I gave an informal talk to a group of entrepreneurs, and I wanted to share with you the advice I set out to them, sparked by the discussion points they raised, for you to think about as you tackle your business challenges today. Let’s start with two great quotes…
1. “If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my axe.”
This Abraham Lincoln quote beautifully illustrates the importance of strategic planning. Many small business owners get consumed by the relentless chopping, day after day, without taking the time to first step back and sharpen the axe. If they did, imagine how much more time-efficient and effective their metaphorical tree chopping would be.
2. “You may get to the top of the ladder, and then find it hasn't been leaning against the right wall.”
Wise words attributed to Allen Raine. Take the time to check yourself – are you blindly climbing the ladder of success because you’re chasing the pound? Are you passionate about your goals? Are you heading in the right direction? Do you love what you do?
3. Don’t forget that love and passion need to go hand in hand with good business sense.
The bottom line needs to be respected too. A business cannot survive if it doesn’t have one more pound coming in than going out. But if you do what makes you happy, combined with good business practices, it’s going to work.
4. Be mindful of how much you use the word ‘should’.
Should doesn’t come from the heart. There’s a feeling of reluctant duty associated with this word that makes us feel forced to complete a task, rather than genuinely and enthusiastically embracing what you are doing. Which sounds more fulfilling?
5. Consider ‘inside-out and outside-in’.
The outside-in approach is all about “I should have a marketing strategy, a website, a growth plan, an exit strategy.” The inside-out approach is “How much do I need in order to survive; to be happy doing the things I want to do?” Both are important, but people often forget they need to focus on the inside-out too, which reminds you of your values. When it’s real, it’s easier and certainly more enjoyable to do what you need to do.
6. Do you need to have goals?
Not necessarily. However, it’s a great way to focus your attention and give you a clear direction. If you shy away from setting goals, ask yourself why. You may be surprised by the answers you find; maybe realise the fears you didn’t know you had that you can now unlock and face head on. Don’t be intimidated by goals. They give you direction. Without setting goals, you may achieve 5 things on your list. If you set 10 goals and achieve 7, you’re winning. You’re a success. Breaking down goals into bite-sized chunks is a great way to maintain progress and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
7. Success is personal.
It’s about purpose. It’s about the journey. Some feel that being happy to be where they are is passive; it’s a negative. They’re not striving, they’re not ambitious. I disagree with the link between happiness and passivity. A monk living in a cave with no contact with the outside world can be living a life of purpose. It’s just very internalised and about what’s going on with their body and mind on an amazing journey. I see that translate to why people are in business. If there’s a purpose for the business, other than making money which is a given to me, then there’s a link between purpose and happiness, not between happiness and doing nothing.
I hope that’s given you some interesting food for thought when you’re thinking about how best to run your business.
If you would like to have a conversation about changing your company, I'd love to hear from you. Just fill in your details on the Contact page and we'll arrange to speak.