I own a beautiful three-year-old border collie named Shiner. You might be aware that border collies are supposed to be the brightest of all dogs, but that’s not the case with little Shiner. She’s very sweet, but she’s not so smart (she got skunked five times in six months). The bane of her existence is the Common Squirrel. She’s so busy chasing them (to our knowledge she’s never caught one) that she misses the more lucrative (to her) cats and deer that are in PLAIN SIGHT.

Her squirrel troubles remind me of some of the media salespeople I meet in my travels because they are squirrel chasers as well. They spend all of their time chasing little bitty accounts with acorn-sized budgets instead of focusing on the bigger ones, the ones that could really make them and their stations some money.

Squirrel chasers are busy, busy, busy! They have to be because it’s always the littlest accounts that require the majority of your time. Although they’re small, squirrels bark the loudest. They fight you on the rate. They complain the most about the times their commercials are running. They cancel for no reason at all. Their commercials have to be tweaked over and over. And…Uh oh! They’re late paying you AGAIN.

But you LOVE them because you think they’re cute and they are FASCINATING to watch. They are like family (a dysfunctional family). So, you pamper them. But as you mother them they can smother you. Your time is your greatest asset and squirrely accounts can take up a majority of your precious time.

I understand that squirrel-sized accounts can sometimes turn into medium-sized accounts and medium-sized accounts can turn into big accounts. But often they don’t. Many just stay the same, driving you crazy as you chase after them while they chase their own tails in a hypnotic but downward spiraling pattern.

The owner of a Chinese restaurant (squirrel) once killed our production director. I still feel like I was an unwitting accomplice because I should have seen it coming. After spending an incredible amount of time landing the squirrel, the real trouble began. He complained about everything. Nothing we did was right for him. We redid his commercial seven or eight times. Our production director Bill, a former Voice of America announcer, did a beautiful job reading the final script. But while I was playing the commercial to the client, the client insulted Bill’s reading. “Paul, the script is good, but I hope you can find somebody MORE PROFESSIONAL to read it. Bill became so angry he turned beet-red and then he died of an aneurysm. I’m not kidding. And to top it all off, the client wound up canceling a week after the schedule started. See? Squirrels can be bad for your health.

My advice quit hoarding squirrels. Let some of them go (in somebody else’s yard?). Instead of chasing squirrels, become a Big Game Hunter. Concentrate on big ideas for bigger businesses that can actually afford to run real schedules, clients that will actually buy you long-term instead of week-to-week. Come on, accounts with bigger budgets need your help just as much or more than the squirrels do. You’ll learn to love big accounts even more than you used to love your little squirrely ones.

You’ll be surprised at how much easier and more lucrative your job becomes when you clear the squirrels out of your attic. Bigger accounts pay more, they actually tend to take up less of your time and they don’t chew up your lawn furniture.