Operating a business is not an easy task.
I have always relied on 4 principles or values:
It takes all of these to make it in business.
If you are considering going into business,
If you don’t have these traits or characteristics you should throw in the towel before you start because these are essential.
Once you are in business, you have to keep going back to these.
A long time ago I learned about commitment when I was rock climbing.
I was high off the ground.
You know stories grow as you tell them, and at one point in this story I was hundreds of feet off the ground, but really probably about 30 feet off the ground.
High enough!! I was stuck.
I could feel the next place for my foot but it was just out of reach. I could see the hand hold but I couldn’t reach it.
Precariously perched on the side of the mountain I searched for alternatives. My belayer (the person holding my rope/my life) was patient with me. After I had exhausted all of the possibilities and didn’t find an alternative, he said, “you have to commit to the move, you just have to go for it. “ He meant I had to let go of the safety of my perch and reach out, risk and make a commitment to making it to the next hold. I took a deep breath and did it. I made the move and I learned a lesson.
In my business I have used that lesson over and over.
There are many metaphors there: taking a risk, staying focused and on my path, and commitment.
When I have questioned my business I go back to the rocks of Joshua Tree National Monument and remember that it takes total commitment to be successful in business and that I have to “commit to the move”.
Next is perseverance.
I learned this lesson biking across the country from Maine to Oregon.
Now that in itself takes some perseverance, but the real lesson came in Wyoming in the Big Horn Mountains.
We had to cross the Rocky Mountains somewhere and the Big Horns looked like the best option. The climb was 30+ miles long. For me, that means I am biking between 3 and 6 miles per hour for a very long time. There I learned that no matter how slow I was going I had to keep pushing that pedal to make it to the top of the mountain. There are times when in business it feels like a BIG mountain climb. Some days the mountain is not as steep and the climb isn’t as long and some days it is a very long climb. But I also know that it is perseverance that keeps me moving my business forward. One of the tools that I use is an accomplishment list or journal. There are days when you are climbing that mountain or putting out fires that you just can’t see what you have accomplished. An accomplishment journal helps because when you start listing all of the things that you did do, and it is amazing. It can energize you and keep you moving.
Next is risk. Business is risk.
You are stepping out of the comfort zone of a JOB and into being an entrepreneur.
Not everyone can take that risk and live with that risk.
Sometimes the risk lasts for a long time before the payoff comes.
You have to know yourself and what you can tolerate and what your life can tolerate.
When you are in business you are in the driver’s seat and you are making the decisions about what is acceptable.
It is vital that you are looking at your entire business.
You need to have your finger on the pulse of your organization in several areas:
You need to have a clear and compelling vision that helps to energize you and draw you into the future.
Be clear on what you are creating so that you don’t get distracted or pulled off track.
Create strategies to accomplish the vision.
Keep your strategies in front of you and know where you are with each strategy.
So many strategic plans get put aside and never referenced after they are created.
you need to know your numbers.
This is one area that I was never good at.
My business did not start taking off until I put my finger on the pulse of money.
You need to know what is coming in and going out.
Know the numbers.
Know what it takes to make you profitable;
know where you are now and how far away you are from that profitability.
Know what is going on with your staff if you have them.
Know their vision and their passion.
And stay in touch with what is happening on the floor.
There is incredible information there.
So, What Do You Do When the Pulse is LOW?
This is perhaps the hardest question you will ever answer.
YOU have to make the decision and you need to rely on several factors.
First, listen to your own wisdom.
Many times we know what we need to do and we ignore the inner voice that is telling us.
We get further down the road and in hindsight it is clear and then we can even acknowledge that we know.
Listening to yourself and your feeling and gut is important.
But you also have to be a wise business owner.
That means that you have to take a look at the facts in front of you.
You’ve been paying attention to your business.
You know its current state and you know its growth.
Evaluate: Current Status, Growth History and Growth Potential
What is the current status of the organization?
Are you still investing money in it?
Has it been 3 years?
Can you afford to continue investing?
Does that fit into your life plan?
Or is it self-supporting?
What is the growth history?
Has the business been growing?
Adding new clients?
Is that growth consistent?
Does the product or service remain in demand?
Have you evaluated the potential growth of the product/service?
Do you know your market?
If your business is struggling have you exhausted all of your marketing strategies to bring in new customers or repeat customers?
As the business owner considering throwing in the towel you must not leave any stone unturned.
If there is a marketing strategy that you haven’t tried because you are personally uncomfortable with it, now is the time to get comfortable. For instance, if you are not tech savvy and don’t like being on the Internet – you have to have an internet presence. You cannot be in business and not have an internet presence. You must have a social media presence.
Are there things that you can be outsourcing that will free you up to do the sales side or development side of the business? As the owner or CEO your role is to build the business and develop the business. This may mean networking, connecting, landing new clients, new investors, new products or services. You know what business building looks like in for your business. What are your business development strategies? Do you have the time to carry them out? If not, what can you delegate in order to do that?
If you are spending your valuable time doing non-essential tasks then you need to re-order what you do so that you can do the essential and fundamental task of business building or business development.
Make a list each day of the essential money focused tasks and do them first.
Delegate or outsource the other tasks.
Many business owners have discovered the magic of outsourcing.
Suddenly, you have the time to make more money.
You have handed off jobs, you are paying money to have someone else do them and you are making MORE money!
How sweet is that? What can you hand off? Now is the time to figure that out.
But, wait, you still have the towel in your hand and you are still unsure whether you should hold it or throw it.
So far you have taken a look at your business owner characteristics of commitment, perseverance and risk taking;
you have evaluated the current state of the organization and the future growth potential; you have looked at all of your marketing and sales strategies to be sure that you are doing EVERYTHING you can to bring in more clients and more business; and finally you have taken a look at yourself to determine what other things you can do to grow the business and what you can outsource or delegate to free you up to do that. After taking a look at all of this and listening to your inner wise voice, it should be pretty clear what to do. You know what to do. Hard decision. Hardest ever, but solely yours to make.
Whatever you decide to do it is important to do it with style, with grace and with the utmost professionalism.
Do not burn bridges.
Do not do anything to harm your reputation or that of your staff, your vendors, your board or others.
If you throw in the towel, make sure it is clean, that it shines brightly and provides everyone involved the most potential for future success possible.