Even if you lose, you win

Reinforce your position even if you don’t win the work

A friend once told me he was significantly lowering his prices in an effort to win a bid on a new project.

“Great,” I said, without the supportive tone he was looking for. “So even if you win, you lose?”

He was silent for a moment, and, I assume, made a mental note of not discussing these things with me in the future.

“I guess so,” he said.

People set themselves up for failure all the time.

They lower their prices, so that even if they win the business, they lose money, which they will never get back.

They bend their timelines to fit impossible deadlines, guaranteeing disaster that they’ll get blamed for.

Or they think they’ll take this initial bad job, full of red flags, because it could “turn into something else.” It never will, and after the initial disaster, they wouldn’t want it to, anyway.

If there are red flags during the sales process, if the project seems doomed from the start, those issues won’t suddenly go away once there’s money, expectations, committees, and deadlines involved.

Real professionals don’t take on work they aren’t confident they can succeed at — that’s for amateurs and grifters.

Instead, true professionals are adept at creating opportunities where, even if they lose, they win.


By sticking to their prices and negotiating on scope, not cost. Even if they lose the bid, they’ve reinforced their value and expertise.

By sticking to realistic timelines. Even if they don’t get the work, they’ve shown that they actually know how long something takes, because they have experience.

By only taking jobs that are worth taking in and of themselves. A disastrous job that was poorly budgeted and planned never miraculously transforms into a second, better job.

By recommending people who are better suited to work that isn’t right for them. Even if they’re not a great fit, they’re a hero for recommending someone who is.

Because a sustainable, profitable business doesn’t happen by accident. And it will never happen if you jump at every supposed “opportunity” just because it’s there. As Alan Weiss said, “Something is not better than nothing. Some things are worse than nothing because they cost you money.”

Just because you’re being offered a money-losing, time-wasting, stress-inducing, doomed-to-fail project—with a promise of future disastrous jobs down the road—that doesn’t mean you have to take it.

Instead, make sure you know your market position so you can constantly reinforce it.

Make sure you know your value so you can price consistently.

And make sure you know what you’re working toward, so you don’t get distracted by every shiny object that passes by.

Further Reading:
On being busy, but broke.
You paid the fare—make sure you arrive.

If you don’t have confidence in your market position, I’d love to chat it out: joelkelly@hey.com

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