If you have owned a business for any amount of time or just starting out, you know it can be tough at times. Starting a business is difficult but it also comes with a large amount of hope and enthusiasm for the new venture. Times when it can be most difficult to persevere is after years of hard work establishing your brand, developing a base, providing great service and putting in the hours; you find yourself in the middle of a business slump or personal dissatisfaction. What do you do when the enthusiasm is gone or the anxiety of business decline pop up?
1. Remember your vision: I think this is when knowing what you hoped to accomplish with your business is most important. You can review where you are compared to what your life goals and business vision were and see if you have stayed on track or veered. I have found from personal experience that my motivation and enjoyment of my business wained, especially during slow times, when I had gotten away from what I hoped to accomplish in the first place. If you find yourself in one of these moments where you dread your business day and hate your job, it is time to do a little soul searching and remember why you decided to start a business in the first place.
2. Remind yourself that work is not your top priority in life: I do not believe we were created solely to give the best of our life to our business or career. As I state often, your business is a means to an end not the end in itself. The Bible says we would make our living by the sweat of our brow but it does not say it is our whole life. If your business is consuming you, it is time to evaluate your priorities. Ask yourself these questions:
a. Will more money actually make life better and make me happier?
b. What do I say is most important in my life versus what I give the most time to in my life?
c. I am serving my own purposes in what I do or am I serving others?
d. Does my business still fit with my life goals?
Now don’t get me wrong. One of the main purposes in having a business is to make money. But money will not fulfill you and it will not solve your problems. You should run a profitable business and work to make money because that is a necessary part of living in this world. Just don’t let money become your number one goal or you will never have satisfaction.
3. Verify your business is viable: You should review your business in the overall market multiple times per year to make sure you still have a sustainable, viable business. Sometimes markets shift, customer desires change, and your idea no longer works. You have to be in tune with your market rather than driving with blinders on not realizing the road is out ahead. We all know of total business sectors that no longer exist. Pagers are a good example. Once a booming business with a great recurring revenue model, pagers were the business to make money in. But technology changed, people moved on to cell phones and pagers became obsolete. Anyone with a pager business who was not paying attention lost their business. The signs would have been there in industry reports, business articles, and trends in financial statements showing attrition and decline. No matter how hard these people may have worked, there was no turning around this business without change.
Be willing to adapt to your market and change your business strategy. If you are not willing to take an honest look at your business and determine if you can sustain it, you may be headed for a long, slow decline that ends in disappointment and financial difficulty. I encourage you to be agile in your business. Listen to your customers and continue to serve them in the areas where they want to buy from you.
4. Remember to serve: The best business owners are those who have a desire to serve. I was brought up in my dad’s business and taught that customers should be well taken care of and our job was to serve their needs (within reason) to give them the solution they wanted. I was also taught this in life outside of work. We can take a view in life of lifting other people up to make the world a little better or being a drag on the world that continues to pull it down. I get the most joy from serving others in my business. The money becomes secondary. If you create a culture in your business that you and your team are going to provide a win/win solution for your customers and your business, you will not lack for a customer base.
To go a little further here on my soapbox, customer service has seen a decline with the increase in companies who focus mostly on bottom line business management and less personal interaction with the customer base. Some companies that start with a focus on excellent service and build a successful business around this dynamic fail to sustain the culture as the business grows. Outside managers are brought in who are taught in school about management practices and profitability. They did not grow through the early days of the company and no clear strategy is in place to sustain the culture of success and service the company started with. There are still those great ones in existence who create a customer experience that creates loyalty through service although they have become the exception rather than the norm.
So don’t forget to create a customer experience that gives your customer a feeling of satisfaction to spend money with you.
5. Have faith: I could not own a business without faith. None of us know the future and cannot predict how our business will perform over time. Statistics tell us that only a small percentage of businesses are still open after 10 years of operation. If you have researched your business idea, verified your business model is viable, created a business that provides a great customer experience and have a market for your product/services; then persevere on faith. I am a Christian and count my faith as a major part of my daily survival. Desperation is a cancer to a business and can cause you to look into compromises just to make money. Maintain your ethics, work hard to gain the trust of your clients and potential clients, make the decisions that are right for your business, and maintain your faith that it will work out.
I think faith is one of the most important characteristics of leadership. If you have people looking to you for direction and guidance, they want to know you believe the business can succeed. If you are worried and desperate, your team will take on your emotions and it will spread like a cancer through your business. Customers will begin to notice it. You have created a good business and you have maintained your morals. You are willing to take an objective look at your business and make decisions to move it forward for success. You provide your customers with a quality product/service and you are continually learning to improve in your profession. With those beliefs in place, move forward on faith and you can survive the difficulty you are in.
6. Be willing to be honest: Sometimes a business can get out of hand. It started out as something you were excited for and enjoyed but the joy is gone. You dread the alarm clock signaling another day. You no longer want to talk to customers or employees. If you were honest, you would admit you no longer wanted this business. I want you to know this is okay. We tend to think if we end our business, it is labeled as a failure. I for one have tired of labels placed on who we are. You are not your business or the type of work it does. You are a person with a life who is making a choice to improve your life whether that is having a business or admitting you no longer want to be a business owner.
If you honestly realize you hate your situation and no longer want to own the business you are in, have the courage to make a change. I left the industry I grew up in and sold out of my ownership in a business because I no longer liked it. It was difficult and stressful but my wife and I wanted a different life. We wanted a different kind of business and less stress.
So what are your options? If the business is profitable, you can find someone to sell to or take it over. You don’t have to get every single dollar you think it is worth. Be fair and look for an exit that meets your needs. You may have an employee who would love to buy you out, a family member that is interested in taking over, or a competitor you trust that would be interested in acquiring your business. You can also use a business broker and list the business for sale.
If the business is struggling and showing losses, you may still be able to find a buyer and walk away. If not, find the best scenario to shut it down and walk away. Your life, your family, your peace are too important to let pride hold you back from making the best decision for you. People will talk no matter how honest and ethical you are and what you do. Refuse to listen and do what is right for your life. If you shut it down, take the experience you gained, regroup, and go enjoy the life God has given you.
To wrap up, you always have options to come through the difficulty you may be in. Be willing to make the choice that is best for your life and puts you and your family in a better situation. Business can be rewarding but it is not your life. It is only a means to support you while you live your life. I wish you success in your Small Business Dream.