Most business owners I know go into business because they want wealth, freedom and a lifestyle of fun and enjoyment, fuelled by the money they expect to make from their business. Most of them end up horribly disappointed.
For most business owners, rather than becoming a gateway to freedom and fun, their business becomes a trap that imprisons them. In this article I’ll reveal why that happens and demonstrate how you don’t have to sacrifice your life for your business to achieve success. Business is fun for successful entrepreneurs and it can be fun for you. If it isn’t fun, you must be doing it wrong.
At a recent seminar for entrepreneurs I attended, one speaker, a very successful entrepreneur, asked everyone to stand and remain standing if they could honestly answer yes to the following questions. Think about your answers to these:
- You work on average less than fifty hours per week in your business. (That sent around 60% of the audience to their seats.)
- You regularly take at least four weeks per year vacation from your business. (That one accounted for another 20%.)
- You regularly take more than four weeks per year vacation from your business and never worry about what is happening while you are away. (Only ten people were standing at this point.)
- If I gave you two weeks notice to get organised, you could spend a year away from your business with only your laptop and cell phone to keep in touch and have no concerns that it may not survive while you are away.
- If I gave you two weeks notice, you could go on a 12-month holiday, leave your laptop and cell phone at home and expect your business to not only survive but also be better than you left it when you get back home.
Only three out of the 130 attendees were standing after question five. The speaker went on to say that only these three could be called true entrepreneurs. All the others were merely business owners who are caught in the typical business work trap, trading time for economic survival.
Where would you have sat down if you were at that seminar?
Why do so many would-be entrepreneurs fail to achieve their goals? A Grant Thornton International Business Report survey of over 7,200 businesses in 32 countries found that business owners worldwide on average spend over fifty hours per week working and Australian business owners spend an average of 56 hours per week. And this survey was taken before the GFC.
What happened to those dreams of wealth and freedom? It’s not just like this for business owners who struggle to make a profit. Even financially successful businesses are typically run by owners who worry about whether the business would survive without them.
My own experience explains what happens and I’ve also seen this scenario played out for hundreds of clients I have worked with. After four years in business, we were starting to make some progress and growing our sales and adding employees to cope with the growth.
What an ego trip on one hand, but a nightmare on the other.
The prospect of success pushes you on, but your lack of experience with a growing business shows up and you hit the wall, not knowing how to cope with employees who can’t do anything without asking you first and not knowing how the consequent inefficiencies are blowing out your costs and choking your cashflow.
Before too long, it gets to the point where you wonder if you would be better off getting out. But you can’t. The debts are too high. You would never pay them off working in a normal job.
Eventually for most, either the business goes under or you manage to find equilibrium where you can keep working at a survival level. You put in long hours and keep the business afloat. “One day,” you hope, “things will come good.” Meanwhile, the stress levels continue to damage your health and your relationship with your spouse/partner is often at breaking point, or worse. You hardly get to see your children and they grow up before you know it. They seem like strangers at times. You have never had the chance to get to know them as you would have liked and you regret the fact that you haven’t been a strong, positive influence in their lives.
What went wrong?
Most business owners are experts in their trade or profession. We learn to manage our business mainly from watching previous employers and using that as a guide. This just perpetuates the same results. The business grows to a point that it becomes chaotic because the right people, systems and cashflow are not in place to manage growth. The vision and excitement that herald the start of the business is lost and the business becomes a drain on resources and a nightmare to work in.
The critical difference between the truly successful and the normal business described above is that successful entrepreneurs develop their businesses into sustainable, profitable operations that work without them having to be involved in the day-to-day running. That factor is critical, because until your business works without you, you still have a job and the business controls you.
However, when your business finally does work without you, you have built a value and wealth creation vehicle. That’s the true definition of entrepreneurship. It’s putting your business on autopilot so it works profitably and successfully by itself, without you having to be involved in day-to-day decisions or operations. That’s where the fun is.
For a true entrepreneur, the business is the product. The business is like a machine that produces the products or services. The only reason for the entrepreneur to work in the business is to discover how the business works best and to create the systems that will become the foundation for future growth. That should be the goal of any business owner starting a business, and once that job is done, it is time to step out of the operational processes and get into the driver’s seat where strategy and direction become the priority.
Just like developing any other product or machine manufacturing process, there are a series of steps that need to be taken from conceptualisation to completion. These are the tasks that entrepreneurs should focus their attention on. However, typically these are neglected while the business owner works in the business trying to get more sales or do the workload of two employees. Meanwhile all the fun and enjoyment is sucked out of life while the business owner keeps playing catch-up.
It’s a downward spiral that only stops when you realise that this way isn’t working out the way you want and you make some changes. Others have succeeded. But it’s a completely different and sometimes contrary path that they take to get there. Just think about it. If you are copying the norm, what do you expect to get?
So, it’s time to take stock. If your business isn’t fun, you must be doing it wrong. Take a quick check and see if you are doing it like the majority who end up working long, stressful hours. Or are you following the example of the successful few?
It shouldn’t be hard to work out.