The majority of us small businesses owners find ourselves in one of two conditions.
We are either trapped in a lackluster life that’s “okay,” or we are languishing in a state of near-perpetual stress and exhaustion. Neither condition is what we had in mind when we began business.
Neither condition is what we had in mind when we began business.
The original idea was to be our own boss, to build income and wealth and independence and pride-of-ownership, all of which would flow from creating, owning and running a business.
We accepted the difficulties in the early years as “challenges” to be overcome, and we offset those challenges with excitement and enthusiasm for the new venture. But it’s been years now, the excitement and enthusiasm have worn off, and the endless cascade of day to day challenges isn’t fun anymore. They consume our time and thoughts and are at best exhausting and at worst threatening. There is no end in sight.
Something has to change, but what? And how do we begin?
In order to change, we have to want to change, and by “want to change,” I don’t mean the “wouldn’t it be nice if...” type of want. I mean the “disgusted” type of want.
The powerful, negative emotions of disgust canovermatchthe fear of change and the inertia of the status quo.
Jim Rohn, my favorite business philosopher, says “disgust” is a most powerful and useful word. “Disgust is a negative emotion,” he says, “but it can have a life-changing, positive effect.” The power of disgust is its capacity to drive us finally to say: “Enough. I’ve had it. I’m not going to take it anymore.” The powerful, negative emotions of disgust can overmatch the fear of change and the inertia of the status quo.
Transforming disgust into resolve is one way to stimulate change, but it’s not the only way.
The excitement and passion for a renewed and compelling vision of something we want rather than something we don’t want can provide the necessary incentive as well. It seems that most of us understand that concept, yet few of the small business owners I meet can even begin to describe a vision for the future. They have lost sight of the reason they began business.
Pain or pleasure. Either or both, the question is how to begin changing away from one and toward the other?
Taking the First Steps
The first step toward positive change is always to write out a clear vision of what we want. It might be a vision of a life free of disgust, or it might be a vision of renewed, invigorating purpose and goals, or, even better, it might be a combination of the two.
We will not put out the effort to change without motivation, and that motivation must come from a clear vision of what we want. If you don’t have a vision for your business and future, start here.
We will not put out the effort to change without motivation, and that motivation must come from a clear vision of what we want.
Okay we have a compelling vision, now what? How do we begin to make it real?
It is tempting to think in terms of broad, sweeping change to transform our businesses and lives quickly and in one broad stroke.
That might work, but not likely. Absent disaster, (or a lottery win), change doesn’t often happen that way. Effecting change is a habit. It is a process of small, incremental, unwavering change for the better.
The process is to identify the obstacles that hold us back. Things like:
❏ Lack of time ❏ Lack of qualified people ❏ Lack of profit ❏ Lack of cash ❏ Lack of sales ❏ Marketing ❏ Organization ❏ Accounting ❏ Money ❏ Processes ❏ Lack of planning ❏ Mindset (ours and our teams’) ❏ Distractions (email, phone calls, customers, bankers, purchasing, scheduling, and so on) ❏ Lack of clear goals ❏ Lack of trust in others (money) ❏ Lack of trust in others (business judgment) ❏ No successor ❏ Other
As we read through the list, there is little doubt that many of us will be looking for the “all of the above” checkbox.
Go ahead, and check all the boxes if they apply, but as Gary Keller, author of “The One Thing” says, there is always ONE THING that if improved will have the greatest impact on your life and business. Choose that thing and get to work on it.
Maybe (undoubtedly?) you’re lacking what “The EMyth” author Michael Gerber describes as time to work “on” rather than “in” your business. If that’s you, make time your priority and get to work making time to manage your time.
Maybe you spend all of your time chasing cash. That might be because you don’t understand where your cash goes, or because you need to establish a cash reserve (and yes you do need a cash reserve).
Maybe your most pressing problem is that you’re not organized. All of your people are on their own making judgments about what to do by when, and each doing things his or her own way. It’s hard to trust a team that doesn’t know your expectations or standards, and it’s hard to delegate to people you don’t trust.
Maybe you don’t know your numbers: your margins or breakeven or future cash requirements or your net worth. You’ve been making all of your decisions based on gut feel without any important financial facts. Your one thing is to acquire and understand important financial concepts.
Maybe, your issue is attracting qualified leads who will pay your price. Customers buy from you, but only if you offer the lowest price. Your sales are up, you're working harder than ever before, but the profit and the cash aren’t there. Your one thing is to give customers reasons, other than price, to buy from you.
Maybe, you need a business coach to help choose your one thing and to provide information and accountability to keep you on task.
There is always ONE THING that if improved will have the greatest impact on your life and business.
And maybe you get the idea. Enduring change begins with a commitment to relentless, incremental progress. It requires us always to concentrate on and improve the one issue that will have the greatest effect on our businesses and lives.
How about you?
Do you have a compelling vision for your business and life? What are you working toward? What things are holding you back? Which among them is the most important - right now?