July 12

The Small Business Trap

So You Started a Business, huh?

You started your own business so you could be your own boss, make your own hours and live the life you always dreamed of.

You worked hard for success, and when your business started to take off, you were thrilled. But now you feel trapped by the business you’ve created.

Your business demands more from you than any boss ever could. It often feels more like a job and less like your business. You aren’t living on the beach, traveling the world or even taking vacations. What went wrong?

You fell into the small business trap. Here are four ways well-intentioned business owners fall into the small business trap and how you can avoid it.

Small business owners shouldn't do it all1. DIY AND DIE

Most small business owners start their business based on proficiency. They are great cooks, so they start a catering company. They like building websites, so they start a website company.

This is a good place to start, but it can also become the place you remain if you stay in a DIY mindset. The best way to grow your business is to hire people or contract out things that you can do but aren’t critical to generating revenue.

You are the MVP of your business, but you can’t and shouldn’t do it all. You need a team of people who complement your skillset. Even modest growth will overwhelm you if you don’t share the load. No one can do it like you, but someone might actually do it better.

Find good people, hire them or contract with them for the elements of your business that don’t require you directly.

For example, if you have a roofing company or a cleaning company, you might want to let someone else handle the accounting, marketing or web development.

Your business can take over your life2. LIFESTYLE DISCONNECT

One of the things I do for my clients is help them identify the lifestyle they want and then help them reimagine their business to create that lifestyle. After all, you started your business to have the freedom to do what you wanted, when you wanted. What happened to that?

It was devoured by the need to get clients, fulfill orders and pay the bills. Understood.

But now all you have is a job and no freedom. Take a moment to recall what started you on this path in the first place. Do you want to travel? Do you want to visit children or grandchildren? Do you want to own beachfront property? Uh, yes, please! Then let’s rework your business to make that happen.

Here’s what that looks like in practice: When I meet with potential clients, I let them know that I do most of my coaching via technology, Skype, phone or FaceTime. There are many reasons for this.

It saves massive amounts of time, it’s more scalable and I loathe traffic.

Some potential clients have balked because they would prefer face-to- face sessions. While I understand their concern, I have a very clear vision for the business and the lifestyle I am creating. That vision allows me say no thank you to clients who want me to compromise my vision for their convenience. Have a clear vision for the business and lifestyle you are creating.

If you know where you are going, you can say no to clients who want to take you elsewhere.

Think about how to scale your business3. IT JUST DOESN’T SCALE

I was watching “Shark Tank” several months ago, and someone was making a pitch that failed. I don’t even remember the pitch now, but what I do remember is the reason all of the sharks passed – it didn’t scale.

A scalable business is one that is structured to grow geometrically or exponentially without direct involvement of the owner. It isn’t limited by the skills and talents of the business owner or business model.

Scaling a business is difficult after the business model is set and in motion, but a bit easier when it’s baked into the business plan or your thinking early in the process.

Many small business owners don’t think about processes, systems, structure or scaling until they realize the business is running them or they begin thinking about retirement. This is a grave error, and it’s one of the things that sets the small business trap.

To avoid it, identify how you can grow your business geometrically, whether through strategic partnerships, hiring the right people or developing processes that can be duplicated.

Think about the ultimate in scalability – the franchise. Everything is systematized and documented.

Is your business larger than you or is it limited by you?

Find some support or a coach4. NO ADULT SUPERVISION

One of the difficulties of running a small business is the lack of outside accountability and insight.There’s no one to make sure you follow up on that prospect or do any of the other things you don’t like to do.

So you have to find accountability or create it. Success is a team sport, and the best team usually wins. Find accountability or create it.

What I am talking about goes far beyond networking, glad-handing or swapping business cards. I’m talking about a group that will ask you tough questions and make sure you don’t sabotage your success.

You need an advisory board. This must be a group of people invested in your success. If you can’t find people willing or able, join a mastermind or hire a coach who can help you plow through the distractions.

No matter where you are in your business life cycle, you can work on these elements to create a business you enjoy and the lifestyle you always dreamed of.

About the author 

Dr. David Arrington

David a husband, father and the principal of Arrington Coaching. He and his team work with leaders, teams, organizations, and entrepreneurs. He regularly speaks and writes on leadership development, team alignment, and peak performance.

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