Building (and growing) a Fun business: Enough is Enough
Everything we’ve been taught about business growth is a myth
More is not necessarily better
Over the years, I have been on a journey in my thinking about entrepreneurship. Part of this has involved noticing a nagging feeling that I later realised was coming from a deep discomfort around the business world’s obsession with growth.
My second book is called “The Ten Truths for making your business grow” [you can download it for free here]. Whenever I re-read sections of this work, I still come away feeling excited and pleased with the content. However, pausing on the term “great growth company”, specifically, makes me realise that I have stopped believing in the business growth myth and the entrepreneurial model.
Here’s what I now believe to be true:
A business doesn’t have to grow to be healthy.
Enough is a good place to be.
The myth sounds something like this: Every healthy business must grow and a business that doesn’t grow, dies.
This is a foundation principle of business, capitalism and society at large. Every business coach, guru, mentor, consultant, author, academic and MBA student will tell you this. I admit that until not long ago, I sang from the same songbook too.
Today, I realise that the principle sounds good but is wrong… quite wrong. I am reminded of the quote by American journalist HL Mencken, “For every complex human problem, there is a plausible solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.”.
I don’t know who first stated that businesses must grow (and by extension, that more growth is better than less growth), but I do know that this “rule” is dangerous rubbish that has caused all kinds of damage to business owners, their families, their friends and society.
In fact, I think the idea that a business must grow or else it will fail exists alongside a number of other nonsensical notions on which we base the management of our society, such as celebrity worship culture and the basic belief that nothing is ever enough.
In the 21st century, we are never: thin enough, rich enough, good enough parents, educated enough, successful enough, beautiful enough, clever enough. And we are definitely never good enough as business owners. Well, unless we get to sell our business for $100 million or more.
The list of role models that we are told we must aspire to usually includes grass-roots entrepreneurs turned gazillionaires, such as Richard Branson, Steve Jobs or Larry Page. Don’t get me wrong, I think these are all amazing individuals, but I know many other people who are just as inspiring, yet they will never become billionaires (probably not even millionaires).
My Favourite Client
I have a client who is a plumber. He has three vans and employs three people. He might end up hiring one or two more people and having one or two more vans over the next few years but that’s probably where he will stop growing. He may continue to operate his plumbing business for the next 20 to 30 years and then, possibly, one of his kids or employees might take over. In any case, someone will probably run the same business in almost the same format and size for the bulk of this century and beyond.
His business isn’t dying, though. Far from it.
My client’s business is providing him, his family, his employees and their families with a good, meaningful and rewarding life – a life that allows him to feel proud, look after the people he cares about and do the stuff he wants to do.
In my eyes, this is a perfect model of a business that sustains the owner and everyone in the business and will do so for years to come.
The Little Voice
Now, I haven’t talked about this with my client specifically, but I can guarantee there is a small part of him, the little voice in his ear, the famous critic on his shoulder (mine is called Ted, by the way. What’s yours?), who will be whispering:
“You suck as a business owner.”
“You obviously aren’t fit to polish a true entrepreneur’s boots because a proper business owner would be well on his way to dominating Australia with offices and operations everywhere, ready for a lucrative take-over by Lend Lease or some other conglomerate like that.”
What does your little voice whisper to you in the quiet moments?
We are told by all the self-help gurus, business coaches and entrepreneurs who have already “made it” that we have to have an “abundance mindset” and that there are unlimited growth opportunities offering unlimited money for everyone.
All we have to do is think right and have the right attitude: “Screw It, Let’s Do It”, as the title of one of Richard Branson’s books suggests, and you too shall have an island in the Bahamas!
Allow me to be blunt: You will not have an island in the Bahamas, and nor will I, but you know something? That is perfectly okay. Who needs all that sun, sand and sea without 4G mobile reception anyway, right?!
Brene Brown says, in her book “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead”, that the opposite of scarcity is not abundance. She states that scarcity and abundance are, in fact, two sides of the same coin. Instead, the opposite of scarcity is enough, or sufficiency.
And it is. In time, my client’s plumbing business will enable him to employ a full-time admin assistant and then spend two days per week no longer “on the tools”. This will probably be “enough” growth for him.
That doesn’t mean the business goes to sleep and stagnates. There are all sorts of things that can be improved and run more smoothly. There are efficiencies to be gained and his people can get better. The business can steadily become more profitable as well. The challenges don’t stop, life doesn’t stop, but business growth can.
The Abundance Fantasy
When we are told to let go of our scarcity beliefs and embrace the abundance mindset, we are sold a fantasy. The pressure to embrace this mentality sets us up to feel bad about ourselves. It sets us up for failure and shame.
There is only room for one Richard Branson and one Donald Trump on this earth. 99.99999999999% of the rest of us are not going to become billionaires.
Neither you nor I will likely sell our businesses for $100 million. This book may end up being read by 100,000 people, for example, and it is possible there might be one or two in that group who will sell their business for some enormous amount of money. The rest of us will simply arrive at the end of our lives and have to find another way to measure how well we’ve done with the 75 years (hopefully more!) we were given.
The Entrepreneurial Myth
The entrepreneurial myth has done us all a lot of damage. We walk around with feelings of inadequacy, guilt and shame because deep down we know that we are not going to be the next celebrity entrepreneur and wealthy venture capitalists are not going to stake us with a few million dollars, only to cash out a few years later.
Enough is a great place to be. As Brene Brown says in her first TED talk, “You are enough.”
Your Homework (The Fun Kind)
So, I want to encourage you to ask yourself what “enough” looks like. What constitutes “enough” for you in your business? What do you need to achieve in your business that would mean you would be content with your achievements?
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Next Month, I’ll be talking about what next and how to make it all come together for you in your business
One of the greatest business management books of the last 20 years is called “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. The book explores what makes average companies become great, and a number of the conclusions translate just as well into the world of small business. In particular, I have seen time and time again with clients, friends, colleagues and in my own business that what Jim Collins refers to as the “Hedgehog Principles” are the absolute foundations upon which to build a Fun Business (and a business that sustains you for years to come).
The Big Question of Small Business: Purpose, Passion and Profit
I call it The Big Question of Small Business: Why does your business exist and why would anybody care? The answer is all about the three Ps: Purpose, Passion and Profit.
Jim Collins in his book talks about the simplicity and single-mindedness of the hedgehog.
In order to stay alive, hedgehogs do one thing really well: roll up into a spikey ball when under attack. They do this over and over again, never tempted to vary their approach. The Hedgehog Principles state that a long-term successful business must be able to answer three questions unequivocally and, like the humble hedgehog, never waiver from its commitment to the answers. The three questions are about Purpose, Passion and Profit and together they combine into the one big question I mentioned above, The Big Question of Small Business and
Many businesses can answer one of the three, some can answer two, but very few can satisfy all three. Long-term sustainable success is absolutely dependent on there being complete clarity for all three questions at once.
1) Purpose: A Fun Business Strives to be the Best in the World at ‘Something’
Question 1: What will we strive to be the best in the world at, day in and day out, without fail?
In the 21st century, it is simply not good enough to answer this question the way most business owners do:
“I give really good customer service.”
“My prices are fantastic.”
“I provide great products and services.”
Why? Because all of your competitors are saying exactly the same thing. Customers want to know what makes you different to everyone else. If you don’t clearly communicate the answer to the first Hedgehog Question, you are essentially leaving it in your customers’ hands to work out what sets you and your competition apart.
Oh, and I know it might feel a little unrealistic to aim to be “the best plumber in the world”, but you can sure as hell strive to be the best plumber in your world (perhaps your suburb) and for your narrow niche or sub-speciality.
Remember, customers always want to know what’s in it for them.
2: Passion: A Fun Business is Passionate About That ‘Something’
Question 2: What are we absolutely passionate about and will happily jump out of bed for, day in and day out, year after year?
Many business authors have written about the importance of this question:
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek (It All Starts with Why)
It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For – Roy Spence
There is no doubt that there is deep truth in these statements. People want to know what you stand for: your core values and beliefs. It is this information, more than anything else, that helps them decide to do business with you over your competitors.
You can be passionate about so many things in relation to your business: making people smile, being a trendsetter, helping people achieve their dreams, building partnerships, or even seeing people improve their diet. These are passions that can be clearly connected to and expressed in the purpose of your business, and customers will understand why they’d want to do business with you.
If you don’t care about your business then your customers certainly won’t either, so you must honestly consider what gets you out of bed in the morning and how that relates to what your business does. Oh, and let me give you a hint: your passion for making money won’t do as the answer to this question (sorry!).
I promise, if your passion and your business purpose coincide, you will find it so much easier to take the next steps to building a Fun Business that sustains you for years to come.
Remember, it’s not what you sell, it’s what you stand for.
3: Profit: A Fun Business Makes Sustainable Profits from That ‘Something’
Question 3: How can we create a long-term sustainable economic model around the answers that we gave to questions one and two?
This question is actually more complicated than it seems, and most businesses never really sit down to work it out properly.
Firstly, just because we are passionate about something and we are the best in the world at delivering that something doesn’t guarantee we can build a business out of it: Is there enough of a market to win consistent work in your area? Do you need to expand into other complementary services or build a flexible team that can manage peaks and troughs in demand?
Secondly, a business must make money to survive. How much money the business needs to make is a complex question to answer. Your business will likely need to provide for your financial needs, and it will also need to make enough profit to provide a return on investment to the shareholders or investors (even if that’s just you and your financial input). A business also needs funds to grow – actual cash that you can use to pay your bills. Businesses in a growth phase will be particularly thirsty for cash and the best way to quench it is by having profits.
Thirdly, it’s important to think about your business’ ability to generate steady long-term profit and cash flow. In other words, if you don’t think about the sustainability of your business model, you might end up with a flash in the pan. A good rule of thumb is to ensure that your business is not reliant on one customer for more than 10% of its revenue.
Finally, the last reason why a business must make profit: Making money is a lot of fun. It is simply a heap of fun to make money and to see the balance sheet grow!
Remember, a business that doesn’t generate profits and cash is a hobby.
Your Homework (The Fun Kind)
If you make sustainable profits from doing something you are passionate about and committed to being the best in the world at, all the steps towards building a Fun Business will fall into place – I promise. And the way I see it, if you are not in business to have a lot of fun then I suggest you find an easier way to make a living!
Still eager to stick with this messy-and-tricky-yet-incredibly-fun entrepreneurial stuff? Ask yourself the following question today:
What first steps can I take in the next few weeks to focus my business on the three Hedgehog Questions?
The reality is that most small business owners operate in a constant state of overwhelm and stress. We feel that, at some level, our skills don’t cut the mustard, and we often have no idea where to focus our (very) limited time when faced with seemingly endless priorities.
Sound familiar? This is why “Fun in Business” matters. If your business is fun, you won’t be overwhelmed. If your business is fun, everything is working: you’ve got time to do the things you enjoy, your staff are happy, you’re making money. Need I say more to entice?
Let me show you why Fun is an incredibly powerful business management tool that helps you build a business that lasts, sustainably.
Fun Is the Way Out of Overwhelm
Fun may seem like a very strange and whimsical concept to focus on when we’re talking about growing a business. After all, isn’t fun reserved for time spent socialising at the pub or lazing about on tropical islands? Events that happen outside of business hours. Experiences that are paid for by your business, but otherwise entirely unrelated.
Perhaps not. In fact, I believe that Fun in Business is actually a hard-nosed business management principle. It is that deep sense of reward and satisfaction you get to feel as a result of building a business that hums along like a well-oiled machine.
Anyone else tired of focusing on all the serious stuff? The things that get drummed into us by patronising business management books and gurus? IT systems, contracts, staff management, sales and cashflow are all very important things, of course, but – in my humble opinion – they’re not where we must start.
We must start with fun. Why? Because if your business is fun, it means you
are making money
have enough time to do what you need to do
are proud of the stuff your business makes or delivers
know exactly where you’re going and why
have happy customers
have engaged staff
have balance in your life.
In the beginning, when we are first getting started in our business, there is usually a high level of that kind of fun around. Everything is new, exciting, adventurous and challenging. However, after a while, the real world comes rudely a-knocking and we suddenly find that
we aren’t making as much money as we thought we were going to
we haven’t been able to take our daughter to soccer training
our clients haven’t all become our greatest fans
our staff aren’t the perfectly aligned human beings that we expect them to be.
When this realisation sets in, we start to feel like we have become a slave to the business. We get worried that the light at the end of the tunnel may not be sunshine.
We try telling ourselves that “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and we “have to take the rough with the smooth” because, like Churchill said, “Never, ever give up!”. We push harder and longer, holding onto the hope that good times will surely follow.
This is Business Hell, and it’s where most of us spend our time: Chasing our tails. Managing crises. Operating as a “Jack of all trades, master of none”. Living in a constant state of overwhelm.
After 30+ years in business (and working with lots and lots of business owners), I have come to believe that the only way out of this overwhelm is to ensure that business itself is fun. Deep and meaningful fun.
One of the greatest challenges for businesses, especially small ones, is that there are so many priorities competing for your attention on a daily basis. It feels almost impossible to decide where to focus next.
Many business owners also lack confidence in their aptitude for certain business development tasks. After all, you started this endeavour on the back of your skills as a carpenter, accountant or architect; not your background in sales, marketing, staff management, etc. Nobody taught you how to write an operations manual or create a cashflow forecasting spreadsheet, did they?
The result? Most of us revert back to “picking up the hammer” (because that is the one skill we know like the back of our hand), managing crises and being reactive to whatever is thrown at us. Like I said, Business Hell.
A New Tool for Your Toolkit
The concept of Fun in Business is an incredibly powerful tool, designed to keep you out of reactive crisis management mode so that you can focus on what is most important for today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year and beyond.
Here’s how to use it in practice.
Think of a scale from 0 to 10. Let’s call it the Fun in Business scale.
10 on the scale? This past week in business has been so much fun that you can’t wait to get up and go to work. You’ve gone home every day with a big smile on your face. You’ve achieved great things. You had a wonderful time with your co-workers. Everything at work (or in business) has been just brilliant.
0 on the scale? Entirely the opposite. Your week at work has been simply awful on every single level. Pass the vino now.
Now ask yourself the following questions:
What number on the Fun in Business scale would you give your last week at work (or in business)? Let’s say 4.6.
Thinking ahead, what number on the scale would you like next week to be? Perhaps a 5.
What one, two or three actions can you (or we, as a team) take to progress from 6 to 5 on the Fun in Business scale, next week?
These questions, asked consistently, will cut through all of the crises and competing priorities, leaving you relentlessly focused on the next most important thing that must be done in your business.
These questions, answered individually or within a team (anonymously and with the results averaged), will set you up for having hugely productive conversations about how to make tomorrow just a little more fun than yesterday.
I promise, when you commit to building a Fun Business by regularly asking yourself these pivotal questions, you will have taken the first step to building a business that sustains you for years to come.
Remember, a business that isn’t fun won’t be around for long!
Your Homework (The Fun Kind)
Now, I’ve got a hunch that you’re a hands-on kinda person, so here are some actions for you to take that will help make your business more fun. Answer the following questions and start thinking about how you can make intentional changes. The results will be more illuminating than you might think!
Make a list of the 20 most fun experiences or most exciting times you’ve had in your business.
Write down the 3 things you like most about your business.
Write down the 3 things you like least about your business.
The Three Secrets to Building a Beautiful Business and Life
Have you ever felt overwhelmed, frustrated or stuck in your business? My guess is that most of us have, and, if you haven’t, then you’re either knee-deep in denial or some kind of entrepreneurial unicorn. (If you fit into the latter category, feel free to move smugly on to another blog post… but not before you send me your secrets!)
When we first start out on our entrepreneurial journey, we’re told that success is all about the sensible, hardnosed principles and business buzzwords that you’ve likely heard a bazillion times: visioning, leadership, delegation, systems, planning, KPIs, and more. Of course, all of these things are crucially important, but there are three key principles that matter even more.
Three Unrecognised Factors for Success
I believe there are three undervalued and almost unrecognised factors for business success that are far more important than all those clichéd examples put together. These are the secrets to getting unstuck, stepping out of overwhelm and finally building the beautiful business and life that you deserve.
So, what must you learn?
Your time is your business’ most valuable asset.
It’s okay to say “no”, often.
Be kind to yourself.
And that, my friends, is it.
Simple, right? Too simple for some of your sceptical minds, I’m sure. In fact, I can feel the eye rolls and smirks burning through the screen, but don’t write my theory off just yet! Your beautiful business (and life) is on the other side of listening to, and applying, what I’m about to share.
Maximising Time: Your Most Valuable Asset
In my experience, most business owners believe their most valuable asset is their staff, customers, intellectual property, stock, equipment or buildings. All of these things (or people) are incredibly valuable, for sure, but time is the only asset that is truly limited. You can never get more time – no matter how much you try to beg, borrow, hire, buy or steal.
Your time – spent fully focused on the stuff that really matters – is an asset almost as rare as rocking horse droppings.
In order to build a beautiful business and life, you must learn to become greedy with your time. You need to repeatedly check in and ask yourself questions like:
Is this thing the best use of my time right now?
What would happen if I didn’t do this thing?
Is there someone else who could be doing this thing instead of me?
What would happen if I did this thing later?
If I do this thing now, what am I sacrificing?
Trust me: it pays to train yourself to ask these questions, often. Make it a habit. You will always have a “to do” list longer than your arm. You will always have more demands on your time than you can physically fit into a good day’s work. That is, of course, if you aren’t an aforementioned entrepreneurial unicorn (in which case, why are you still reading?!).
In short: learn to do only the stuff that matters most.
Saying “Yes” to Saying No
There is no more important skill for a business owner than knowing how and when to say “no”. Why? For starters, it will help you out immensely with achieving point 1 (maximising your time), but it will also pave the way for making your business stand out from the crowd.
Marketing 101 says that every business needs a unique selling point (USP). That’s why it pays to know your fortes and play to them by turning other opportunities down. After all, “a jack of all trades is the master of none”. Focus on your fortes and you’ll reap the rewards of presenting a highly differentiated brand.
Here’s some homework to get you started. Practice saying “no” in front of the mirror and then make a pact with yourself to say it for real at least once this week – or better yet, today! Remember, it is possible to say “no” respectfully, clearly, calmly and without feeling guilty. This brings me to my next point…
Less Guilt, More Kindness
Do you frequently beat yourself up for procrastinating? Believe you’re inherently disorganised, forgetful and lazy? Think your time management SUCKS? Does a cruel voice in your head frequently tell you that you’re not good enough?
You’re not alone. Absolutely everybody (except psychopaths!) has that critical inner voice. Everyone lets their worries, anxieties and irrational feelings of guilt get the best of them sometimes. However, us business owners are particularly hard on ourselves. In fact, I often jokingly say that small business owners are the most guilt-ridden people on the planet because I hear these kinds of self-deprecating words so often in my coaching practice.
That’s why I saved this particular pearl of wisdom for last, hoping you would remember and digest it well. In my humble opinion, being kind to yourself is not only the most powerful antidote to self-sabotage, but your fastest path back to JOY.
Being kind to yourself is not just the most effective way out of feeling stuck or overwhelmed in your business and your life – it’s the only way.
When we allow negativity and feelings of guilt to take hold, we give ourselves ever bigger burdens to carry. We set the bar impossibly high and then we punish ourselves when we don’t hit the mark. We lead ourselves to the paralysing place of overwhelm with too many tasks to complete in too little time and no plausible end in sight.
An overwhelmed brain is not pretty. It’s extremely inefficient, scientifically proven to underperform at every level and an enormous waste of your incredibly valuable time. And while the devil on your shoulder is, in fact, a protective mechanism designed to keep you safe, that doesn’t mean it ain’t a giant pain in the arse. So, how do we overcome it?
The good news is that you are completely capable of dialling down the negative voice and freeing yourself of imposter syndrome (feeling inadequate despite your success). Our brains are surprisingly malleable, and it IS possible to break the habit of a lifetime. Begin by noticing it and catching yourself in the act. Be inquisitive about where the self-doubt could be coming from. Remain compassionate, judgement-free and patient with your perfectly imperfect self while you reframe those pesky misperceptions and then continue on your merry way feeling 10 stone lighter!
I promise you; this soft, cuddly kindness stuff is the most crucial and hard-hitting work of all. Silencing (or at least muting because it’s a work in progress for all of us, including me!) that inner critic provides the space for creativity to flourish and a new level of clarity and productivity to arise. Plus, as soppy as it sounds, you have every right and reason to give yourself a pat on the pack. You’ve made it this far. You’re alive. You’re learning. You’re growing.
Your Permission Slip
So, here’s your permission slip to stop, give yourself a break and smell the roses. Look at what you’ve already achieved. Tell that little voice in your head to kindly move along because you’ve got this, and you ARE good enough. Now, make a note of my TLDR summary below and then TAKE ACTION on the good stuff today.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, frustrated or stuck and you want to build a beautiful business and life, you must learn to:
Accept that your time is your business’ most valuable asset – and act accordingly.
Say “no” regularly, calmly, respectfully and clearly.
Be kind to yourself, above all else.
This shit works. I promise you.
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It may not sound sexy, but the most valuable resource in your business is your mental health and wellbeing. If you want to build a beautiful business and life, then it’s critical you learn how to look after yourself, be kind to yourself and value your own time.
Your inner critic:
Do you frequently beat yourself up for procrastinating? Believe you’re inherently disorganised, forgetful and lazy? Think your time management SUCKS? Does a cruel voice in your head keep saying you’re not good enough?
You’re not alone. Absolutely everybody (except psychopaths!) has that critical inner voice. Everyone lets their worries, anxieties and irrational feelings of guilt get the best of them sometimes. However, we business owners are particularly hard on ourselves.
In fact, I often jokingly say that small business owners are the most guilt-ridden people on the planet because I hear these kinds of self-deprecating words so often in my coaching practice. So, what’s the solution? Keep reading for my two cents on the subject.
Less guilt, more Kindness, more Joy:
When we allow negativity and feelings of guilt to take hold, we give ourselves ever bigger burdens to carry. We set the bar impossibly high and then we punish ourselves when we don’t hit the mark. We lead ourselves to the paralysing place of overwhelm with too many tasks to complete in too little time and no plausible end in sight. Sound familiar?
In my humble opinion, being kind to yourself is not only the most powerful antidote to self-sabotage, but your fastest path back to JOY. Being kind to yourself is not just the most effective way out of feeling stuck or overwhelmed in your business and your life – it’s the only way.
Being kind is the only way
In 2020, I was interviewed on this topic by Donna White (of Build Your Best Business in the USA):
Remember, you are the only resource in your business that is limited: your time, your brain, your energy. That’s why you need to look after yourself, first and foremost – forever.
Your brain in overwhelm is not a pretty sight
As I mentioned in the video above, an overwhelmed brain is not pretty. It’s extremely inefficient, scientifically proven to underperform at every level and an enormous waste of your incredibly valuable time. And while the devil on your shoulder is, in fact, a protective mechanism designed to keep you safe, that doesn’t mean it ain’t a giant pain in the arse. So, how do we overcome it?
The good news is that you are completely capable of dialing down the negative voice and freeing yourself of impostor syndrome (feeling inadequate despite your success). Our brains are surprisingly malleable, and it IS possible to break the habit of a lifetime.
Begin by noticing it and catching yourself in the act. Be inquisitive about where the self-doubt could be coming from. Remain compassionate, judgement-free and patient with your perfectly imperfect self while you reframe those pesky misperceptions and then continue on your merry way feeling 10 stone lighter!
Above all, take it seriously. Have you stopped to ask yourself if you may in fact be overwhelmed and stuck in a whirlpool, paddling like a crazy person every day, harder, faster longer? I have developed a free self analysis tool, called “Overwhelm and the Whirlpool Report” You can go and complete the survey now, if you like, it will take 10 minutes and you’ll get sent a 6 page report, that I’m confident will give you some useful food for thought. Make yourself a cup of tea and go and complete it now.
Department of Jobs and Small Business
In 2019, the Federal Department of Jobs and Small Business launched a project to improve the support of small business owners in building a health business by maintaining a healthy mind.
I was asked to take part in this project in various ways:
I attended and spoke at the department’s national roadshow, Small Business Fairs, in Launceston and Hobart
I was involved in a workgroup run by the department on improving the support for small business owners in mental health and wellbeing
I took part in the creation of 5 videos on mental health and wellbeing in small business (featured throughout this page!)
Being a small business owner is intense. It often means wearing A LOT of different hats and bearing intense growing pains.
Of course, cash flow and finance in general are two of the greatest pressure points for small businesses.
But then there’s also this illusive “work-life balance” that most of us seek. How close have you come to achieving that so far (don’t worry, we’re all in the same boat!)?
Whether you’re in the start-up phase or your business is well-established, numerous different stressors and challenges are bound to come your way.
That’s when planning, processes, structures, communication, coming back to your “why” and using stress as a learning opportunity become your business besties:
Talking of stress: it’s pretty insidious stuff. It creeps in and builds up without us realising, and before we know it, we’re drowning in overwhelm and paralysed by fear.
So, how can we spot it? Here are some indicators:
Feeling less joyful
Forgetting your “why”
Remembering what you’re here to do (and therefore, what you’ll say “yes” or “no” to) is the key to relieving pressure. It’s also essential to eat, sleep, breathe and move in a way that fuels you each day. And then, of course, there’s connection – because even if you’re a one-person band, you shouldn’t have to do entrepreneurship solo.
Family business and balance:
Building balance in business (and life) always comes back to boundaries, such as limits on working hours and scheduling social time.
Family business has notoriously blurry work-life lines, so it becomes extra important to hold each other accountable and keep investing in your relationships outside of work.
Pearls of wisdom for small business owners:
Here are some first steps to maintaining good mental health in small business:
I promise you; this soft, cuddly kindness stuff is the most crucial and hard-hitting work of all.
Silencing (or at least muting because it’s a work in progress for all of us, including me!) that inner critic provides the space for creativity to flourish and a new level of clarity and productivity to arise.
Plus, as soppy as it sounds, you have every right and reason to give yourself a pat on the pack. You’ve made it this far. You’re alive. You’re learning. You’re growing.
So, here’s your permission slip to stop, give yourself a break and smell the roses. Look at what you’ve already achieved. Tell that little voice in your head to kindly move along because you’ve got this, and you ARE good enough.
Overwhelm and being stuck in a whirlpool; Your next step:
Have you considered that maybe you are overwhelmed and that maybe you’re actually stuck in a whirlpool? Because if you are, the first thing you must do is to stop paddling. I have created a detailed self analysis tool, called “The Whirlpool Report”. You can go and complete the full Whirlpool survey now at this link and you’ll be sent your Whirlpool report in the next 24 hrs, entirely for free. Make yourself a cup of tea and take 10 minutes to complete the survey now… I think it will give you some useful food for thought.
Bang crash! Watch out! Duck! Hang on! Oh no! Here we go again!
My life as a business owner feels like a roller coaster ride, I’m hanging on for dear life half the time… How can I slow it all down a bit and take control of my business and my life?
Running your own business can feel like a constant juggling act and most of the time, all you do is hold on for the ride and try to make sure you duck at the right time.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. Running your own business is never something you should because you want to have an easy life, because it’s never going to be easy. But you can make sure the business works for you rather than the other way round.
The Big Question of Small Business
It all starts with this question, The Big Question of Small Business:
Why does your business exist and why would anybody care?
Most business owners can’t answer that question clearly, in a single power sentence. And if you can’t answer that question, there is one really important thing you can never do, with confidence and clarity, and that is to say NO.
Saying NO is probably the one, most important thing that you have to learn to be able to do well in your business in order to to get off the roller coaster and to take control.
I’ll give you an example from my own experience that happened to me only last week.
That question, the Big Question I talk about above: Why does your business exist? My answer to it is this:
I help small business owners feel great about themselves and about their business, by helping them discover and build their own unique Beautiful Business and Life
That’s what I get up to do, each and every morning.
So last week I received an email from the health and wellbeing officer of one of the Big Four Banks here in Sydney. This person is running a personal wellness program for the entire staff of the bank in Sydney and she was looking for a coach to be involved with the program. The opportunity was enormous. This bank employs thousands, if not tens of thousands of people in Sydney alone and being offered a sponsored opportunity to get in front of all those employees is incredible… For the right person.
I wasn’t the right person for the job
And there’s the rub. I’m not the right person for the an opportunity. I work with small business owners, not with employees in the corporate world. Now I’m sure I could have done something for this wellbeing officer and made it work and I would have done a good job, I have no doubt about that, but I actually know someone who is much better equiped to take on this project. She specialises in working with employees in the corporate world to help them feel better about themselves and advance in their careers. So I thanked the Wellbeing officer and I introduced her to my friend and two days later, my friend had signed up the gig. There’s a good chance that this is the best gig my friend has landed in years and I am absolutely sure she’ll lay them in the isles… She’s brilliant at this kind of thing.
I didn’t get the gig, I won’t make any money from the gig, but I also didn’t get the stress from doing something that wasn’t absolutely in my area of expertise. I’ve learnt over the years, that I’m really good at some things and not others, and I need to stick with those. My friend is really excited and will have a lot of fun with the project, probably make a lot of money and do really well. What’s more, she’s super motivated to return the favour and I have no doubt something will come my way at some stage that’s right up my alley.
Learning what to say No to, and do it in such a way that means everybody is happy is absolutely a core skill if want to get off the roller coaster and take control of your business.
So: Why does your business exist, and Why would anybody care about that?
I’d love to hear, drop me a line.
What is the only measurement that matters in business?
This is the third post in the series of The Ten Priorities: Laying the Foundations for a Great Business and Life. The third Priority is about Having Fun. The introduction to this series on The Ten Priorities is here.
If you could only measure one thing to know how successful your business was at any one moment in time, what would you want to measure?
Most business owners will mention profit. And profit matters a lot of course, if you’re not making profit you’re operating a hobby, not a business, simple as that. But there is something even more important than profit in your business, and that’s Fun.
It means you’re proud of the products or services your business provides
It means you have created the kind of balance in work and live that is important for you
And it means you’re engaged in something meaningful, bigger than you.
By focusing solely on money as the indicator of success in business, you are doing yourself and everyone else who is touched by the business a disservice.
Obviously, measuring Fun in Business is not as simple as looking at your bank balance and you have to get creative about how you go about measuring it, but it’s quite doable and it will change the way you think about building a Great Business and Life… I promise you.
Do you feel overwhelmed in business? Operating in crisis management mode, running around from urgent problem to emergency all day long, extinguishing brush fires along the way? Do you feel like you will never reach your goals because your day is so chaotic that you don’t have time to think (let alone eat or sleep!)? To help you answer those questions for yourself, I’ve created two Whirlpool surveys and reports. The Big Whirlpool Report is free and accessed here and a smaller self analysis version will be available soon.
If so, you might be stuck, trying to paddle your way out of a violent business whirlpool without even realising it – a situation that is not only stressful but also unsustainable.
Stuck is unsustainable:
In the first few years of business, you accept that all this frenzy and stress is par for the course, but a few years on, when nothing much has changed, you start realising there’s a problem.
You’re still burning the candle at both ends. You’re still fixing everybody else’s problems. Even worse, the long-term strategy stuff you really want to work on keeps getting pushed back and back again, forever.
The secrets to getting unstuck, taking control and making business fun again:
You’re not alone in this problem. Many small business owners feel frustrated, stuck and overwhelmed in business on a daily basis.
However, the secret to building a beautiful business and life is to find your way around this state of overwhelm and take control of your business.
The first step? Start thinking differently about your business, your priorities and your wellbeing.
Fun is serious business (and the opposite of overwhelm in business):
It may seem strange to make Fun the key focus in your business’ development. We’re generally told that the function and purpose of business is to make money. Hence, we should make “maximising shareholder value” (making a profit and generating cash) our top priority.
However, after many years doing this gig, I’ve come to believe that Fun is the opposite and the antidote to feeling overwhelmed in business and that we need to learn to think differently to the status quo if we want to build businesses that stand the test of time.
Conscious capitalism and the purpose of business:
I like to quote John Mackey, the founder and CEO of Wholefoods markets in the USA. A few years ago, the company was bought by Amazon for $14 billion USD. Wholefoods made a profit and paid dividends to its shareholders every year for its entire existence. In other words, John Mackey has established credentials for making money in business. Yet John Mackey wrote a book called “Conscious Capitalism” (more about the book here [link] and here [link]), and in it, he says this:
“Thinking that the purpose of business is to make money is as silly as thinking that the purpose of human beings is to eat food. We need to eat food, eating food makes us feel good, but we eat food so that we can do what we need to do on this earth. It is the same with business and profit. Business needs to make profit, and plenty of it, but it needs to do so in order to fulfil its purpose, the reason it exists.”
So yes, a business must make money. It must generate profit and cash flow while working hard to maximise its return to shareholders because, as I say elsewhere on this website, “A business that doesn’t make profit is a hobby.”
BUT if your focus is only on making money:
There will never be enough. This year you might aim to make $10,000 profit, but as soon as you’ve made $100,000, you’ll want to make $200,000, then $500,000 and so on. You will eventually get overwhelmed because there’s always more money to be chased.
It will all feel meaningless. Why pick $100K or $500K, why not $531,629,23 or $496,187.42? Any number you choose will be arbitrary.
Your brain won’t cooperate. To your subconscious brain, there is no difference between $100K or $150K. Your subconscious mind cannot think in concrete concepts, such as numbers, it can only be engaged by emotional concepts.
You’ll wonder what it’s all been about when you’re on your deathbed. Nobody has ever lain on their deathbed and thought, “I wish I’d made more money”. I guarantee you that much.
How do you get beyond money? Take these 4 steps:
So, if you want to get unstuck, eliminate overwhelm and stop being a crisis manager in your business, you must start thinking beyond making money. You must start having Fun in Business.
Ask yourself the big question of small business: Why does your business exist and why would anybody care about that? (The Purpose question, more about the Purpose of Business here)
Learn to ask yourself every week: How much Fun in Business did we have last week? How can we make next week a little bit more Fun? (I’ve written about measuring Fun in Business in my book and also here)
Develop discipline around your time and don’t waste it on unimportant tasks. Know that your time is the most valuable asset of your business, and as a responsible business owner, it is your job to look after and get the best possible return from your assets. (Read more about business owners and time management here)
Get the right people on the bus, in the right seats, facing the right direction. Get the wrong people off the bus. There is no greater cause of stress, overwhelm and frustration than people problems. (More about managing people here and here)