Say you’ve been in business for a few years now. You’re officially through the tenuous early years, the steep learning curve, the thrill and anxiety of creating something all your own.
Let’s say you’ve decided that you’re ready to play in a wider arena. You want to grow your business. You want to earn more.
As you hit the accelerator towards business growth, these seven serious road blocks crop up time and time again.
Having no life
Once you’ve got the basics of marketing down, you’re generating new leads into your business and you’re good at converting leads into sales, and sales into more sales, then great! You do more of that.
When you work for yourself, working all the time can seem like a natural thing to do, particularly if it gives you great personal satisfaction. So now you rarely see your friends outside of Facebook and you view upcoming public holidays as a great opportunity to concentrate on work.
And before you jump in and tell me that you love work so you don’t really view it as work, I can relate. I’ve said exactly the same thing and it doesn’t really fly, not if you want to avoid burnout and build a sustainable, successful business.
So here’s the gauge – when was the last time you saw – face-to-face – your three nearest and dearest friends? Can’t remember? Then it’s official – you have no life.
Getting antsy about control
When we grow, we need to delegate. There is no alternative. In order to delegate, we must relinquish control. You can delegate a little or a lot, you can manage each project closely or be free and easy with your direction, but you must yield some control. This can be messy.
You can guarantee that others will do things differently from you. They will fumble and be slower at the task when they begin. You’ll be tempted to jump in and “save” them. Don’t do this. Your ability to delegate and project management is essential to the growth of your business. Do you want to parent a dependent or independent child?
Trying to recoup sunk costs
Sunk costs are costs that cannot be recovered. These are one-time, rather than ongoing costs to your business, such as a website design, equipment, furniture or fittings, branding or design costs. Sunk costs are, by definition, unable to be recouped.
If you’ve bought a business and think you’ve paid too much, or had some branding, design or website work done which you’re unhappy with, there’s no point “sticking it out” because you want to recoup your sunk costs.
Pull up your big girl pants and decide whether your investment is a problem worth fixing. But your sunk costs are done, so move on.
Being afraid to spend
Let’s assume that you’ve been fairly good with managing your finances to get yourself into the enviable position of growing your business. Let’s assume you’ve borrowed, bartered and gone with the cheapest available logo, website, business cards, paint job, equipment and the rest. Let’s assume that you’ve got IOUs and UOIs all over town. Some relationships have gone a little cold as a result.
Moving your business to the next level means putting your hand in your pocket. You can’t charge big bucks and expect to be taken seriously if you look DIY. To move up a level you’ll need to invest in your business. And not just in faceless technology, but also in other humans – professionals who can do what they do best, which is to make you look good and help you make more money.
Something strange happens when you become fully immersed in what you do – you become a geek. You start assuming that everybody thinks like you do, knows what you know, and talks the jargon you talk. This is a death knell to your marketing.
When we lose objectivity, we lose the ability to communicate effectively with our clients. Just because some of your clients are geeks too doesn’t mean that they all are. If you’re stuck in your niche or industry, get out! Take a break from industry events. Look for inspiration from other sectors and people who think wildly different to you. Surround yourself with people who don’t speak “your language” and are enjoying business success in a different field. Get out of your geeky rut and into the big wide world of creative business.
You do make time for reporting, yes? Without reporting, analysis and, most importantly, action informed by analysis, you’re flying blind. You’re investing valuable time, effort and funds into things you know very little about. Online marketing entails a great deal of reporting data – so book time in regularly with yourself or yourbusiness coach or partner to analyse it and make decisions based on fact, not fantasy.
Death by comparison
Ambition, properly harnessed, is a wondrous thing. It enables us to move mountains, to make change, to do stuff. But there’s nothing like ambition to kill joy. The problem begins when we let our ambitions latch on to something we perceive to be easy street.
One can’t troll innocently through Facebook nowadays without being inundated with countless ads offering us a 30-day-money-back-guarantee-this-is-too-good-to-be-true-path-to-success.
The problem with something being too good to be true, as well you know, is that it usually is. And the byproduct of believing every money-back-guarantee is that the problem becomes yours. Everyone else appears to be drowning in cash so the reason you’re not must be your own shortcomings not the fact that you’ve bought a template that you’re trying to make your unique business fit into.
When you’re frequently coming up short in endless comparisons with other businesses, it’s time to cut the umbilical cord and declare yourself CEO of your own good fortune. By all means, follow people who you believe you can learn from, take inspiration from their endeavors and learn what you would like to model (with your own style, twist, perspective and insight) and what you’d do differently.
But never, ever presume to know the full story of a business from the outside. Unless you are their accountant and psychologist, you have no way of knowing the inner workings of a business or business person, however closely you follow them on the interwebs.
Your business will be elevated through embracing your own special brilliance, not trying to emulate another’s. And don’t worry about being original. Unless you’re inventing some new technology to clean our oceans, feed our starving or slow down global warming, your business idea is most probably not original, and that’s perfectly okay.
In summary –
- Reinforce your boundaries between work and no work in order to recoup your energy, inspiration and motivation. Play is good for work.
- Learn how to delegate and project manage well.
- You can’t recoup sunk costs, so move on.
- You’ll need to move beyond DIY and invest in your business.
- Retain your objectivity by shaking up the crowd you move with.
- Regular reporting is essential to inform your decisions.
- Declare yourself CEO of your own unique and brilliant business.
What do you think? Did I miss any?
Brook McCarthy is a writer, online marketer, business coach and trainer. She presents one-day intensive courses around Australia on online marketing and communications. Check out her courses or follow her on Twitter @yogareach.