What if, you had the chance of starting over? What if you could reboot your business? What would you do differently? Theses are questions that I regularly ask small business owners, especially when I come across those that are struggling, stressed out and unhappy.
The answers I get range from, “I’d hire better people” to “I would not have tried to grow so fast”. Let’s not forget the commonly heard “I was happier when I got to do the stuff I liked doing”. Depending on the individual and their speciality, that could range from selling to working in the shop.
Keeping your foot to the floor
The reality of business ownership is that we are driven to build the company as fast as possible. Of course, that makes total sense as we need to generate revenue and get profitable as soon as we can, or we just don’t survive. Simple enough and it makes total sense.
Where the problem arises for many, is that they just keep their foot to floor, to steal a metaphor, and don’t back off once they hit that threshold of profitability. For others, the bigger they get, the less money they seem to make. At some point, they reach that tipping point whereby they’re just tired of chasing what seems to be an elusive goal and now feel trapped in a future of their own making.
So why is that? Well the answer is pretty simple. Everything we read, see or hear regarding entrepreneurial success is about growing your business. Everything is sensationalised. Rarely do we hear about the thousands upon thousands successful small business owners who are quite content with the size of their businesses and are not looking expand other than by organic growth. But they exist, they’re successful and they’re happy.
If you’re not growing, you’re dying!
I too wanted to build that empire. I was also caught up in the grow your business mentality, where the mantra “if you’re not growing, you’re dying” was the battle cry of the day. There’s a small bit of truth in that statement, in that your revenues should be growing annually, if nothing more than to keep up with inflation. But as with most of these statements, they’re always taken to the extreme, which put undue stress on an owner and their ability to keep up. For example, the current buzz words are that you need to “10x” your business or grow it 10 times the current size. Really? Why?
It took a while for me to ignore the hype and focus on what’s was important to me. What I came to realize was that I wasn’t prepared to make the personal sacrifices required to grow the company at all costs. My family and quality of life were my priorities.
That’s not to say I didn’t have any drive or ambition. On the contrary, but I was no longer in a rush and I came to enjoy the measured approach to growth, where I could have some degree of control over it. Put another way, I subscribed to the notion that “the journey is the destination”. Once I realized what was important to me, I found my level or balance if you wish.
You don’t have to ask for permission
So, when I hear the answers to the question – What would you do differently? I usually ask, what’s stopping you? Which usually stops the individual in their tracks. They really don’t have an answer. Oh, they say things like, I’ve got too much invested, or I can’t just fire these people. To which I respond, you can do whatever you want. Who’s stopping you and why can’t you?
Seriously, we have the control. We don’t have to ask permission of anyone. As owners we are not infallible. We make mistakes. We make mistakes in hiring. We make mistakes in our strategic planning. We make mistakes in the products or services we offer. We are human and no one has a crystal ball. Yet too many of us get trapped by past decisions. So, what’s stopping us from changing? Is it ego? I believe that’s part of it. Is it pride? Yup I believe that also part of it. However, I believe the biggest issue is fear. Fear that we might make the same mistake all over again. That’s certainly a risk, but frankly it’s a small risk because you’re far more knowledgeable than you used to be, and you now know what you don’t like. The alternative of course is to do nothing, and I can pretty much guarantee you’ll continue to be miserable.
The beauty about starting over is you already have a business, so you’re not really starting over. It’s more of a makeover and it doesn’t have to happen all at once. However, you do need a plan because without one, you risk ending up right back where you started. What that plan looks like varies by individual.
Don’t get paralyzed
Yes, this process can seem a little overwhelming, so you need to make sure you don’t get paralyzed with all the decisions you need to make. So, the first thing you need do, if you’re looking to morph your business into the one you want, is to make a list of everything you want to change. Be tough and list everything and everybody. The objective of making the list is not just to get organized, but to break down everything you want to do into bite sized pieces. This will make the whole process more manageable and also help feel like you’re making progress as you check off the items.
Now rank the items from urgent to less urgent. Don’t forget to include your own personal improvements on this list, because you’ll also need to do things differently than you have. Next, just start with the first item. Remember, some things can be done immediately, and some may take a little longer.
A common example I run into is having to let someone go. You’ve most likely been contemplating dismissing the individual for quite some time. You’ve probably been putting it off because you’re hoping that they’ll improve or, more likely, it’s because you just hate doing the deed. But the truth is that deep down inside, you know it’ll never work, so why wait any longer? To use the Nike slogan “Just Do It!”. Although you may not enjoy the process, the sooner it’s done, the sooner it’ll be in your rearview mirror and you won’t be stressing over it.
This whole process is about leadership. It’s about taking charge of your destiny, your future. Sometimes you lead from the front, sometimes you lead from the rear. This is one of those times you need to lead from the front, and you do so by taking action. No more hesitation. This is about your life and your happiness.
For example, I work with a number contractors in various trades. Many of them miss being “on the tools” as they like to say. For them it’s therapeutic and gets them away from the day-to-day running of the company. Unfortunately for most, their toolbelts are just hanging on the wall collecting dust. So, what I recommend to these individuals is to just schedule a few days a month where they strap on their toolbelts and go work on the job site. It’s that simple.
Do you miss the customer interaction because you’re too busy doing administrative duties? Then just schedule a couple of days to visit clients. The upside to getting out is that you may just discover missed opportunities with your existing customers.
Getting your business to align with your needs is easier than you think, because you have the power to make the changes you want. It just takes the sincere desire to make changes. If your goals have changed from when you first started, that’s ok, they’re your goals. You don’t need anybody’s permission to adjust course. If you do, I give you permission.
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