If you’re starting a business, or you have started one, or even if you’re fairly well established, you’ll know that business is more than just about having a great idea. Suddenly you’re learning to do all sorts of things you’ve never done before.
Now, unless you’ve got some serious funding behind you, you’ve probably had to start on your own, or with only a very small team. You don’t have an accounts team to keep your books up to date, or develop you a system to handle your accounts receivable. You don’t have a marketing team to handle all your PR and advertising, or write copy for you. There’s no admin team to keep your filing system right. You don’t even have a cleaner to keep your office spick and span.
If you’ve come from a job where you basically get to work with your strengths most of the time, and don’t often have to work outside your preferences, this can be a bit of a wake-up call. Suddenly your workload includes a whole bunch of things you’re not used to doing, and maybe not that good at.
You thought having this business was going to be fantastic, because you’d get to spend your time making this great product that you are passionate about, or delivering this great service that you know you’re good at providing. Instead, you seem to be spending most of your time doing financial paperwork, or trying to navigate your way around sales and marketing, or developing a website, or on janitorial duties. Essentially you feel like you spend all your time doing stuff you don’t love.
Or, perhaps you spend all your time doing the stuff you really like – creating the product, creating the program, coming up with ideas – but you spend no time on working out how to implement them, working out the financial aspect of it, marketing it, getting yourself organized. And as a result, you have a whole bunch of product or service but no customers. And no money.
Maybe this business lark isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?
A large number of businesses ‘fail’ within their first year, apparently. The exact figure seems to vary. But this report from statisticbrain.com gives an interesting insight into the reasons why. It’s not usually due to having a bad idea or product. Nope.
|Major Cause||Percentage of Failures||Specific Pitfalls|
|Living too high for the business|
|Nonpayment of taxes|
|No knowledge of pricing|
|Lack of planning|
|No knowledge of financing|
|No experience in record-keeping|
|2||Unbalanced Experience or Lack of Managerial Experience|
|Poor credit granting practices|
|Expansion too rapid|
|Inadequate borrowing practices|
|3||Lack of Experiences in line of goods or services|
|Carry inadequate inventory|
|No knowledge of suppliers|
|Wasted advertising budget|
|5||Neglect, fraud, disaster|
So let’s break this down a little further. A number of the specific pitfalls listed here, and on the article, are, in fact, based in money, organizational issues, or personal effectiveness issues. Problems with pricing, no knowledge of financing, wasted advertising budget, poor record keeping, lack of planning, non-payment of taxes, lack of clear focus….
When you think about it, all these things are pretty fundamental when it comes to business, so if business owners aren’t performing well in these areas, then it’s not that surprising their businesses don’t do that well.
What I am interested in, though, is WHY this happens. Because I look at this list and think to myself, “These pitfalls are all avoidable.” What is it about these business owners that meant they couldn’t avoid these pitfalls?
And the answer, I believe, boils down to Self Awareness.
We may all, from time to time, talk about strengths and weaknesses. For many people, though, it might only come up in the context of a job interview. And their prepared answer will, naturally, focus on the strengths, and talk about weaknesses in a way that will still portray them in a positive light. In a coaching context, though, addressing our weaknesses is a totally different kettle of fish. In a coaching context, there’s no judgement of weaknesses. You don’t jeopardize your chances at getting the job, or the health of a business relationship, by talking about them. When you talk about them fully, you can actually start to do something about them – addressing weaknesses is a positive thing.
In a business context, this process can simply boil down to confronting the things we really don’t like to do – the tasks we don’t really want to be doing, or the tasks we find difficult.
When you admit to yourself which things you tend to avoid, whether they be keeping track of your incomings and outgoings, keeping great records, proper consideration of pricing, doing your taxes, planning, or whatever, you are taking the first step towards a more successful business.
You can spend hours and $$$ learning how to do sales or marketing. But if you haven’t addressed the side of yourself that hates doing sales and marketing,or refuses to plan properly, you’re wasting your time and money, because you haven’t worked out how to get it done – it stays theoretical.
I believe that the best favours you can do yourself and your business are to:
- confront the brutal facts about yourself – learn your tendencies, your strengths and your weaknesses (or areas for improvement), your preferences
- become aware of the things you naturally tend to avoid doing because they involve working outside your preferences
- develop simple strategies to help you work WITH YOUR OWN NATURE to be more effective and get the important things done, even if you don’t like doing them.
- learn how to motivate yourself to do the things you do not love.
In my coaching work I see the enormous benefits that my clients gain from working on sides of themselves where previously they haven't been strong. And I see the knock-on effects in their business. For a client who tends to make emotional decisions about their business and ignores facts and figures, becoming aware that they do this is huge. They can then make a conscious effort to gather the facts and figures to balance out their decision, and undoubtedly their decisions get better!
So take a long, hard look at where you might be falling down and failing your business. The great news is that you can do something about it, and there are a myriad of ways to get help to develop the sides of yourself that need work. Personal coaching, training courses, webinars, self-help, personality type indicators – these are all great ways to get started on a journey of self awareness and self improvement that can have exceedingly positive consequences for you and for your business.
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