Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Poor Businessman?

I was sitting out on the deck having a cup of coffee and thinking about my day. I was a chamber of commerce manager for nearly thirty years representing businesses and doing business. When I had a chance to become an agent I immediately saw there was little difference between representing businesses to other businesses, to suppliers, to government, in all sort of relationships, and representing authors in their relationships, primarily to publishers.

It was like I had been training for thirty years to do the job. But the question that came to my mind over my coffee cup was “as an agent do I make some decisions or choices that are not good business decisions?” I don’t know . . . maybe.”

First, business is necessarily about making a profit. Since I’ve started working as an agent it has been more about trying to help good authors, almost exclusively Christian authors, get their words our there where they will serve the Lord than it has been about money. I’m good with that decision, but is it a good business decision?

I know a lot of agents and editors don’t necessarily answer everyone that submits to them. It takes a huge amount of time, but I do, every one of them. Do I waste a lot of time that way? It’s something I really have to do, but is it a good business decision?

I require all of my clients to be in an online client group so I have the ability to contact all of them at one time but they can choose to only receive such priority messages or to be in the group that can interface with one another which they do . . . a lot. I’ve been told I interface with that group too much, again wasting a lot of time. I like being close to my clients, but is it a bad business decision?

When I took a test at a conference to see how to use what talents I might have for the Lord I came up with three special gifts, writing, music, and the gift of encouragement. I go to a lot of conferences primarily as a use of that gift of encouragement, but even though most pay expenses they cost money anyway and many of them are a straight expense. I’ve gotten most of my clients from conference contacts but for the number of clients that I have, am I spending too much there? Is the number of conferences that I do a poor business decision?

Our agency doesn’t charge any money up front but we do have the ability to charge back telephone, postage and copy expenses. I don’t, I’m not happy charging such things to authors unless I have first made them some money. Another poor business decision? 

I don’t represent profanity or content that I’m not comfortable having my name associated with. I’ve turned down some projects that I could have made some substantial money on for just this reason. It’s a decision I’m comfortable with as a Christian agent, but is it a good business decision?

Better than 80% of my clients have published or contracted since they signed with me, but after we exhausted the more lucrative contacts we got some of them started by going to small publishers. Chances are I won’t even recover expenses on many of these, particularly if we count my time worth anything, but we’re building writing credits on them and I hope they will pay off in the future. A good business decision?

I smile as my coffee cup is now empty. Am I a poor businessman? Maybe so, but as I get up to come back in here and get to work I smile . . . is it possible for that to be true and me still be a good agent? My clients are happy that I’m doing my very best for them. Maybe that’s the only measure that really matters.

What do you think?


Jody said...

I think as Christians our actions don't always look business savvy by the world's definition, but as we try to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit, His purpose is accomplished.

I've been told I have the gift of an encourager, so I know how you feel about some of those decisions. Does it help to know that I feel that my calling is in the best hands possible? And that I thank God every day that you are my agent?

You "lay down your life" in a way, and I know you'll be rewarded. Thanks, Terry.

Cynthia Howerter said...

What do I think? I think the Lord is smiling on you.

Dee Yoder said...

Terry, your smile is a sign you're happy being the kind of businessman you are--and I'm happy being a client who can truly say you have integrity and a person who works hard for his clients. I appreciate that in you. And you recognize the Lord in your work and life, so what could be better?