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Nick Howe, NatWest Regional Enterprise Manager, London The ABM is delighted to post Nick’s blog following his fantastic speech on breaking down the barriers to women in enterprise at the ABM London conference in April. Check out some great infographics here to support his blog! Up to £250 billion could be added to the UK. Read more Read more

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Member Articles

Is £199 the price of the world’s most expensive cup of coffee?

Gary King (ABM Regional Head for Yorkshire and Managing Director of Tendo)


I am regularly asked whether I practice what I preach. I can tell you the answer is categorically yes.

The other question I’m asked (when running three businesses) is how on earth I get done everything I need to without working 70+ hours a week.  It’s simple – I don’t have any dead time in my diary.

But what’s the link to the world’s most expensive coffee? Let me explain.

I advised a business owner recently who was struggling to deliver everything she needed to without working ridiculous hours and at the same time make enough money.  We analysed how she spent her time and identified that she attended a fortnightly networking event 40 miles away from the office which, when we calculated her desired hourly rate, was costing her over £1,000 a month in lost opportunities and actual costs.  I asked whether she was getting this level of return/ new business out of the group and she wasn’t, so it became an easy decision to stop going.

The business owner commented that no one had ever made her put a value on her time. Yet that’s something I am really clear about, and the reason why £199 is the price I charge when someone wants to “just grab a coffee and pick your brains”.

I have written before about the differences between suspects and prospects, (click to read my blog on the subject) how to spot the different types and what to do about them.  Charging for my time is a simple way to weed out those who have no interest in engaging my services, but just want to quiz me for tips and anecdotes to help them with their business challenges.

Since I introduced this, my conversion ratio has rocketed and I have saved countless hours by not wasting my time meeting the wrong people and chasing them up about next steps when they are not interested. Those that pay are taking me and their growth aspirations seriously.

The time saved allows me to nail the other things that need doing so I don’t have to eat into my evenings and weekends.

Now let me be clear.  Having a coffee with somebody to understand what and why we do what we do, to see if there are any mutual opportunities, or to build relationships and understand what each other are looking for is totally fine.  I schedule these kinds of meetings based on a mutual understanding of what is expected and prioritise them to suit my workload.

If you know me, you’ll know I’m a sociable kind of guy and I don’t need my arm twisting too much to be persuaded to build strong, lasting relationships over coffee or even something a little stronger.

But the people who will steal your time are those that do not understand or appreciate that for a service business, time is money.  I often think that because they are not walking away with a tangible product in hand (equipment, printing etc), they think that you should be offering your time to provide advice for free.

I have to be laser-focused to deliver for my clients and juggle my home life so that everything fits into a reasonable number of hours.

So my diary doesn’t contain any speculative coffees with people asking to pick my brains, only meetings with business owners looking to build relationships, engage my services, or who are serious about valuing my time and the advice I can give, whether or not that leads to us working together in the long term.

£199 might not be the most expensive coffee in the world (see this link for some of the leading contenders…) but if you start charging those who “just want to pick your brains”, you’ll see an immediate increase in your conversion rates and/ or you’ll have more time in your working week to do higher value tasks.  What’s not to like about that?!

For more hints and tips to help you build your business, why not join our thriving FREE Facebook Group, Business Squad?  We share weekly live video training, tools and techniques to help you grow and you can connect with like-minded business owners.

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