One of the things I’ve observed in the last 18 months or so, is how more and more people are telling white lies!
I’m not calling people liars – we’ve all been guilty of not wanting to admit the real reason we are late to attend the endless zoom meetings was “I needed the loo”. But there appears to be a growing urge to tell everyone “everything’s fine” when clearly it’s not!
Social media (and people’s addiction to it) has seen endless scrolling of “Success stories” with people draped over expensive cars, scantily clad exotic holiday pics, and sumptuous surroundings whilst out for dinner. Viewers see this as a personal challenge against their own microwave tea, and a race to do better!
And so, the lies begin. It’s not intentional, but a ‘social necessity‘ to fit in, to be someone to be accepted!
However, what is even worse than this, is the lies we are told and those we tell ourselves!
Meaning, mastery and money are all essential in today’s business environment. Meaning and mastery will lead to more money. Many small business owners instinctively do these things, but most business advisers only focus on the money. They tell their clients to make the money first, then they can invest in mastering their business and making meaning in their community and life. Unfortunately, that sets up a cycle that never gets them there. Instead, business owners need to be encouraged to invest in meaning and mastery from the beginning.
Most small business owners are very good at the work of their business. As Michael Gerber says, “they are technicians who get an entrepreneurial twitch”. Usually in response to working for another technician who had an entrepreneurial twitch. This means they are not clear on what it means to run a business.
In reality, most small business owners are freelancers, (or as Gerber refers) Business Operators not owners of businesses. And yet so many Business Advisors are pushing them to act like a business?
Let’s have a look at these pervasive lies
You have to wear many hats
This perpetuates the myth that business owners have to do it all. Even worse is the myth that they have to know and understand it all. Who can possibly know all that? This is the single worst bit of advice ever given and it is what makes small business owners feel inadequate.
The most important hat a small business owner needs to wear is the sales hat. Making sales is what defines a business. Making sales will pull a struggling business into the black. Making sales is the crucial first step to everything else that follows. The best advice to give small business owners is to go make sales.
After they are making sales, teach them the strategy of the business and how to lead a team, not how to do everything in business. Offering ‘all you need to know workshops’ on how to do bookkeeping, marketing, project planning, hiring/firing etc, lull our business owners into thinking that all they have to do is execute on the tactics properly in order to succeed. We should be telling our business owners to get help as often and as early as possible.
Yes, it’s good to know what needs to be done, but not to know every last detail of how to do it. To move from Business Operator to Business Owner we must know enough to find the right person to do it!
The worst ways a beginning business owner can be spending their days is in designing their business cards or a poster or trying to set up their bookkeeping.
“Only once the owner has made the physical, mental and emotional switch from operator to the owner can the business thrive”
Starting business owners don’t have enough money to invest in themselves or their business
So advisors touting for clients, give them yet another free 101 workshop. Telling them a million and one things that they must do in order to grow their business. Whereas the reality is it is keeping them central to the business and forcing them back into a JOB.
The most successful small business owners I meet are the ones who invest in themselves early and often. They understand their strengths and they outsource the rest. They know the highest and best use of their time is in talking to and serving customers.
And advisors often tell them, “by the way your time isn’t worth very much”. A good friend who runs a bookkeeping business, tells people directly: They can do your bookkeeping faster than you can worry about it. And It is true. Yet Eventbrite is full of Advisors and Accountants giving Business Owners 3-hour workshops on how to do their bookkeeping, then expect them to take a couple of Sunday afternoons a month to do it.
Or they could outsource it to a bookkeeper for around £100pm And it would be right. Plus they got advice from a professional who does bookkeeping for a living.
Instead, so many still do an inferior job, that takes them three times longer and often leads to either the wrong or poor results WHILST keeping them away from customers/prospects and earning more money! Because they went on a course!
Finally, that’s assuming they need bookkeeping done on a regular basis, which most didn’t.
Most Advisors don’t teach them how to engage professionals early. Instead, they suggest that when they get big enough, they can hire a marketing expert to take care of their marketing. What they really need, is to hire a professional to help them refine their message. A professional has the experience to tease out the words and message that matters. Never mind about flyers, radio or podcasts. Get the message right first.
Marketing, finance, operations, and HR are the fundamentals of business
Maybe. If you have a big business with a division of people with expertise to take on each functional area. Again, no one person can master all of these. These are functional areas of business, the understanding and management of which makes the running of the company work better. but they come after, much after the customer is clearly defined, the problem your offer is solving is nailed and you are ready to scale up in a big way. Having all of these perfectly in place will give you a well-run company, not necessarily a successful one.
Business development takes several years of talking to customers, testing offers and making sales. Until then, the focus is on doing the work of the business, not managing a company.
During the first couple of years, bookkeeping and financial information are only needed to file taxes. It’s more important for our business owners to be agile, to experiment and always be testing. Financial Statements are backwards looking documents and they only track money. For instance, it’s not enough to know the impact on revenue of changing prices. It’s more important to know who the new pricing attracts and repels, the cost of delivering on the new pricing and the change in expectations.
The message, loud and clear is, that you must learn this stuff and do it yourself FIRST. It’s good for you because then you get to understand your business from the ground up. The truth is that struggling to do a bad job at a task you are not suited to is not good for you. Doing a bad job at copywriting doesn’t help you understand your marketing message. We should encourage our business owners to hire professional help, so they get a professional result.
Profit is the most important number
Big business uses many metrics, not just profit, to run their business and yet we tell small businesspeople that if they do their bookkeeping, they have their numbers covered. The most important metrics to track may not be on the financial statements.
For the first couple of years, spending is going to be distorted towards start-up costs. Every available penny is put back into the business to help it grow. A true picture of the financial health of the company won’t emerge for a few years, yet. As a Coach, my job is to help the business owner manage their money and their cash flow and in giving them tools to evaluate the opportunities that will help them grow their business.
The business won’t settle enough to show trends emerging out of the noise until several years in. Focus on what’s really important like landing another £5000 a year customer, not saving £20 a month on the phone.
A business plan is crucial before you start a business
We’ve all said it “Fail to plan and you plan to fail.” What about “No plan survives first contact with customers”?
Creating a business plan is premature before a single sale is made. It can’t be done until customers are identified, what they want and how they want it. These questions can’t be answered at a desk. They can only be answered by talking to customers. When that step is done properly, the business is up and running and the business owner’s time is best spent on making sales, delivering, and testing.
For instance, Ben comes to you wanting to open a pet store. The first task you set him should be to send him out to find his first 5 customers to find out what they really need and want. If Ben can’t do that or isn’t willing to do that, then all the ‘entrepreneurial traits’ tests won’t help, and the best-laid business plans won’t make the business a success.
That goes double for marketing plans. The first year should be devoted to sales and not marketing. We all know 100 people, who know 100 people, etc. Fifty pet owners spending £50/ month will give Ben a base upon which to build. That takes sales, not marketing. Those sales should be well underway before signing a lease and paying for inventory.
The business plan focuses on financial projections, market analysis and demographic customer analysis. That’s great if you know who your customers are, which you can’t know if you don’t have any. The best way to do a market analysis is to spend a week selling into that marketplace, not a week spent searching statistics and playing with spreadsheets.
We should encourage a focus on business models, feedback loops and pivots. Then on customer engagement, automation rollouts or scaling. When our business owner is ready for scaling up, hiring and financing, then that’s when an executable business plan should be written.
They attend workshops on how to be more productive and on time management, but not on courage. Any person having procrastination issues is dealing with fear, not the wrong method for managing to do’s. The greatest service we can give our business owners is to name it and help them deal with fear and courage.
Most teach business owners how to do all the work of running a business instead:
We should be helping them focus on what not to do as much as what to do. On causing things to get done rather than doing them. The “Really busy” answer to the question, “How are you doing?” has become a badge of honour. We let them get away with that. We tell them we appreciate them taking time away from their busy day to meet with us.
We should demand, not just encourage our business owners to take time away, time to think every day. We should make it clear that they are the most important piece of their starting business and therefore looking after themselves is vital to business success. We should encourage them to meet for coffee and masterminding regularly.
Working harder on the wrong things won’t get better results, it will only get our business owners to burn out!
But even worse, here are the top 6 lies Business Owners tell themselves
“I can’t afford it….”
As in, “I can’t afford to pay someone £20-30 per hour on this task.” While on the surface this lie sounds like you are concerned about your budget and their bottom line. What it really means is that they aren’t confident enough in your ability to create higher-value items/services. This could be because they feel that you lack the skills to do anything of higher value or it could be a cry for help time management-wise, as they don’t then know what they would do with the time they have gained back!
“I don’t have the time…”
They spend their day putting out fires and handling other people’s tasks. Is it any wonder that they don’t have time to grow your business? Business owners have to Stop telling themselves that they don’t have time and start looking at exactly what they are spending their time on. Are they high-value tasks or are you putting out fires?
“No one can do it as well as I can…”
This lie is code for: “I can’t delegate that kind of authority, what if they make a bad decision? What if they mess up a client relationship?” Of course, there are different levels of delegation based on the experience set and abilities of a team member, but business owners who instinctively hold tight to the reins of all decisions and authority in their business end up being owned by their businesses.
“Let me check my diary and get back to you…”.
This is the lie we tell ourselves instead of facing the harsh reality of our dependent relationship with our business. Whereas what they are actually saying is: “I want to sound busy, but the reality is I’m not confident to move forward yet!”
“I’ll just wait and see what happens…”
As in, “I know I have a real staff issue, but I’ll just wait and see if things straighten out on their own first because I don’t have the competence or confidence to address it.” When you have a real issue, deal with it. Immediately. Don’t let it linger or fester while you “hope” it will resolve itself. Why do so many entrepreneurs do this? Because they are not willing to face the temporary discomfort, usually emotional discomfort, of meeting the moment directly.
“I am not making any progress….”
If the first five lies weren’t bad enough, perhaps the worst lie of all is when you tell yourself that you aren’t making any progress in your business. You find yourself saying “Argh well. Next time….” Stop and celebrate your victories. Don’t deny the results or downplay your successes. Savour the moment and take in your progress.
What’s The Answer
The sooner business owners get out of the building’, talk to customers and make sales, the sooner they will get over the fear. The sooner they understand their role is not to know everything, but to find and partner/recruit/JV with those who do. The sooner they begin sharing not only the successes but the problems they face and ASK FOR HELP. The sooner they will make REAL and LASTING progress.
Yes, it’s hard and yes, there will be resistance, for which every coach must be ready and prepared. However, by working with a coach to overcome these, you will be stronger, more capable, and more resilient it.
One of the very best ways of achieving this is through Mastermind.
At the time of recording this, I’ve had the privilege of being involved in Mastermind for 17 years and now host mastermind groups both on and offline. They truly are a most remarkable and unique place, where magic happens.
When ego is left at the door, and innocents enters. When bravado and BS are left at home, and vulnerability takes a seat. When every individual present recognises that Together Everyone Achieve More. It enables owners to ask, share, learn together and benefit from each other’s knowledge, experience, qualification, and strengths. In every mastermind, business owners encourage, support, and hold to account for each other for the progress and direction each is taking.
We all know business is changing – the way customers engage, the way it’s delivered, and even the way people pay. Shouldn’t the support you access change too?
Here at My TrueNORTH, The Ethical Coaching Company, we support Business Owners to Significantly and Sustainable grow both themselves and their businesses, by hosting a series of Mastermind Groups.
Hosted both online and in person, these groups are the catalyst for more and more business owners to #addazero. Whether it is the mindset/motivation or vision of the business owner, through to the systems, processes and people required to run the business. From marketing management to sales certainty, our proven 8 elements are fundamental to the ongoing growth and success of all those who attend.
You can learn more by visiting: My TrueNORTH Business Mastermind