Every failing small business I have ever encountered had the same problem. Here’s the problem and more importantly, how to avoid it happening to you.
I need to start by asking you a slightly odd question: What do you do if you have a problem with one of your teeth?
OK, the answer is easy. You visit your dentist. The dentist will then either treat the tooth or as a last resort, they will remove it. Simple.
It looks like this:
- The small business owner notices that they have a problem [toothache].
- They then arrange to go and visit a professional for the help they need [a dentist].
- Finally, they have their problem resolved [the treatment].
Now look how differently that same small business owner acts, when they have a business problem. They apply none of the logic above.
It looks like this:
- They identify their business has a problem. They start by hoping the problem will go away. Whilst hope is essential, it isn’t a business strategy. So their problem remains.
- Next, instead of getting expert help, they dabble with their problem. They look online for answers, even though they have no idea what they’re actually looking for. They ask friends and contacts for advice, even though these people lack the expertise they need.
- Their problem then gets progressively worse. They get the commercial equivalent of severe toothache.
With even the most extreme toothache you can get pain free by having the tooth extracted. That pain is nothing, compared to the pain the business owner suffers when they slowly go broke.
Their commercial toothache is numbed with painkillers, rather than professionally treated. The painkiller of choice is to tell themselves that business will just get better if they hunker down and work harder. Things will magically improve next month, or when the economy picks up or after the next election, etc. This self-talk acts as a narcotic, to ease the pain of the reality of their situation.
The answer is simple
We need to treat the health of our business with the same care we give to our teeth!
It starts with accepting that there’s a problem and that it won’t just disappear. Burying your head in the sand does nothing to help the situation. It just makes things worse.
The first step is to get the expert help you need. If cash flow is a problem or you have a tax problem, talk with an accountant. If you need more customers, more sales and bigger profits, speak with a marketing expert. If you have a legal problem, discuss it with a lawyer.
The barrier here for non-entrepreneurial business owners is money… or rather, how they feel about money.
In short: They’re scared of investing. That’s because they run their business with an employee mindset. They genuinely believe it’s safer to starve their business of essential investment. That’s because they still have not emotionally understood the difference between spending money and investing it.
So they see the riskiest thing possible [failing to invest] as being safe, and the safest thing possible [investing when needed] as being risky.
Think about it: If a business isn’t growing the way the owner wants it to, all they need to do is get the correct strategy and work that strategy. It isn’t rocket science. When a business owner works hard for too little reward, it’s because they have deliberately chosen to do so, by choosing not to invest in the help they need.
When I speak with entrepreneurs, the picture is very different.
Entrepreneurs get it
Entrepreneurs never have this problem. When an entrepreneur sees an area of their business needs help, they take intelligent action. They speak with an expert. They get the right strategy. Problem solved. They treat their business the way they treat their teeth.
In short: If your business needs help, think DENTIST not DABBLE.
P.S. Read this. It’s a heartbreaking email, which every small business owner should read.