewed by Soroya Brantley