Book Suggestion

"Cabbages and Golf Balls"
Shopping For Cabbages And Peddling Golf Balls
By A. Grant Lee, MCInst.M and Glen C. Lee

An engineer once told me that he didn't like marketing because the word reminded him of going shopping for cabbages. I guess he didn't like cabbages.

That same engineer was respected in his community for the work his office did. Like many other post-war small business entrepreneurs, he had to compete for new work as he completed the work he had. He knew that his next project depended on how well his office performed existing assignments. The scope of work and fees for service were negotiated when it was his turn to get an assignment. "Sounds like an ideal situation for an entrepreneur." This was the way clients once approached professional businesses for services.

The new economy holds exciting times for many small businesses. Inadequate funding of projects, low bidding between professionals to get work, and keeping skilled staff and offices functioning with fast changing technologies, have not been easy challenges to meet. Founding principals, with large share holdings in firms with declining revenues and profits, took the decision to retired while their firms faced these challenges. This sometimes resulted in strained cash resources for normal operations, after large share buyouts by the firms. And don't forget the babyboomers, moving into the professions, opening new businesses and competing for fewer dollars and fewer clients with projects. Throughout all of this, a major recession struck hard at Canadians.

So what's this got to do with cabbages and professional services? And where do golf balls enter into the picture? Survival, that's what! Just as the noble cabbage has nourished humankind through four millennia, carefully planned marketing will carry professional service businesses through this time of transition to a new knowledge-driven economy.

As with business, the cabbage has short -- and long-term aspirations. It is a biennial that forms cabbage heads one year, and flowers the next. Left unharvested, the cabbage will bolt into an extended flowering stalk the second year, after cold weather. Some can be harvested for immediate nutrition, but some must be left to provide seed for future plantings. Like small businesses, the cabbage should be grown in fertile ground and tended with care.

Golf has become a booming industry, supported by merchandising and high profile promotion, new golf course development, and the boomers and their offspring who have raised the activity to one of high social esteem. Golf is an old, and new economy business that holds lessons to be learned by young entrepreneurs. Looking back over forty years to the success of a little boy selling golf balls in a growth market, helps illustrate the techniques to successfully market a small professional business.

Today, marketing is considered by many businesses to be as important as the very technology, or service that defines the operation. The shopping trip to the marketplace might be seen as a regular visit to sell quality cabbages.

If we think cabbages and golf balls, marketing can be fun, and definitely rewarding. Marketing generates new business, and reminds clients of past performance. Marketing is as enjoyable as the sweetest cabbage. This book is a philosophy of effective marketing techniques for small professional businesses. There is no attempt to define "small", as the term is relative to the economy and region within which the businesses are operating.

The book will make you think of cabbages and golf balls when someone mentions marketing. By the way, in the late eighties both the old engineer and his office passed painfully into history. To the very end, he disliked cabbage. But he did leave lessons to be learned.

Copies are available from A. Grant Lee at [email protected] or 905-877-5369

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