Tough Love for Small Business Owners

Oct 18, 2016, Written by Sue Miley


I know when you started your business you had visions of freedom, prosperity, and personal fulfillment.  These are indeed possible as an entrepreneur, but they lack much of “the rest of the story.”  The reality is that it takes time and a ton of effort before we see glimpses of time freedom, extra money, and complete self-actualization.

Although the CEO of a fortune 500 company would laugh at one of us saying our job feels harder than the $1 million-salaried CEO’s, in some ways it actually can be much more difficult.

This is the truth.  Small business owners (a.k.a. you):

  • are using their life savings, or their I-just-signed-my-life-away-on-this-loan debt, to start up their business or to live on until the business ramps up.
  • are almost always required to do parts of the job that they have no background or experience in, and in some cases no talent, to make things happen while they are starting up and have minimal-to-no employees.
  • are required to ensure client satisfaction, employee fulfillment, and strong vendor relationships every day, even if they’re having a bad day.  You can’t call HR to handle an employee issue.  You don’t have a purchasing manager to negotiate professionally with the supply house.  And you don’t have a separate manager to call on to handle the major customer upset, when the customer is screaming, “Who is in charge here?”
  • need to be inspirational to lead their teams, disciplined to get their “in the company” work done, visionary to cast vision, detailed to make sure the bills are entered correctly, dressed nice to talk to bankers, tooled up to fix the equipment, and so on…you get the point I am sure.

The hard truth of the matter is that owning your own business promises the American Dream, but can sometimes (especially in the early stages) feel like a recurring nightmare.

The reason it feels like a nightmare is because you were tricked.  You were tricked by watching your small business friends from the outside that seem to be living the life.  You misled yourself by choosing to believe that you could just build it and they would come.  And then there are all of the books and online seminars touting the myth of quitting your day job to gain personal and professional freedom with “30 days to the American Dream” or “10 Easy Steps to Entrepreneurial Success.”

Really what the books should say (but you probably wouldn’t want to read them) is:

  • Starting A Small Business Is a Financial Drain
  • Business Startup Will Make You Feel Inept
  • Running a Small Business Requires Everything They Didn’t Teach You In Business School
  • How To Maximize Stress and Worry: Open Your Own Business

There’s a Light at the End of the Tunnel

This is what starting and owning your own business feels like UNTIL:

  1. You accept that the beginning will be hard and you embrace it and do what you need to do well.
  2. You stay focused on your vision and don’t divert.  It is difficult enough to work through the initial stages of growth.  When you get diverted on all of the other shiny apples you could pick on the way, you have now diluted your efforts and expanded all that is HARD.
  3. You execute your plan excellently.  If you only do things partially and don’t stick to the plan, you don’t know if it was a bad plan or just poor execution.  Again, it takes longer and is more painful if you start and abandon plans looking for an easier path.  Execution takes hard work (hello, tough love).
  4. You are able to add people who have strengths and talents that you don’t have.  Don’t hire someone just like you.  Don’t hire your nephew or sister-in-law to help out if they don’t have any skills or experience you need.  Starting with the first hire, hire someone who has something you don’t have!
  5. You are able to systematize and create synergies and processes that make everything you do in your business easier. Usually we don’t do this because it is just a couple of us in the business and we know what we need to do.  Without these things in place adding people and growing becomes painful.  It is much more difficult to add new systems and processes when you have a lot more people stuck in their ways and super busy.
  6. Your business is known to your target market and has favorable brand awareness.  It is sort of like a post going viral; once you get some brand recognition and are known for doing what you do well, the word starts to spread.  Momentum is created.  This is when the magic happens.  This is when you can really start to grow and you can sustain growth because you have the talent and the systems to support your growth.  You can do it with less of you and more of others.

Momentum Moves Us Towards The American Dream

If we do it right, our growth gains traction, and the foundation of our business is scale-able, and we can truly grow to the next level. When this happens…

  • Bottom line profits grow to pay off the bank or begin to repay yourself.
  • Time freedom opens up personally as you have a solid team in place to handle important areas of the business.
  • You are not as personally stressed because you can now move into doing the work that matches your particular skills and talents.  You can now work in your strengths.
  • You begin to see the vision God planted in your heart for your business.

It is an amazing feeling.  It is what you started your business for to begin with.  You are making an impact for your customers and your team.  It was worth the pain to get here.

Don’t Give Up If You Are Still In The Nightmare

The dream is still alive and it is still possible.  You may have to shed the distractions, re-calibrate the plans, and move forward embracing the pain.  But, you are doing so with awareness.  You now understand that the reality of starting a business, and managing through the early years, is HARD.

And you are the one that has to do the hard work, have the discipline to stay the course with focus, and keep the vision in view for yourself and others.

The Good News

The good news always comes through Jesus.  The good news is that although we have to do the hard work and take the steps, we are never alone.  God cares about our business.  Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to guide us.  If we stay focused on Christ, the hard work is hard, but there is joy in it and in knowing that you are executing the God-vision that was given specifically to you.

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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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