“If you’re going through hell, keep going” – Winston Churchill
From the outside, it must look quite easy to run a small business. According to The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), there are around 21,000 new business start-ups each year.
But, as any small business owner will tell you, it’s not quite as easy as it looks. The ABS also reports that more than 60% of small business owners cease operating in the first 3 years.
As a small business owner, I went through lots of challenging periods. There were times when we didn’t have enough orders or customers weren’t paying bills. Then we had technical disasters, key people leaving… the list could go on…
Sometimes I felt total panic and overwhelm. Sometimes disillusioned and depressed.
But I was determined to make my business work, and so over time, I developed a few strategies that helped me power through the challenges until I built a successful small business which I sold 15 years later:
1. The power of goals
“Working towards a goal is one of the most important strategies for becoming lastingly happier” – Sonja Lyubomirsky: ‘The How of Happiness’
What’s worse than going to work every day when things are tough, and at the end of the day or week feeling that you haven’t achieved anything? Having specific goals helped me through those times.
My long-term goal was to sell the company to fund my retirement. I set new goals each year to get me there. Then, I made weekly and daily goals. Just ticking off completed small action items each day gave me a great sense of satisfaction.
Reviewing results and adjusting my action plan helped to keep me ‘on track’ to success.
2. Clarity is king
“Get into order: In a master’s craftsman shop, everything has a place.” Anon.
To achieve your goals, you’ll need to be focused. And to be focused it’s best to get rid of distractions.
Clear your workspace and finalise anything that’s taking up space in your brain. Give your brain the chance to be clear to focus on the tasks that will help you achieve your goals. A master of anything lives in order. No organisation leads to no mastery.
3. Feeling vital and energised
“You Are What You Eat So Don’t Be Cheap, Fast or Fake” Unknown
It took me SO long to learn this, but once I had, it made a huge difference to my energy levels. Food is fuel. Input equals output, so to feel energised and alive, eat food that is energised. Eat ‘live’ food.
I learnt too that fast walking can lift your spirits. Fast walking makes you breathe more deeply then more oxygen circulates your body and energises your brain. In addition, powerful endorphins are released that boost the feeling of well-being.
I made a new habit of getting up an hour earlier each day to take a brisk walk. By the time I got to work, I felt marvelous and ready to tackle anything.
4. Positive language and attitude
“The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same” – Carlos Castaneda
All small business owners want employees to be positive and enthusiastic. Employees tend to take their lead from the boss so whatever the boss says and does will be copied by the staff.
If the boss is happy and positive the staff will be too, so choose your language and attitude carefully. And when you feel unsure of something, make a point of looking confident, and the people around you will feel confident too.
5. Phone a successful small business friend
“Model someone who is already successful… because success leaves clues” – Tony Robbins
I started my business because I was good at the job. Then I realised that wasn’t enough. I had to be good at running a business – which I didn’t have the first clue about!
I’d seen a small business nearby growing really fast so I called the owner and asked him for some advice. He gave me details of two coaches that he was working with. One of them became my first business coach. From him I learnt valuable ‘tried and tested’ strategies to develop myself and my business.
The point here is that there’s almost always someone who has found a way to get through the challenges you’re facing. So get help. But be careful who you ask. In more wise words from Tony Robbins… “Don’t take swimming lessons from a drowning man”.
These are some of the key strategies I used to take my business from a startup to a multi-branch service business with 28 staff and an annual turnover of $12m. After 15 years I sold it to an ASX listed company and now live half the year in Sydney, Australia and half in South West France.
If they worked for my business, they’ll work for yours too.
To your business success!