You know how in business, many people start off very positively, primarily fuelled by their adrenalin and excitement and enthusiasm for their dreams, plans and aspirations.
But then, after about 3 years, or sometimes less, they hit a wall, and can’t sustain the initial impetus.
Unable to step up to the next level, or into a new league, they often start to sink…
And even if they do fairly well over a longer period, often the stress and time demands of running a business can feel almost overwhelming, and often the initial dream is forgotten under the day-to-day in tray of urgency and fire-fighting.
Ironically, the two main reasons people go into business in the first place – more freedom and more control – are the first things that get sacrificed on the altar of running your own business.
Many business people don’t feel they are doing the sort of great work they set out to do.
And many end up doing low grade, low quality, non-profitable business, just to keep the wolf from the door.
At the other end of the spectrum, many end up running around chasing their tail to deliver what the business promises…. Never quite feeling on top of things.
As the business owner, I know from experience, that you can end up putting in so much extra time and energy, just to stand still, and often aren’t getting justly rewarded.
In the past few years I’ve heard many people tell me when we first meet that they are almost at the end of their tether… that they are ready for a revolution…
And it’s ok to feel like that… in fact, it’s good to feel that.
But, unless you embrace that call for a revolution, you may find yourself at Overwhelm…
There are, in my experience, seven entrepreneurial traits that are essential for success, but that have a downside if you don’t look out… and all can lead to that overwhelm.
1. It’s Your Baby!
… and you care about it… deeply, madly, passionately!
You have taken personal responsibility for the cause, the purpose you have turned into a business. This is more than a business, it’s your baby, and you are prepared to give your absolute last breath for the cause.
You are also not prepared for the fact that not everyone else is! Yes, they might be good people you have surrounded yourself with. But they are not you. How often I hear business owners say things like, “why can’t they just do it like I would?” or “I wish I had 30 more of me in the business!”
As a result, you take on more, micro-manage, because it “has to be right!” After all, it’s got your name on it, and that pride you have in every element of your business can seep into perfectionism.
2. You’ve got a Point to Prove
Whilst many business owners say “I don’t have to prove anything to anyone else,” in my experience of working with many over the years, they often have a point to prove.
Either they feel,
a) they have something to prove to themselves (just to prove they can start, and grow, a successful business).
b) they have something to prove to the wider world… something about their value and significance, leaving a legacy, that sort of thing. And often that includes a desire to prove others wrong (others who have, perhaps, implied that they didn’t think the business was a good idea, or that the owner would make it work.
c) they have something to prove to a specific person… often to emulate someone close to them (often a parent). This can bring in very unique dynamics in family businesses.
The result is that you, as business owner, will go that extra yard, because of this extra motive. A good thing. Yes. And yet, sometimes, it can lead to intransigence. There can be a tendency to stick at things that aren’t working, out of stubbornness, and a fear of being perceived to have “failed” in any small way, rather than changing tack, adapting to change, and adopting new processes.
3. The Suffering Servant Syndrome!
Good business owners are forward focused. They live in the present/future. They spend a lot of time with a future based mindset. They are comfortable with present sacrifices for future gain. It’s all about the bigger cause, right? It’s all about making a difference in the world. Yes.
So situations arise where the business owner makes huge sacrifices. Even at a basic level. You know, I have a lot of business owners tell me that they would feel guilty about taking time off. Can’t be seen to be going home before the staff. Can’t set a bad example. Can’t be the weakest link!
There is a tendency for business owners to have the mindset of “If I am going to make all this difference in the world with my super-successful business, and all the material wealth that comes with that, then I must have to deserve that future success” And, they surmise, subconsciously, that the only way to deserve that success is by making huge personal sacrifices in the present.
4. Capability Paralysis
Business people, and particularly in small businesses, are now far more capable of performing more tasks than ever before, due to technology and an increase in overall skill levels in so many areas.
Because they can, they do. This often distracts from what is really important and results oriented. It’s natural for people to default to the most comfortable tasks. Often that makes them feel busy, even though it is not necessarily what they should be doing. The real skill is in discerning between the two.
This is a particularly prevalent problem in the current climate where the ability to do more yourself appears to represent a financial saving. Many suffer from paralysis as a result of excessive capability, unable to move forward and grow.
This is also linked to the “Busy-ness” Habit. There’s a disturbing perception that has grown up that busy = successful. Appearing, in some way, to be in demand, has a certain apparent status. As business owners, this desire to feel in demand, coupled with the capability paralysis, can lead to excessive amounts of low-grade activity. Because it’s a habit, it’s hard to shake off. It’s also hard to see it for yourself, and often you, as business owner, are the last one to notice that in fact you haven’t had a holiday for 3 years, or that you are starting to just go off the boil somewhat. Often it takes a cataclysmic health or personal issue to highlight what’s really going on. And sometimes that can almost come too late.
5. You’re It!
The buck starts and stops with you, the business owner. Your people look to you for every answer… at every level. So, strategically, tactically, and operationally, they look to your lead. After all, you have a grip on everything that’s happening in your business. You are a business owner, and that means you love being in control.
Because you have to be available for/to everyone, you can spend a lot of time being reactive. You get interrupted a lot with challenges, problems, and occasionally solution options for you to decide upon. With no time to think, plan, or execute your own part in the business, you end up doing that work when everyone else has gone home (or at home in the evening, or at weekends… come on, admit it!)
In some cases, I have seen businesses where a culture of fear exists and the team are unwilling to make decisions, create opportunities, or even make suggestions, such is the level of control exerted, and the power of the entrepreneurial character at the top.
This is all very well at the start. Strong leadership is required. But over a longer term, and particularly as the business grows, it’s very unhealthy and can lead to the business owner shouldering too much of the burden.
6. You’re Too Nice!
You want to build a friendly business, where a family atmosphere exists. After all, the absence of such a positive, friendly atmosphere is exactly why you left your previous role. And everyone hated the boss back in that job… and that’s a trap you will avoid at all costs.
You don’t want to become “too corporate”. You want it to stay fun. You want to keep everyone in the team onside, and engaged with the business.
However, as the business grows, if appropriate systems, processes, and operations are not introduced, things will not run smoothly. And guess who will be mopping up the pieces each day as crisis after crisis unfolds.
7. Opportunity Overload
You, as business owner, entrepreneur, see opportunities others just don’t see. That’s one of your core strengths.
You want to explore new avenues, fresh opportunities, and you want to leave no stone unturned in bettering the business.
Yet, your resources of time, energy, capital, are not unlimited. You can’t do everything which you would want to explore.
But, what if…?
That’s a very powerful mantra… “What if…?”
“What if we could find a way to do x, y, z?” The mantra of a top business leader.
The danger of course is that you have so many opportunities, all at varying stages of exploration and execution, that sometimes it seems nothing is coming to fruition quickly enough (oh yes, did I mention, business owners want things to happen fast?!). This leads to frustration, so extra hours get put in to move things forward more quickly. You, the business owner, end up trying to juggle many balls, keep many plates spinning. And meanwhile, Tracy in payroll is off sick again, or Jim, your key account manager, running a crucial project for one of your best clients, has had to take compassionate leave for a while. So, it’s back to you to work on some of the day-to-day operational stuff too.
This is the lot of the business owner, you sigh… and so it goes on.
It seems, on the face of it, that all of the above is endemic. It’s part of being a business owner, surely. Isn’t it?!
The result for many, is poor sleep, poor exercise, poor health, stress, distress, and even the breakdown of other areas of life, such as in the personal and family arena.
Yes, as a business owner, you are a “Go get ‘em”, opportunity-focused, ambitious, self-starter… – these are your strengths. They are in your business DNA.
And yet, by their nature, they can store up overwhelm for you!
By the way if you’re thinking, “I resemble that remark!”… time for a revolution…