The Truth about Business Growth: Enough is Enough

TTTMBF growth

The Ten Truths for making business Fun

The Ten Truths for Making Business Fun

And building a business that sustains you for years to come:

This is the sixth article in a monthly series on Making Business Fun: This article is about the myth of business growth and it’s the 10th Truth

The last article explains what it takes to be the Leader of a fun business and you can read it here

The articles are based on my book, The Ten Truths for Making Business Fun, published in 2011. All of my books and other resources are available for free here

Building (and growing) a Fun business: Enough is Enough

Everything we’ve been taught about business growth is a myth

too much growth ois too much

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:

  1. A business doesn’t have to grow to be healthy.
  2. Enough is a good place to be.

The Myth

The myth sounds something like this: Every healthy business must grow and a business that doesn’t grow, dies.

TTTMBF singging from the same song sheet 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.

Never 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.”

“You suck.”

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.

TTTMBF enough tropical island 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?!

Daring Greatly

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.

Stop it.

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?

[INSERT CONNECTION/INTRO AND HYPERLINK TO NEXT BLOG POST AS CTA]

Next Month, I’ll be talking about what next and how to make it all come together for you in your business

More on this topic:

 

What Does A Typical Business Owner Look Like?

business acumen

Business acumen, what is it and how do you know you have it?

Business acumen

In the end it’s all about stupidity

Are business owners born or made? Or rather, what does it take to become a business owner, Do you have business acumen? What does business acumen look like? How can you tell if you are a budding business owner or not?

I find it a really interesting question, I’ve thought about it many times, especially since becoming a business coach, helping small business owners turn their dreams into reality. I have also written about the Entrepreneurial types here and I have created a survey to help you determine what type of entrepreneur you are here.

To answer the question, we need to dispel one myth first of all, and that’s the myth that there is an “entrepreneurial type”. There may indeed be such a type, but it’s not just those types that become successful business owners. I think business owners are as varied in their types as there are people on the planet. Having said that, I do believe that there is one character trait that stands out as something unique to most entrepreneurs, and that’s this:

Business owners are people who cannot conceive of having their lives controlled by others.

For a business owner type, the idea of spending her entire working life having to report to others and being part of an organisation that does things, and takes directions that are outside of her control, fills him with dread.

Your most troublesome employee

business acumen I am certainly like that myself. I worked for a large organisation for 5 years in the early part of my working life, and found myself fighting the system every day. Having my boss, or his boss, or the bosses boss make a directive and being informed of such a directive and having to fall into line with the directive, whether or not I agreed with it, would simply make steam come out of my ears.

I was that employee you’d hate to have work for you.

And the thought that my days would be controlled like this for the rest of my life sent shivers down my spine. I was only 25 by the time I knew something had to change and I naively decided it was time to go out on my own. In hindsight, it’s a good thing that I was as naïve as I was. If I’d known then what I know now about becoming a small business owner, I might have held back and attempted to become a better adjusted and happier staff member instead. I say ‘a good thing’, because I am incredibly glad I made the step when I was young and stupid. I don’t regret anything about becoming a business owner and employer rather than an employee.

Standing in the centre of your life

I’ve loved standing in the centre of my life, knowing that I was equally responsible for anything bad that happened in my business (and my life) as well as for the successes. But it does get progressively harder and scarier to take the step to becoming an entrepreneur as you grow older.

People think that business owners are somehow braver than non-business owners, because they get out there and face the world on their own. I don’t think it’s courage so much; I don’t consider myself more courageous than the average person. Most people who start their own business, get to a point in their lives where they simply feel they can’t do anything else, they’re compelled. The mark of courage is not how fearless you are, rather it is in how you overcome your fears. I don’t remember feeling fear so much when I decided to become my own boss. I simply had to do this thing, there was no other option.

And hence, to answer the question: What is business acumen and what does it look like? Maybe the common characteristic of business owners is … Stupidity.

#StupidInBusiness #EntrepreneursAreBorn #FunInBusiness #BusinessAcumen

Learn more about my
Fun In Business Intensive Program

I offer Fun in Business Intensive Program, which can help you discover more about yourself and guide you on how to move your business forward with focus, direction and sound judgment.

Fun in Business Intensive

Business Bedtime Stories: Joan’s Startup Podcast

TTTMBF Joan

Joan Once upon a time, a long long time ago in a country not unlike Australia, Joan started her business

 

 Subscribe in a reader

Itunes

View in Itunes

Joan, her puppy and her startup

Joan took a redundancy and started her own graphic design agency… it was the scariest decision she ever made but after a year she got herself  a puppy… want to know how it all came about?… listen to the story

Business Bedtime stories are real world case histories of clients I have worked with in the past decade or more. Some of the Business Bedtime stories can be found in The Ten Truths Books, others are new to my podcast. I hope you enjoy them, and I’d love to hear if you got something out of them.

Cheers,

Roland Hanekroot

Resilience is the Key to Building a Great Business

The one thing you need

resilience

My time at Lifeline and what I learnt about business

I was thinking about resilience the other day, it came up in a conversation somewhere.

I’ve said it before… in fact I sound like a broken record sometimes, but being in small business can be tough. The life of a business owner does not generally go over roses and small and large setbacks are part of the territory. Paraphrasing an old joke:” You can divide the business owners of the world in two groups: those who’ve had a serious setback and those who are about to have one”.

I’ve certainly experienced significant setbacks in my career in business over the last 30 years and most of my clients have as well. I’ve come to believe that the difference between those of us who get to build Fun Businesses that sustain us for years to come and those that don’t is one word:

Resilience

This is the Wikipedia definition of resilience: “Psychological resilience is defined as an individual’s ability to properly adapt to stress and adversity. “

To be a successful small business owner I believe you must live higher up the resilience scale than the average person, because the journey of building a small business is full of traps and snags and rapids; full of stress and adversity. A resilient business owner doesn’t sit around and lick her wounds for too long when she’s hit a snag, because she knows she’ll drown if she does..

jacob ohlson A good example of resilience is a friend of mine Jacob Ohlson. His is the founder of Powernet It and he is building a really great business. Jacob is one of the most resilient people I know. Last night he took the CEO sleep out challenge in Sydney, which is all about raising money for homeless people. As it was, it rained all night and Jacob got soaked and freezing and he would be feeling miserable. But I know he’s hard at work, back in his business today… Jacob is resilient (and you can donate to his appeal here)

So if Resilience is key to building a healthy business, let’s explore where it comes from and how we can get more of it.

My romantic business failure

I think am fairly resilient in business myself, or I certainly believe I have been in the past. I’ve experienced all kinds of setbacks when developing my various businesses in the past 30 years. I remember my first exploration of business in the mid eighties, was an unmitigated disaster. I’d started out a boat repair and maintenance business on Sydney Harbour. It was a truly romantic affair, and I felt that this was what I was put on this earth for. The reality was though, that I truly had no idea what running a business meant or how I should go about it. After a year or so, I’d totally run out of money, I was insolvent and I’d generally made a mess of things. So much for romance. I decided to branch out into house carpentry and building from boats, because it looked like an easier path, but I had bills to pay then and there (we’d bought our first home and there was a mortgage to pay). So I decided to get a taxi license, because I could drive taxis in the evenings and on the weekends while developing the building business. The plan worked and I dug myself out of the hole and survived.

So yes I was resilient and my resilience meant I didn’t crumble and I came back for more.

My circumstances were quite fortunate though in many ways. We’d recently emigrated to Australia from Holland. My wife at the time was Australian, we had a big support group in Sydney and she had a job as a teacher with a solid regular income (and we bought the house for $50,000 which we thought was a fortune at the time … wry smile… )

So how do you find resilience when you are not so fortunate?

Resilience when there is no hope

I have spent a number of years working as a Volunteer Telephone Crisis Counsellor in the past 11 years (at Lifeline in Sydney) and I came across people in much much tougher circumstances than I’ve ever experienced. I’ll never forget this one woman who rang in frequently. The woman was known as ‘M’ at Lifeline. ‘M’ was permanently bedridden and alone. She could not get herself to the toilet so a carer would come in a lot of the day. She was increasingly blind and in permanent overwhelming pain throughout her body and she never slept at all; all she could do was listen to the radio all day and night. And yet, ‘M’ managed to make us counsellors smile sometimes and I remember many conversations  with her in the middle of the night sometimes, where I’d come off the phone with a lump in my throat, thankful for the half hour I spent talking with her. ‘M’ was inspiring and amazing, even though, for her, there was no hope, she would never get better, her life would simply get progressively worse and worse until she’d die one day.

‘M’ was more resilient than anyone I’ve ever met before or since, the kind of resilience I don’t think I could ever possess.

But ‘‘M’ and I did have something in common that has helped both of us find resilience in trying times, and that was that we were able to access support. I’ve had people around me who I trusted and cared about, who believed in me and supported me and bolstered my confidence most of my life. Lifeline gave that to ‘M’ in some small way as well. It’s the reason ‘M’ rang Lifeline most days, she just needed to hear that someone cared about her and that she “was doing alright” and just hearing that every day, combined with what must have been an amazing inner reservoir of strength, allowed her to hang in somehow.

Support team

That’s why I believe it’s so important to create a support team around you when you are developing a business. As I said before, setbacks are part of the journey of developing a business and when the setbacks happen they can knock your confidence and your hope. Having people you care about and especially people you respect as equals in business demonstrating that they believe in you will have an enormous impact in how you deal with the setback and how you get back on your feet to fight the next battle.

As a business coach I often find myself taking the role of chief supporter of my clients when the “s%$t hits the fan”. I am convinced that having me by their side increases their level of resilience. I have seen the evidence of it many times. My most successful clients have taken it even a step further and have put together a small team of trusted advisers and mentors  that they can lean on when required. One of my clients has two coaches, a financial management mentor, another mentor who has been wildly successful in the same industry before him, a human resources adviser and a marketing adviser who he leans on from time to time. All of us support him, bolster his confidence, hold him accountable and generally stand by the sidelines, cheering him on. As a consequence, he is probably one of the most resilient people in small business I know.

To build a Fun Business that sustains you for years to come, you’ll need to be resilient, and the best way I know to make sure you are as resilient as you can be is to make sure you have a bunch of great people around you, who believe in you… I promise you.

 

The Work-Life Balance myth for Small Business Owners

work life balance
work life balance myth
“By all means, put your life into your business but don’t let your business take over your life!”

I often hear people carry on about creating work-life balance. You probably do as well. Actually I reckon you’ve told yourself a few times that you should create more work-life balance, haven’t you? But work-life-balance is a myth for most people, especially for business owners.

It’s a nice concept. All ideas about life that revolve around balance are attractive and sensible.

Absolutely. Except for one thing:

For small business owners, your business is your life. So how do you go about creating a balance between two things that are largely one and the same?

Work-Life Balance is a Silly Idea for Small Business Owners

Ask any small business owner in the midst of getting his or her business off the ground and to a sustainable state, and they’ll tell you they virtually never switch off, they’re really never not at work. There is always a part of their brain that’s on the go:

  • I wonder what would happen if I bought that second vehicle?
  • Am I going to get enough money in this month to pay everyone?
  • I wonder if changing the headline on my website will have a positive impact on my Google ranking?
  • Where am I going to find my next new employee?
  • I think there’s an opportunity to offer my products to aged care facilities… How can I best approach that market?
  • We’re out of toilet paper in the office… Don’t forget to pick some up tomorrow on the way in.

It never stops… does it?

Conventioanl Wisdoms Are Not Going to Work for You

work-life balance The conventional idea of work-life balance is actually a nonsense for most small business owners. You can’t close the door behind you at 5.30, go home and switch off. Your office might be at home anyway, or you need to catch up with some admin after the kids have been put to bed.

That’s how it is in small business. Your business is such an important part of you that somehow separating it from your “life” and creating a balance between the two is simply impossible.

But at the same time it has been proven time and time again that everyone needs to switch off, everyone needs to sleep 7 to 8 hrs on average and everyone needs to have social and personal connections with others and that’s before we talk about kids and family, hobbies, sport or health.

How do you manage that as a small business owner so that you don’t burn out, become unhealthy and forget your kid’s names and birthdays (and they yours?)

I believe it starts by acknowledging that life as a small business owner is not the same as life as an employee. It won’t ever be and conventional wisdoms about work-life balance are simply not going to work for you. No point beating yourself up about it, no point telling yourself you “should” go home at 6 and not take the laptop. If you don’t finish that quote tonight you’ll miss the deadline and then the whole thing comes to a screaming halt… Tonight you’ll just have to get back to it as soon as the kids are in bed and if it takes to 2 am to finish the quote…so be it.

Frustrations and Joys

But there are both frustrations as well as great joys to being a business owner, and one of the greatest joys of being the owner is the fact that you can do exactly what you want, when you want and no bastard can tell you different.

I often work on the weekend. As a matter of fact I am writing this article on Saturday evening as we speak (Nigel no friends obviously)… But I don’t mind… On the contrary. I’m going to take off half a day on Monday to do two yoga sessions in the middle of the day and on Thursday I am spending several hours cooking dinner for my daughter and her family and I’ll probably knock off work by lunchtime.

The great joy of being your own boss is that you have the ability to design your work and your life to suit yourself:

  • Want to burn the midnight oil tonight? Great, go for it.
  • Want to sleep in tomorrow and go for a walk? Nobody’s going to stop you.
  • Wake up and the sun is shining, the surf’s up and it’s monday? Grab your board and jump in the car and have a ball.

And if that means you have to catch up tonight and tomorrow night, all good… You’re the boss.

To me, having the flexibility I have is the biggest reason I would never want to work as an employee ever again. It would drive me insane.

Idealised Pictures

Have I sketched an idealised picture of life as a small business owner? Probably.

Do most business owners actually have such a perfect life? Are most business owners actually living the dream?

No most of them don’t for one main reason: Guilt.

Guilt

guilt trip Business owners don’t take off and go surfing when the sun is out and the surf is up because of guilt.

True, right?

Tell me. how many hours a week do you think you have to be at work, working, not to feel guilty? Is it 40 or more?

Truth be told it’s not about the hours, is it? It’s about being seen to be the first one in the door in the morning and the last one out the door at night.

Really? Is that what you started your business for so you could always be the first one in the door and the last one out?

I had a first coaching session with a new client the other day. Talking about the logistics of having regular coaching sessions with me, led to her concerns about her work commitments and how to fit in the hours working with me. She said, can’t we have our sessions in the evening maybe, because today when I left the office I felt I had to make some kind of excuse about why I left the office for the afternoon. I feel guilty leaving the office when they’re all working hard on a Friday afternoon.

I often say that small business owners are the most guilt driven people on the planet (even worse than Catholics, and that’s saying something obviously)

Food for Thought

So think about this… You have created your business. You have given it life and you’ve done so, because you wanted it to provide a certain type of life for yourself and your family and to make you feel proud and challenged and excited and engaged and rewarded; to build on your resourcefulness, to maximise your skills and experience and expand your opportunities in life.

And instead? You feel guilty for wanting to sleep in tomorrow and get to the office at midday.

Do you see my point?

Exactly… You know what to do tomorrow I think!

More about the myth of work life balance and small business owners and yet build the Great Business and Life you dream off here.

See – Feel – Change

Business Masterminds Observations

SEE-FEEL-CHANGE

switchI read a wonderful book by Chip and Dan Heath a little while ago called “Switch”, “How to change things when Change is hard”

The book is full of wonderful anecdotes and really clear explanations of powerful concepts about change.

The authors explain how most people believe that if something needs to be changed, that we need to go through a process of ANALYSE-THINK-CHANGE, build a business case in other words with figures and stats and graphs. Sadly that turns out to be one of the least effective approaches to building a momentum for change… A vastly more effective approach is SEE-FEEL-CHANGE. In other words let people see and feel the problem and the effect of the problem and help them see and feel the change and the effect of the change to get them on board.

So if you’d like people to “get” why something in your business needs to change… demonstrate… speak to their feelings… tell stories