About this time in 2009, we began planning to exhibit at the annual National Restaurant Association trade show in Chicago. We paid to rent a booth, began the process of designing a backdrop and our collateral, and started the 5-month process of getting ready for the show. Fast forward to early June, and we had spent hundreds of hours planning for + attending the show, and around $15,000, and we didn’t have much to show for it. It was a total waste. A complete failure. I still shutter at the thought.
We’ve written here and here about why we no longer attend trade shows, so I won’t dive back down that well again. But one thing worth considering before you make a big decision that will require significant amounts of your time and/or dollars is, “What else could we do with the hours it will take do complete this project and/or the money it will cost us?”
We never asked that question in 2009, and frankly had we done so at the time we may have said “We’d do exactly what we are doing with that time and money. This is the right thing to do!” We thought that then, we later realized we had been wrong, and now we know we will never make the same mistake. But having been through that process, and making other mistakes with time and money over the years, I think we are pretty good now at stopping ourselves before we proceed with any significant commitment.
We rarely do anything now that costs much money, outside of investing in our hardware and software on the back end. But on occasion we still have new product ideas – additional tools that would be “very cool!” Fortunately, we always realize quickly that the new feature we are considering today will wind up taking tons of hours to build, add to our support levels, could confuse customers, could water down our core solution (make restaurant scheduling and communication easy), and so on.
Nevertheless, if we ever again get started down a road that leads to spending hundreds of hours of time and $15,000, I guarantee we’ll ask the most important question we could possibly ask before proceeding: “How else could we spend those hours and that $15,000?” In our case, the answer would probably be, “The hours could be spent with our families and the $15,000 could be divided amongst our team, and we can just keep doing what we are doing.”
How will you answer that question the next time you have a chance to?
P.s. I’m not anti-trade shows – just anti-trade shows for Schedulefly. They can be a good investment for some companies. I have friends who swear by them. They just aren’t the right fit for a small company selling $40/month subscriptions to a web-based software. Or at least not for this one.