Business Development is the way out of the tunnel
Launching a small business is just like raising a baby and no -one can prepare you for it
I came across a question on a small business development forum the other day that caught my attention:
“I’m into my sixth month of developing my business and I’m making just enough to keep the company afloat. It’s a damn hustle and it sucks. Do most people who start small businesses feel this way?”
Great question and I started answering it in the forum, but realised after a few minutes of writing, that this is a question worth reflecting on in a bit more depth.
So the first thing to say is that the short answer to the question is: Yes, absolutely, most people do.
And the slightly longer version is: Yes, most people do, although some people experience that feeling in the first year and others experience in the second or third … But most people do “feel this way”, absolutely.
I’ll try and explain how the experience comes about in greater depth though, and what to do about it.
Business owners doing it for themselves
Most small business owners come to business because they arrive at a point in their lives where they say: I’m going to be doing it for myself, because I think I can do a better job of it than my boss.
And then they take the jump.
At this point I am going to take a little detour, with your permission: Have you ever heard new parents say: My mother and my aunt and my best friend tried to warn me, but I was still completely unprepared for parenthood. I simply didn’t appreciate what an incredible upheaval it would be to be a mother/father.
Most new parents will experience that feeling and they’ll try to pass the warning on to their own friends down the line. They’ll say something like: “Imagine how tough you think parenthood could be and then multiply that by 5”, to their friend who is contemplating starting a family. And when this friend has a child nevertheless, she remembers the warnings a year later and she’ll say: “I heard your warning, but I just didn’t understand”
It’s impossible to imagine what it’s like to be a new parent, no-one can tell you.
Raising a Healthy Bouncy Business
Here’s where the detour connects back with the main story again: A few years ago, I wrote a book called: “The Ten Truths for Raising a Healthy Bouncy Business”. (The title obviously makes a pun on raising a baby, and you can download the book as Ebook or Audiobook for free here). I do think that building a business has a lot of parallels with raising a baby. I believe that after creating a baby, creating a business is one of the greatest creative processes that human beings can undertake. The process starts with an idea in your head and then you go and give it a concrete form in the real world. And then you have to mother it along for years sometimes and finally you have to allow it to become independent; able to stand on its own two feet.
And just like new parents say: “We simply don’t understand what’s happened to us, everything has somehow gone to shit and yet we love our child and we love being parents”, most new business owners have a similar experience. The demands that a newly born small business can make on you as it’s parent can be shocking: Suddenly you come to believe that you must be the first one in the door in the morning, the last one out the door in the afternoon and that the only reasonable time to do the admin, the marketing, the business development, the quoting and the ordering, is at night after the kids have gone to bed, or on the weekends.
It’s all down to you
The thing that new business owners generally don’t appreciate, if they haven’t had previous small business experience, is that it’s all down to you. Every single decision is to be made by you, and every single decision you make has consequences for profitability and cashflow and development of the business. Often you’ll feel under-qualified to make those decisions and sometimes you’ll actually feel overqualified and frustrated to have to give time and attention to such decisions. (Do we have a coffee machine in the office canteen and if so what kind and where do we get the coffee from?).
It’s all on your shoulders and even if you have staff, you still have to make sure that someone actually deals with the coffee situation, not to mention the irate client on the phone or the supplier who wants to be paid or the council inspector who threatens to close your business down, because the new wheelchair ramp into your shop, doesn’t meet minimum specifications.
No-one can prepare you for what it’s like, being a small business owner. Once the initial excitement wears off, you may feel like a deer caught in the cross lights and many business owners become overwhelmed and feel stuck.
The light at the end of the tunnel
But the good news is this: There is light at the end of the tunnel (and it’s not a freight train).
The day you realise that you are like the proverbial deer and that you want to get out of those lights is the day you can start to move out of overwhelm.
The way out is with small steps and the first small step is always this:
Set aside 1 hr per week, during business hours, for the work of the business owner, as opposed to the work of the business. (Read more about the work of the business owner here). Every week for example on Monday morning at 10 am, turn off your phone, put on headphones, or go to a café and divert your email. Whatever it takes so you will not be interrupted. Take a notebook, and plan and think and strategise. Ask yourself, where do I want to be by the end of this year? To get there, what do I have to create and implement… By when… And what does that mean for this coming week?
Start small, give yourself some easy wins: very small little tasks, that take maybe 15 minutes to no more than half an hour to complete.
If you keep putting one foot in front of the other like that every week, you will get out of the tunnel and like the new parents, you will get to sleep through the night again… One day.
#FuninBusiness #BusinessDevelopment #Coaching #Smallbiz #Entrepreneur
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