So, you are responsible for running a business… or you are just about to launch, inherit or buy one. Before you go any further, spend some time thinking about why you want to do it.
If it’s a pathetic platitude like ‘I want to be my own boss’ or ‘I hate corporate life’ then think on this: you could realise your ambitions by being unemployed! There are lots of good reasons to run a business, but you should be clear on which ones are for you – look not only to the rosy future of a growing business, but to the harsh day-to-day reality of running a company, dealing with the issues, coping with the cash challenges, managing the sleepless nights and dealing with the conflict between family life and work.
If you are running a business, the fundamental foundation is to create a business plan that is not time-critical. Do a real business plan, which has your own personal income as one of the underlying basic realities within it. Now – imagine the worse-case scenario: halve the sales, double the time it takes to make them and increase the costs by 50%. Can you still pay the mortgage and live a life with the family? If the answer is no then you are creating a pressure pot from day one, don’t do it!
Moving on, ask yourself how enthusiastic and energised will you be in three years? Ignore the dreams of doubled income, international expansion and huge profits in swanky offices; what if progress is viable and working, but a lot slower than you’d like and with numerous every day irritations? Now is the time to ask yourself four questions:
1. Do I really, really enjoy dealing with the product, the market and the relationship between them – not the position you hope to be in the future, but the place you are today?
2. Do I like the customers, do I want to do my best for them, and do they share my vision of how things should work?
3. Am I good at this, have I proved over time that I am really good at doing the things I will be doing every day?
4. Do I really like the people I will be working with every day?
If the answer to any of these is no, then life is probably going to get very tough so let’s look at some of those questions in a bit more detail!!
To make any business work it’s vital that you know your customers and their requirements. To understand this and to sell, you have to talk to them frequently. Do you look forward to speaking to your customers? Is it the highlight of your working time? Do you speak to customers instead of doing administration or reviewing production figures? If your real preference is reviewing the business plan for the 1,000th time, or looking at the latest cash schedule then even if you force yourself to get out and meet your customers for the first six months, you will eventually revert to what you prefer doing, particularly when the going gets tough.
What are you good at? And I mean personally good at? Whatever it is, you can guarantee it’s also what you’ll enjoy doing. Does this match the tasks that the business requires of you day in, day out? You will always revert to what you like doing and if that is the very thing the business most needs then you are on to a winner.
Do you really like the people you are going to be (or even already are) working with? We all operate on a spectrum of sociability, but we all move up and down that spectrum depending on how difficult life is and the daily challenges facing us. The social support of the workplace is vital for even the toughest of bosses; the more challenging life is the more it is required.
So let us take ourselves to that imaginary place five years from now: if sales are increasing rapidly, profits are doubling, your biggest financial issue is being tax efficient and customers are happy and being well-served, then pretty much nothing matters. Customers and staff are easy to like when the sun is shining – your biggest risk may be getting bored!
Contrast this with an alternative place: sales are down, cash is tight, it’s January, the customers are always moaning and you are fed-up with the whinging of staff. It’s then that the success of your business depends on your enthusiasm and actually being great at what you do. Your energy and motivation rely on you doing the right things instinctively because you enjoy them, and that the customers and your team are your best friends.
If they are, that’ll see you through. If they are not, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate your business model.