When You (Almost) Have No Choice

Jun 21, 2016, Written by Sue Miley


I was reclined on the new bench seating in the just-opened-ten-minutes-before CC’s Coffee House on Prytania Avenue in New Orleans feeling satisfaction, and weariness, like I never had before.  For some reason this location was particularly difficult.  I don’t remember if it was the 4th, 5th or 10th CC’s, but I do remember we had issues with the air conditioner fitting, inspections, and general store logistics design.

It was hard, and not quite so fun, but we opened.  I’ll be honest, that was probably 17-18 years ago so I don’t even know if it is still there.  But, for me it was an exercise in perseverance.

As small business owners, this need for overcoming obstacles and persevering, is a regular experience.  In many cases, we do not have others to lean on, especially in the beginning.

We start our business hoping it is crazy busy, no matter what type of business it is.  When we get our first jobs, we are willing to do almost anything that can be at all connected to the business we are in.  We will figure it out.

But, we do it.  We make it happen.

Yes, we do always have a choice if it comes down to it.  We can quit our job if we work somewhere else.  We can shut down our business, or at a minimum, disappoint a customer.  Usually though, we are committed to our business.  We may have bitten off more than we can chew, but we will make it happen.

Over time, new opportunities and seasons of our business require the same I have no choice, I just have to get it done situations.  These situations may require hiring two dozen temp laborers to finish the 10-acre property landscaping job, or staying up until midnight for three straight days to get that website launched.

These things happen and as responsible business owners, we have to get it done.  I have done it often.

However, there is a secret to keeping it manageable.  To not only maintain your sanity but to be ready to take on the new challenges of growth and new seasons in your business.  If you don’t figure this secret out, you end up stuck.  Your business can’t keep growing because you are exhausted, like I was on the coffee house bench seating, all of the time.  We can persevere, but we need to improve, too.  If we stay in the crisis, bone-wearying pace all of the time we end up burning out.  So, how do we avoid the burnout and the constant stream of situations that we have no choice, we just have to put out the fire?

  1. Determine and stick with your niche When we start our business we are not sure which strands of spaghetti will stick, but we need to figure it out.  If not, we will create a business with no synergies and a lot of trial and error.
  2. Develop processes and document them. Once you are working within your niche it is time to create consistent and efficient processes to follow.  That way when you hire new employees to help you, everyone will do it the same way…and they don’t have to recreate the wheel.  I know it is hard to discipline yourself to document things when it is just you, or a few of you, but this is when it is easiest to accomplish.
  3. Plan ahead for business success. It’s funny.  We all desire business success and we pray for it and dream of it, yet rarely plan for it.  We usually hedge for lackluster results.  We use minimal resources in case we don’t get a project or lose a customer.  It is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy unless we commit to more and more we have no choice but to get it done  If you knew you would get the jobs and you knew that you would keep growing, what would you need to ensure you do the highest quality work?
  4. Focus on quality first. The best form of marketing is referrals.  Nothing is better!  The only way we can get consistent referrals is to do incredible work that our clients can’t help but talk about.  Too often we get caught up in the short-term need for cash flow and may sacrifice building a strong foundation and doing the absolute best work possible.  We try, but we are just trying to get through it since we didn’t plan for the success.  But if we sacrifice some of the quantity to ensure the quality…if we invest in the foundation…the referrals will save so many marketing dollars in the future and bring consistent business within your niche.
  5. Add people that are qualified, but just as important, that match the culture you want for your organization. We tend to swing the pendulum when it comes to hiring people.  We hire a family member or friend who matches our culture, but just doesn’t have the skills we need to really help.  Then we hire someone with skills but that just doesn’t get our vision and culture.  Both are essential!  This is where the circular comes in.  We need to plan in advance for the processes and the people we will need.  That way we aren’t hiring in a crisis and we can have both – the right skills and the right culture.

Will these steps ensure you never have a situation where you have no choice?  Probably not, but they will be fewer and farther between.  You will be more prepared and rested for the challenge.  You will have people to help you.  And you will have the opportunity to add new levels of infrastructure to continue to grow to the next level.

We ended up opening almost 30 coffee houses during my tenure.  They got easier with time.  And we had an incredible team doing it together!

You do have a choice…choose success and plan for it!

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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