Small Business – I admire and respect you. What a dream maker you are. How well you do for the fortunate.
Small Business Owners – How tenacious and trusting you are. You embark on this roller coaster for your own particular reasons, knowing that to not follow this dream outweighs the dream itself, hoping your business delivers way beyond expectation.
But, now what?
First up, let me note for the majority of us, there has never been a ride quite like the year that’s been, the year of 2020. So many hurdles, so many scunned knees, so many headaches, so many false starts, so many obstacles, but still we’ve managed to hang in there. These many opportunities provide a way to find meaning and gratitude, resilience and fearlessness in doing this good work, which is also life-altering. All hail to us.
Having spoken with many a Small Business owner, trying to work out what the best way forward is and therefore the decisions to make has for the most part tough to witness and participate in. It is always a privilege to work along side you. My wish is that with my saleability and exit option expertise goggles securely fastened, I’ve done my best in supporting you towards a decision worth making. And as a result, I share a couple of observations that may prove beneficial over the year/s to come…
Personally, regardless of what life throws at me, I can’t imagine not playing in the Small Business world. To me, it offers variety beyond compare, with so many different characters to meet. As no one Business is the same, nor is the Owner, nor is one conversation a copy of another, even though when talking to me specifically about what I do, many have a similar intent.
There is no other form of enterprise that can generate so much energy, be so completely frustrating and add so much spice to life, possibly all at the same time. There is certainly nothing dull about working with Small Business. The ingenuity and sheer audacity of the Owners involved is a privilege to behold. The pride I hear in their voices when talking about their business is heartwarming and genuine. No doom and gloom to be found. If it does feature, then maybe the Owner is coming to the realisation that they may now be in the wrong game.
Taking this a step further, Small Business can be the most wonderful and fulfilling business-life partner you’re looking for. If I can offer any sort of guidance as to what to do with your small business post pandemic, it is to treat it as such. Support it, guide it, open doors for it, be the purposeful example of love-in-action you can be to enable your business to do its thing.
Many underestimate the impact our Small Business has on us personally, and overestimate how others should value it. Stories and history and media celebrate it as one of life’s ultimate goals, “the backbone of the economy”, even the solution for our pain and struggles. However the harsh reality is that Small Business is not for everyone, and nor should it be. It is in fact hard work (as all good things are), but, if you can crack the code, it is ultimately worthwhile.
Where I see it coming unstuck is when Small Business is to be an easy cure all. Fundamental values such as respect, humility, financial realism, and commitment towards it are ignored, as are the people to care about within its contours. Small Business is after all, a human-to-human contact sport. One that an Owner wants to be prepared to play over a long period, including being OK with doing all the hard stuff that comes along with such an add-venture.
Of course, the problem with alleged guru’s of Small Business is that their rhetoric can cause unrealistic expectations to be developed about what it actually is, and what it can do and/or should do for each of us individually, possibly sabotaging the very thing we wanted to hold so dear in the first place.
Make no mistake, Small Business is an emotional process; it is personal.
To truly make it work over the long-haul, it has to be.
The truth is, if it is to go wrong, it did so before it even began or when early warning signs were not detected or paid attention to. Often the business that does kick on is a non-identical twin to the one you kicked off with, and you have to be OK with this. The market always provides clues once you start and ongoing. To ignore them is at your peril so you have to be sure to follow them…
You have to use not only your heart, but also your head. Yes, you want to build the business that makes your heart and ego flutter. But you also need to consistently evaluate the path you’re being led down, the values of those you’re dealing with, and how they treat themselves and us, making the necessary adjustments on route. You and your Small Business deserves this.
My one big lesson for you to take away is this: while ‘love’ may make you feel better about your Small Business, it doesn’t actually solve any of its problems unless you both do the work. Think of it as a loving relationship, and we all know how scary but how worthwhile it can be.
Yes, the roller coaster of emotions can be intoxicating, each high feeling even more important and more valid than the one before, but unless there’s a stable and practical foundation beneath your feet, that rising tide of emotion that got you here will eventually come and wash it all away.
One of the defining characteristics of loving Small Business is that we are able to think outside of ourselves and our own needs to help care for another person or group, and their needs as well. Or at least, this is what we should be aiming for. If it’s just about making money, this will eventually fizzle out.
One question that doesn’t get asked nearly often enough is: exactly what are we sacrificing, and is it worth it?
In loving relationships, it’s normal for both parties to occasionally sacrifice their own desires, their own needs, and their own time for one another. This is healthy and a big part of what makes a relationship so great.
But when it comes to sacrificing one’s own self-respect, one’s dignity, one’s physical body, one’s ambitions and life purpose for your Small Business, and it is not reciprocated, then that can sometimes become problematic. Your Small Business is supposed to supplement your individual identity, not damage it or replace it. If you find yourself in situations where you’re tolerating disrespectful or abusive behaviour, then that’s essentially what you’re doing: you’re allowing this beast of your own creation to consume you and negate you, and if you’re not careful, it will leave you as a shell of the person you once was. Not ideal in anyone’s language.
So let’s ask the question another way: would you tolerate the impact your Small Business is having on you in your best friend?
Amazingly, when you answer this question honestly, in most unhealthy and codependent relationships, the answer is ’no.’
Why therefore do we tolerate behaviour that we would never ever tolerate in our friendships?
Sometimes, the most loving action you can take for yourself and your Small Business is to not continue. Tough call to make no doubt, but it does not go against the fact that it might actually be the right decision.
Because what you want to do with your Small Business, and what is actually likely, can be miles apart. Genuinely understanding, and subsequently loving and treating your Small Business with all it deserves must be the first and foremost move into this new year, given a possible new phase of operating may be thrust upon you.
You can ‘fall in love’ with a wide variety of business ideas and models throughout the course of your life (goodness knows I have!). You can fall in love with people who are good for us and people who are bad for us. We can fall in love in healthy ways and unhealthy ways.
Love is not unique.
Love is not special.
Love is not scarce.
But your self-respect is. So is your dignity. So is your ability to trust.
There can be many “loves” throughout your life, but once you lose your self-respect, your dignity or your ability to trust, they may be very hard to get back. Proving a point with your Small Business is not worth this.
Small Business is a wonderful experience. I believe it’s one of the greatest experiences life has to offer. And it is definitely something to aspire to and enjoy. But like any other experience, it can be healthy or unhealthy. Like any other experiences, it cannot be used to define us, our identities or our life purpose. You cannot let it consume you. You cannot sacrifice your identities and self-worth to it. Because the moment you do that, you lose love of it and potentially lose yourself.
Because you need more in life than just your Small Business.
It is great.
It is necessary.
It is beautiful.
Love it by all means.
But Small Business in and of itself is not enough.
Small Businesses don’t usually give up on us, we give up on them.
Small Business will look after you if you do likewise.
However if it’s no longer for you, make the call…