This week in business includes a few lessons we all have learned, or should learn along the way. Working in a service based industry, reading the experiences of similar professionals, and being consumers ourselves, it seems that we all at one time have gotten buyer’s remorse, bought a discount item only to have to pay more to fix it (Oh, the vintage Mercedes. I’ll have to tell you about that one day.), or didn’t plan appropriately and it costs us in a big way. What can we do moving forward?

Well, as a self-proclaimed consumer advocate, I recommend waiting and counting the cost before doing anything, especially when making investments in your business which may be very costly. Before spending a chunk on a new website only because you’ve heard you need one, wait. Be sure you’ve investigated the fees and know what your website should be. Plan not only your content, but how customers should engage with it, it’s purpose and ultimate goals. Also, be prepared to invest in marketing that supports that website. Try not to have rush jobs or make emotional decisions. It can cost you dearly.

What about bargain shopping for products and services? It’s absolutely fine to try to find the best service for the best value. However, there is a word of caution: The item may be discounted for a reason. Anybody heard about the lady who bought a cheap “iPad” only to open the box to find it was a mirror? Or maybe you purchase a service on Elance for a few bucks only to learn that the company has odd business hours and your can’t reach them.

In some cases, things like this can be avoided by trying not to skimp in key areas. That’s not to say that paying more guarantees a perfect outcome, but in many cases, it does. We would want to pay full price for a real iPad and not pay a couple hundred bucks for a mirror.

Back to the website example. Not all designers are developers too. Not all companies are scrupulous. And I’ve become aware of a service that promises to design a site for minimum fees, no deposit and unlimited revisions. What a deal!

Not. Unfortunately, it appears this company outsources and each piece and modification is handled by someone else and with varying degrees of knowledge about coding and design. What was once an frugal choice resulted in additional fees for making the site right.

Another observation is being fully aware of what you want beforehand so that you don’t realize later that you’ve invested in something that won’t serve you. For example, don’t buckle down and invest in merchandise if you’re not ready to sell it or if you don’t know that you even really want to sell THAT item. You’ll end up with a bunch of inventory that you can’t do anything with. Trust me, I have drawers full of jewelry supplies for all this jewelry I intended to make!

The examples are endless but the takeaway should be plan ahead, don’t skimp on everything, and be mindful of when and on what you spend. It could, in some cases, make or break your business and your budget.

As a closing note, I heard of a wealthy entrepreneur who doesn’t use business cards because he feels it’s another roadblock to setting an appointment on the spot. Makes sense, right? But everybody will tell you that you need business cards, and especially a designer or printer will advise that. Think about this before investing–what’s in it for the service provider? (See Mommy Millionaire by Kim Lavine for more in this.) You may not need a website, business cards, or an office this second OR at all. You’d have to assess that. But don’t be pressured into getting things you don’t need or aren’t prepared for budget wise or planning wise.

It will save you all around and will help the person you’re working with be able to provide you the best if when you finally do invest, you’re ready, you’re clear, and you are in a position to do things the right way.

Be smart consumers and even better business owners!

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