News 8 reporter Harlan Schmidt interviewed me about why Austin is a good place to start a business. I told him it was Austin’s “can do & it’s ok to fail” culture. And it is also about the fact that we have a highly educated population which means we can learn from our mistakes.
Then he asked me what needs to be done to improve our ability to sustain businesses. After all, it is not about starting — anyone can start one. It is about keeping it going — although not necessarily growing as large as, say Dell.
What I said and what I meant very strongly was, we, as small business owners, need to take our share of responsibility and not just look to the government for help. They can help by not forcing us into the model that they use for big business. We are not just a big business that has not grown. We are unique.
(That is also how I feel about healthcare. We need to act responsibly about what we eat, drink, and do with our bodies. After all, like owning a business, our bodies belong to us.)
So why don’t we take better care of our businesses? Maybe it’s because we are too stressed out. What keeps us up at night, affects our health, and our business? I think it could be the “Magic 22+”.
As small business owners we are the investor, the manager, and frequently the employee. We have to oversee the future and plan ahead. That’s the investor/owner. We have to learn from others and past experiences to manage tasks and all areas of the business. That’s the manager. We have to deal with the present. We end up doing things ourselves because we have to or want to. That’s the employee. So those are three reasons to have insomnia.
Every business, no matter what size, has seven parts to it.
- Administration (including personnel, regulatory compliance, facility management)
- Books and Records Management
- Financial/Fiscal Management (taxes, projections, funding, financial plans)
- Long Term Vision (business plans, strategic alliances)
When people first start a business, they concentrate on the first two only — “what I have to sell” and “how I am going to deliver it”. Then reality sets in. They realize that a small business is more than “making the donuts” and selling them (borrowing a line from an old Dunkin Donuts ad). And, they begin to worry.
Keeping those seven areas going and assuming the three responsibilities that go with them is mind boggling. That’s 21 reasons for bad dreams.
You can stop there if you are looking for causes for nightmares and tossing and turning, unless you want to add the whole reason for doing this — to improve your quality of life, i.e., to have some sort of life with friends, family, and fun as well as the time and freedom to enjoy it. That’s 22.
The “+” comes from the fact that usually you have many requests than just one for your time and energy from those who are close to you.
I wish I could tell you the older the business the less the sleepless nights. I can’t. Because, I haven’t even mentioned the challenges that can cause prematurely gray hair, dark circles under the eyes, and lack of energy. These are due to changes in:
- Technology (Internet, social media and other new ways that make your way obsolete)
- Economic (which we are all dealing with)
- Social (how people act, expectations, fears)
- Regulations (your government at work — sometimes for you; sometimes not in your best interest)
- Environmental (“green” and sustainability, regulations, goals, and mishaps)
Now that I have depressed you completely, what can you do? Well, you can recognize that every other small business owner you meet is an insomniac, too. Misery loves company. It automatically gives you something to talk about when you are at those networking events. Everyone likes to complain.
You can do something positive, however.
- Don’t try to do all the roles simultaneously. But know which one takes precedence. This also helps you be clearer with your goal — plan it, manage it, do it.
- Make sure you spend at least 10% of your time each month (more if you are just starting) in your Owner/Investor Hat. Look at the future you want to create. Look at the implications of what you are doing in light of the other six areas of the business. Make sure you have considered and accounted for repercussions.
- Recognize and accept you cannot be good at all things. Take an inventory of your own strengths and weaknesses. Get help where you need it — even if it is only temporary to get you over the hump. At the Business Success Center, we find most owners hate either taking care of books or sales. We step in, provide the process, fix things, run that area of the business to get the kinks out of the process, train the owner, and give it back shiny and ready for the owner or an employee to step in and take over. Maybe something like that would work for you. See what support is out there that you can tie into.
Good luck and pleasanter dreams.
I am collecting a list of small business mistakes — “Mistakes I made that other owners should watch out for”. Mine was hiring someone who I knew had trouble spelling. She sent out a letter with our corporate name, Diener, Triplett & Associates, Inc. with “Associates” abbreviated. You can guess how. Maybe she was trying to tell me something. Fortunately, I now have a great speller, Marsha, and she checks me. Good Advice: Always get other eyes to look at what you send — even by email.
How about sharing your bloopers? Totally confidential. You might save another owner a lot of grief and sleepless nights. And you can learn from others who were willing to admit they messed up.