BARRIERS TO BUSINESS GROWTH 1 – You! The Owner
The essential guide to Starting Up & Growing your Business
Barrier 1 – You! The Owner
If you’ve recently started your own business, or only been trading for a couple of years, you may be feeling the stresses and strains as the reality of what’s involved hits home.
Every new entrepreneur has high aspirations to make a better life for themselves, but beyond the honeymoon period of setting up the new business, the real work of building clients, raising awareness, and juggling all the balls in the air is a daunting challenge.
Most start-ups don’t survive beyond three years. To make sure you’re not one of these, let’s take a look at how YOU!, the business owner, can break through the barriers to achieve success.
If, like me, you’ve spent many years as an employee, we have to make a major mindset shift. Stop thinking like an employee, and start behaving like an Entrepreneur.
Employees are focused in one area of a business, deal with the day to day operational detail, have a specific job description, and a contract of employment neatly setting our their working hours, holidays and rates of pay.
Entrepreneurs don’t have that luxury. We start off working 24/7/365, with very little return – we could earn more serving burgers. This is to be expected initially, but you can’t keep it up for the rest of your life.
This mindset shift will make the difference between building a successful business, or heading to a meltdown. But I’m no psychologist, so let’s stick to the hard facts as to how you, the owner, can metamorphose from employee to Entrepreneur.
Experience – develop your support network
Your experience in your product or service initially drives the business. Your first clients are your friends, family and other connections you make as the word spreads from this handful of initial contacts.
You know these people; they’re all supporting you in your new venture and will surround you with positivity. The bubble will burst, however, and you can’t wing it like this forever. The business will become more complex and you’ll need to strengthen your experience.
Building and widening your support network is vital. Unlike the work place, you won’t have a manager or colleague to turn to with a problem, or to ask how to approach a particular issue. Finding key people of influence, other successful business owners, possibly a mentor, accountability group or mastermind board, are all valuable forms of support you should actively seek out.
I don’t recommend partners, spouses or best friends either. Yes, your nearest and dearest will be holding the fort whilst you dedicate yourself to the business; like picking up the kids, getting the dinner on the table, possibly a shoulder to cry on, or to raise a glass with when you have the occasional success to celebrate. But I strongly recommend keeping the business and home life & relationships separate.
Research and read as much as you can about how to make a business successful and try to make one or two behavior changes from the suggestions and methods you read about. By taking things one small step at a time, you’ll gradually build on your experience and your business will benefit.
Knowledge – you can only wear so many hats!
As you go from strength to strength, it will seem there is always more to deal with. The number of hats you wear will grow as you take on the various functions from worker, operator, bookkeeper, purchaser, customer support, planner, HR Manager, Strategist, Marketer, IT expert etc. Has your coat rack run out of pegs yet?
Don’t be fooled. Businesses are complex entities and you are the driver and the leader. Identify where your knowledge gaps are and seek out training and information.
Don’t be afraid to recognize your limitations either – normally in time management rather than not having the know-how.
The most common problem initially, amongst new business owners I’ve met networking, is having to make sure inbound calls are answered during office hours, when they can’t be available because they’re meeting clients, or simply trying to get the work done.
If you need a part time PA, a call answering service, or someone to make your appointments for example, then out-source it as a first step. You don’t have to recruit a full time role if you only require a few hours a week. There are many people out there offering their services on a self-employed basis, working Mum’s willing to offer part time hours during the school day etc. We’ve seen a much more flexible workforce evolve away from the old 9 to 5 mentality.
You can save time and money using online resources such as ACAS who have a wealth of template libraries for things like contracts of employment, staff handbooks, standard letters to guide you through the maze of employment law. Let someone else add the expertise and tailor these generic versions to the specific needs of your business.
The same applies to book keeping and accounting. You can find local firms or self employed accountants charging reasonable rates for a couple of hours of work a week. It may feel like your costs continually accrue as you grow, but you won’t be wasting hours at year-end frantically trying to get your receipts in order, and updating the spreadsheets from the last 12 months.
The time you pay others to do the low value, back office, administrative stuff, will be more than paid back by the additional sales you can develop from not missing that all important call from a new client, instead of stuck in front of a computer working out your expenses.
Meddling & Misspent Time – Learn to Delegate
Most owner-managers work long hours. But does successful growth demand working harder, or smarter? Research has shown that owner-managers spend too much time meddling in the detail and solving other people’s problems for them.
The most important task you should be dedicating your sacred time to, is developing the DNA and future strategy of the business. Yet the typical owner-manager spends less than 10% of their time on this.
The thought of delegating to your staff can be scary. The fear of losing control of the detail is the key factor that normally keeps you meddling in the operational minutaie that you should be confident to leave to your employees.
Delegation can be achieved by coaching your staff, transferring your knowledge and experience, whilst allowing them the autonomy to bring their own skills and capabilities to the job. You never know, they may be better at it than you – and you shouldn’t feel threatened by that – you have to embrace it. Richard Branson couldn’t fly a plane, but look where Virgin Airlines are now.
Developing effective monitoring systems, controls and reporting procedures will ensure that you keep your finger on the pulse, are aware of the status of the business, and be proactive in steering off schedule conditions back on track before it has a negative impact on your productivity and profitability.
Delegating will begin to free up your time, allow your employees to get on with the job in hand, whilst you get out there and work on the long-term sustainability and future of your business.
Lastly, there will inevitably be emotionally good days and bad days, highs and lows. Find a mechanism that works for you to stay motivated and maintain your self-confidence. Sometimes you have to stand back. Instead of worrying about all the things you’ve got to do, get those out of your head and onto the To-Do list, take a deep breath and recognise what you have accomplished.
At the end of each day, take a few minutes to reflect on what you HAVE achieved, the TAH DAH! list of what you DID do, rather than worrying about what you didn’t get round to – and keep telling yourself “What a great job I’m doing”.
Next week I’ll be looking at the all-important task of Planning. Your business can be everything you want it to be and more – if you plan for it. It’s a proven fact that those with a business plan perform better than those that don’t.
If you’d like to read more about this topic I recommend the following websites and articles:
From Hamsters Wheel to Cocktails Around The Pool – Barnaby Wynter, January 2016
Entrepreneur – 12 Steps To Go From Employee to Entrepreneur
YOUR NEXT STEPS TO GREATER PRODUCTIVITY
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