How to Handle Squirrels and Elephants

By John Fincher

I have to credit my friend Nick Boyd for giving me the title for this article. We were having lunch together and I mentioned how home-runs in business are great, but you had better work on some singles too. That’s when he said, “you sometimes have squirrels and you sometimes have elephants.” 

The question is – how do you handle the squirrels as opposed to handling the elephants? The short and simple answer is – the same!  If you treat your smallest client (squirrel) like your biggest client (elephant) maybe someday the small one will grow to be an elephant. Even if they never become an elephant, they are capable of referring you to their elephant friends and business contacts.  

However, when looking at the return on investment (ROI) when working with a squirrel, you might be feeling that it is a huge waste of time. In fact, in my industry, sometimes the smaller companies are the most difficult to work with because they have never been through the process and they need extra care and attention. The short term ROI can be fairly dismal.

In looking at the long-term ROI, I switch back to the baseball analogy because four consecutive singles (squirrels) will always produce a run at the plate – the same as the lowest output for a homerun (elephant). In fact, statistically you could say that by handling the four squirrels I now have three additional referral sources than I would with the one elephant. I have now increased my odds of being referred to an elephant business owner who I need to meet.

There are also things you will learn through the deal process with the squirrels. In fact, you could be learning up to three times more information in working with four squirrels as with the one elephant. The challenge is in juggling the squirrel time and the elephant time. Sometimes we need to look for areas of our work that can be delegated or even given to someone else to free up time. Wouldn’t you end up with more dollars if you were able to maintain just 10% of the value of the four squirrel deals because you paid someone else to handle them while it enabled you the bandwidth to handle all of the elephant deal? 

In my business I have been fortunate to have deals of many sizes – singles, doubles, triples and homeruns. I would hope that all of them would say, “He treated me like I was his only client.”  How are you handling your squirrels and your elephants?