Mining Your Hidden Assets

The hugely popular online auction site eBay is fond of telling it’s customers: “Did you know the average person has £1,000 in sellable items just sitting around the house? Just imagine what you could do with the extra cash!”

That’s the average person. I have a friend, a housewife, actually, who married young, never had a job outside the home, had no higher education, had three kids, and suddenly found herself completely on her own after her faithless husband simply abandoned her one day, never to return. She was in a tough position with three children to feed, a mortgage to pay, groceries to buy. It was a dire situation indeed. I’m just going to refer to her as “Helen.”

In desperation, Helen started selling everything she had on eBay. It turns out that she had more than the “average” of £1,000 of sellable items – partially because when you need money, everything becomes a sellable item if it will put food on the table.

Well, within two months, my friend Helen had sold more than £5,000 worth of stuff from her home, and her garage! Of course, she had to cut deeply into all the “stuff” she had accumulated through 11 years of marriage. Like all households, there was a lot of “extra” electronic items. She sold an extra TV from her bedroom, a couple of radios, a stereo in the kids’ bedroom that they never seemed to use. After she sold all the obvious stuff, she started searching through her garage, which hadn’t been thoroughly cleaned for a couple of years. It was jammed with items that she or her family had hardly ever used, redundant furniture, camping equipment, even a lawn mower. She sold a set of tools, car spares – just a wide variety of stuff.

When her garage had been cleaned out to the bare essentials, she started searching through her attic. Here she struck gold! Her husband had been a collector of all kinds of arcane stuff, and she found a box of original photographic prints taken of Native Americans that dated back to the 1890s. These fetched a pretty price on eBay. She found a lot of other “junk” as well, including some glazed pots she thought was worthless, but turned out to be very collectible and brought in nearly £500.

But after two months, and some £5000 in sales later, Helen finally ran out of things to sell. She had finally exhausted her personal cache of hidden assets, much of which she never knew she had. But by the time she got done selling all this stuff, she had become a veritable eBay professional. She learned all the tips, tricks and strategies of selling on eBay, and getting the best results. Armed with her new skill, Helen began seeking out other items to sell, and began frequenting garage sales, flea markets, rummage sales and second-hand shops. Her sharp eye and intuition about what she could “buy low and sell high” helped her keep her sales efforts going. Though she was working 14 hours a day – buying, selling, packaging, shipping, managing her sales finances – she was pulling in about £1,500 a month, just barely enough to pay the mortgage, household bills and keep her children fed.

Helen opened her own eBay store, sold all kinds of items, but began to specialize in antique clocks. She told me that because there is such a wide variety of antiques, it’s best to concentrate on just one item, learn everything you can about it, and create a niche for yourself in that area. She continued to improve her bottom line, month-by-month – but she still was barely making it, even though she was now averaging about £2,000 a month in sales – but she still had expenses and had to pay taxes on her earnings, so she wasn’t getting rich by any means.

Then one day something serendipitous happened. A friend of a friend called her up who had an item he had invented, and he wanted to market it on eBay, but he didn’t know the first thing about computers, much less how to set up his own eBay selling account. She agreed to go over and help him set up an eBay store for his product. She spent about three hours getting him started – and when she was done, he promptly wrote her a check for £150 – £50 an hour for her eBay consulting work.

Consulting! Helen had never thought of that! And £50 per hour! That’s very good pay! So Helen purchased a small ad in a local supermarket, advertising Investigations services herself as an online auction consultant. The ad produced enough calls to keep her busy for the next two weeks. It turns out there are hundreds of people who had heard about eBay, had always wanted to start buying and selling on eBay, but just didn’t know how to get started. Most of them just wanted to learn the very basics – Helen helped them all at a rate of £50 an hour.

Over the next year, Helen had earned about £40,000 as an eBay consultant – almost twice as much as her faithless husband had brought home with his job. Talk about a woman who landed on her feet! She took the tragic situation of being abandoned by her husband and found a way to not only pay the mortgage, feed and clothe her children – but to thrive!

Here’s the moral of this true story: Everybody has assets, hidden assets, whether they realize it or not. Helen first discovered her most basic assets – the clutter and accumulation of “junk” around her house, which was just waiting to be converted to cash. But then she discovered her greatest asset – her own mind and talent. If this “desperate housewife” managed to find so much wealth right under her nose, imagine the hidden assets the average business owner has lying dormant, just waiting to be discovered with a new way of looking at things.

The thing is, an existing business shouldn’t have to await a crisis before they discover the true potential that may be buried at this moment within their own operations. It’s amazing how many businesses that I consult with turn out to have mountains of “dead weight” sitting in their warehouses or in backroom storage areas. Most often, it’s a product that didn’t sell well initially, so they just backed off on the item. Most of the time the product didn’t sell because it was priced too high, yet the company could not sell at a lower price and make a profit – so they get stuck with it.

Well, even if it means a net loss, it’s far better to “clear” the item – sell it off at a loss and create some cash flow for the business, and also clear out the storage area to that it can be put to more productive use. Sometimes unsold stuff can be traded with another company for something else that’s needed. Or, the unsold stuff can be given away as a free premium with another more profitable item as a way to stimulate sales. There’s almost always a way to turn lemons into lemonade – but what it takes is an open mind and a willingness to see possibilities where there outwardly seems to be none.

Another great example is the customer data base. Many sellers have been plugging along for years, selling products, collecting the data of the people they sell, to the point of eventually creating a truly deep list of qualified customer names – these lists are not only valuable to the company that created them, but may be of extreme value to another company. Creating Joint Ventures with a noncompeting but complementary business is a classic tactic that can explode profits overnight. Each business gets access to the others customer database – more customers and more sales for each.

Again, a customer database is an asset. Most companies have them. But are they using them in creative ways? Are they treating them like the true powerful assets that they are?

But of all your assets, your very greatest asset is yourself – your mind. Think again of my friend Helen. She found herself in a very tight corner. It forced her to look inward, and look very closely to home to find out what she really had. Happily, she found out that she had a lot more than she thought she did. Even better she found out that her own creativity, hard work and need was all she needed to create a brighter future for herself and her children.

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