What do you find is the most common obstacle that trips most owners up in operating their business effectively?
Themselves! If you agree that the business is a reflection of the owner, then the first order of business is to begin working on how the business owner thinks and acts. Many owners believe that the problem is out there, with their employees, the market, customers, etc..
But in reality the only way to change a business is to first change the way the owner thinks. Of course too many business owners refuse to accept this, or they pay lip service to it and then proceed to act in ways that demonstrate they don’t agree with it. John Allison said, "The empirical evidence for who you are and your life's purpose is in how you act."
Over and over I see business owners working at changing their business from the outside in. They believe if they could just get better employees, or better margins, or if the economy or market would change, then everything would be great. With very few exceptions they don’t realize that the way to get any of these to change is to first change themselves. Getting better employees starts with a better system for hiring, and a better attitude about people. Sometimes an owner feels they can delegate to an employee and then sit back and watch the results. Again it simply doesn’t work that way. Sure delegation works, but only if it is monitored and the outcome is has a direction provided for. Books like Good to Great, Execution, The Highest Goal, The Power of Full Engagement, and Built to Last all mention the importance of Leadership. Great leadership includes vision, discrimination, strategic thinking, commitment, and inspiration. Too often the leaders of many small businesses refuse to get their hands dirty and make the commitment needed. And I don’t mean get their hands dirty doing the technical work. We have far too many of them over committed to that already. I mean commitment to change themselves. Did you ever work for a boss who was always blaming someone else for his misfortunes? How reassuring was that? Did you have confidence in the business? Hardly. Did you have confidence in the business? Hardly. Too many business owners are quick to blame the latest fad or disaster on their difficulties. Yet for every Hurricane Katrina, California Earthquake or Chicago Fire that destroys the spirit of a business, there are countless businesses that rise to the occasion and rise from the ashes. Yet small business owners refuse to accept the responsibility for changing, for pointing the finger at themselves and acknowledging no one else is going to make a stand unless they stand up and be counted as the one that is going to make the difference.
Okay, some of you who are reading this may be saying that’s the opposite problem that I have. I do accept responsibility for everything and I’m still in a mess. Then take the responsibility to do something about it. Whatever is causing your problems, it probably is due to your lack of knowledge. Michael Gerber says, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure, and what you don’t measure you don’t understand.”
If your financials are in a mess, learn how and what to measure and fix them. If you’re not getting enough leads, learn how to market and develop a promise that differentiates your business and then learn how to do lead generation. If you can’t convert the leads you get, learn how to develop a stronger lead conversion process to turn prospects into customers. There’s no end to the help you can get to overcome any of the frustration you are having, but you must take the responsibility for fixing it.