When speaking to business owners I hear an awful lot of stories as to why the business was failing and to be fair there are an awful lot of reasons to fail. You can read any newspaper and it is full of very good reasons why your business is failing but the sad reality is that most businesses fail because of the business owner. There are a number of reasons for failure but most would be considered lack of self-development so what can we do to help ourselves grow.
Unfortunately one of the first lessons in business is that the ‘buck stops with you’. That’s it! You are ultimately responsible for your business and your income when you made the decision to go into business for yourself. Now the next bit is even more painful as if you are not happy with yourself, or your business, or your income then there is only person who can change that and that’s you. Being the decision maker can be lonely so find someone or something that motivates and inspires you to want to change and grow.
One of my mentors was a guy called Norman Levine who was immensely successful and a ‘giant’ of a motivator and I had the good fortune to meet him and his lovely wife Sandy socially on a number of occasions and he taught me the one big truth, “You are where you want to be in life, so if you’re not happy with that fact then change it don’t go blaming other people”. I can tell you when he said that to me I became defensive at first but then it struck home what he meant. His statement was an obvious statement of ‘empowerment’. As business owners we are in control of our lives and if we are not happy with what we see in the mirror then we need to change.
Take an objective view of you and your business and complete what is called a SWOT analysis of your business and you. There is no point in completing this analysis if you are not going to be honest with yourself but if you are unsure get someone else involved who you can trust to be blunt with you. You do not want someone to tell you what you want to hear if you want to develop.
SWOT stands for the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). For example if we assess your business strengths what is your business good at; do you have very good staff you can rely on? Are they good with customers? What is your unique selling point (if you don’t have one find one)? And continue the process writing down under the business strengths until you have exhausted the subject. Now complete the analysis for the remaining strands until you have identified all the business strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Once you have the full SWOT analysis you will then need to draw up a plan and decide what is to be done to build on the business strengths; strengthen the weaknesses, capitalise on the opportunities and mitigate the threats.
You complete exactly the same analysis of yourself – this can be painful or extremely productive dependent on your attitude. Once you can identify what you are good at and what you are not then you can understand your limits and know what should be delegated and what you should focus on.
Once you have completed an honest appraisal of your business you can then build your business on solid foundations as opposed to building on sand – the unknown.
What are you in business for?
I have had people tell me they are the best at something and the reputation will carry them through by word of mouth and they rely on this to generate revenues. Experience tells me that simply being good at something is no reason to go into business or a guarantee of success if it comes to that. Customers expect you to be good at what you do and you can be good at something as an employee and earn a living wage. On the subject of wages very many businesses do not take a living wage from their business and will often borrow to put money back into the business getting into personal debt. Why? Pride has a lot to do with it and so does not wanting to let other businesses or customers down.
As business owners we accept that the early years may be difficult and it will take time for the business to grow but there must be a line drawn and ‘investing’ good money into a bad business is not a good idea at any time. If you are still struggling after 2-3 years then you really need to question what you and your family are getting from the business other than sleepless nights, arguments and anxiety. There are few things worse than working hard and for no reward. Not being able to buy nice things for your children or wife; not being able to go on a decent holiday will eventually wear you down.
In most cases borrowing more and certainly not from family is not the answer. Rather than borrowing and investing fresh money into a failing business you should check the existing business model and ideally seek professional business advice. Fresh money into a failing business may buy a little time but it will certainly add more negative pressure if you don’t change what you do. Working twice as hard at something you are already failing at will not achieve anything but soul destroying heartache.
The simplest solution may be you need to change the business model or even start a completely new business direction. Whatever the reason you must consider what you are getting from the business personally. Do you enjoy what you are doing and getting any satisfaction from your business efforts as if not this can cause resentment and is likely to be detected by a potential customer.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Written by: Mike Smith