You started a company, possibly in your kitchen with a credit card. Now it’s a functioning entity. Congratulations! You have succeeded at a challenge few people will ever undertake and you have my respect and admiration. Anyone who believes that climbing the corporate ladder is a more difficult road than starting a business can see me for an attitude adjustment.
You shoulder burdens an employee can rarely understand: it’s all on you, there isn’t a higher authority to take any of the responsibility; you need to be expert in a broad range of endeavors from accounting to taxes to human resources; the success or demise of the business is squarely on your shoulders. The demands are huge, the potential for failure a daily concern and, for many, stress is a constant companion. So how do you handle it all?
Take care of yourself first.
If that means you take Wednesday afternoon off then by all means do so. If it means vacations or cooking classes or running marathons, do it. If your business depended on a truck or a machine, you would take excellent care of those assets. You are the key asset so take excellent care of you.
What happens to the business if you are out of commission for an extended period? It’s an important question and we will talk in another article about dealing with just that problem, but here I want to point out that, for many businesses, the temporary loss of the leader can create problems you could be trying to overcome for a long time. So it’s critical that you do everything possible to insure that you are on the job at full capacity every day. That translates to taking excellent care of your mental and physical health.
You cannot do everything.
As a business grows the owner must delegate some tasks and responsibilities to other people. Failure to do so will result in an exhausted owner which, in turn, may result in poorer quality to the customer. Obviously, you need the right employees to delegate to, but that’s another discussion. You must learn to let them carry some of the load.
Evaluate Your Strengths
Few owners are able to do all of the myriad jobs in running a business equally well. Determine which fall outside your capabilities or are most stress-inducing and find some else to do them.
Get Some Help
Consider people who have retired from a similar career. They will have long experience, have faced many of the problems you are facing, and may be willing to provide counsel or work part time for far less than an employee with similar credentials.
Networking with other small business owners may provide not only help with specific problems but much solace and support. Your customers can also offer help if you let them.
There may be people in your community with deep experience who are willing to offer periodic counsel for little or no money. From the SBA to private contacts who function as a formal or informal Board, good advice may be well within your reach.
Advisors come in many shapes and payment plans so consider all of the options before you embark on a contract.
You are not, we assume, an expert in all the areas needed to successfully run a business so listen to the people you engage. I’m not suggesting you must immediately take all counsel offered, but that you should seriously consider whether the suggestion has merit, why it was proffered, and what the likely outcome might be if you implement it. “We’ve always done it that way” is a poor excuse.