Every small business has "the elephant in the room." It might be you.
Sure, you want to grow and make more money. At least make more money. I mean, growth is isn't really a thing is it? You aren't required to do that - there's no rule. You never intended to have an empire, just a good living. Am I right?
Apparently. In spite of record economic prosperity in the U.S., many small business owners are still struggling to achieve permanent growth. Some things are out of our control, but the list of habits that drive self-inflicted stagnation is pretty long. Here are the ones I see most often:
- You are too busy with work now to develop work for later.
- Your solution to every problem is to hire the perfect person, but they never apply.
- You have a key employee that is already overworked - and you will never find another one like her.
- You have to spend money to make money, but you are waiting for a sure thing.
I could go on for pages. What these all have in common is we are hesitant to take risks so we wait for better choices to appear. What if the choices in front of you are the best you are going to get? How would you know?
The key to unleashing growth is to answer the question, Why? Why grow? What is the objective? Once you know that, then you can perhaps ignore choices that won't help you get there.
Self-help gurus always tell us to visualize success every day. Twenty years ago I followed that advice and taped a photograph on my office wall of a sailboat I wanted to buy. It was a reminder of what I was working for. I still don't have that boat. Was the technique a failure?
My employees didn't care if I got that boat. My family had more pressing needs, like food and such. The only person that boat mattered to was me. In other words, as an objective the sailboat only had the potential to change my behavior.
When you run your own business, it is difficult to separate your personal goals from business goals. For many of my clients, business is personal. Employees are family - figuratively and literally. Running the business is their life and livelihood. However, if we don't figure out how to draw a line between business and personal - we miss the opportunity to grow.
“Tom being able to come in and get my team to understand what growth meant and how growth could be achieved differently was critical to making this a success.”
This lovely testimonial from one of my clients does not tell the whole story. I may have contributed to the success, but the pivotal moment was when the owner finally expressed why growth mattered and what the company would do and would not do - to get there.
This is what you need to explain:
- Why are you in business?
- How do you make money at it?
- Who are your customers?
- What are your values?
There were things that needed to be fixed, people redirected, and processes changed - but none of that would make enough of a difference without these answers.
Without the clarity of his vision, no strategy could take root and tactics were therefore irrelevant.
I tell another story that illustrates this. I once had a young rebel working in my warehouse. He questioned everything, never wanted to do the work that needed to be done, and was basically a pain in the butt. One day I asked him to sweep the floors. He looked at me and asked why?
The parent in me wanted to scream, "Because I said so!" Instead, I replied, "We have clients coming in and we want them to think we are the kind of people that keep the warehouse clean."
He took the broom from me and said, "Then I guess you want me to clean those cobwebs in the corner too?" We understood one another better after that.
Do you want to protect your business from growth? It's easy. Keep your vision to yourself.