When I celebrated my first year in business, a client congratulated me and then said, “The next ten years will be the most difficult.” At first, I thought he was just pessimistic and maybe even a little sarcastic. Admittedly, though, the comment always lingered in the back of my head - particularly when times were challenging, which seemed more frequent then not. Now that I am a few weeks into the journey of my seventh year, I realize there was a lot of truth to his statement.
Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth, says that 80 percent of businesses fail in their first five years and 80 percent of those remaining will fail somewhere between years six through ten.
That statistic is terrifying! Personally, I was hoping I was ‘over the hump’ once I reached my fifth year, but given that this past year was my most challenging year yet, I suppose it should come as no surprise.
No longer can hard work and sheer will allow me to continue to move my business forward. I will have to make changes if I want to not only grow, but survive.
So what do I plan to do differently? Well, seven things, actually…
Change my mindset. Despite having achieved on-the-surface business success, I must admit that it’s been relentlessly chaotic. I end most of my days exhausted, only hoping things will change once ‘this client signs’ or ‘the holidays are over.’ You know – all the things we tell ourselves to keep from looking at the core issues. No longer can I think this way. I am committed to changing the way I run my business and I am open to anything.
Hire an executive coach. I’ve hired business and executive coaches in the past… and I’ve also been fortunate enough to seek advice from several mentors over the years. But, this time is different. I won’t focus on isolated issues that arise and patch the leak in the boat. Rather, I need a rock solid plan starting with re-building my foundation. To help me achieve this, I took the advice of a colleague and hired an executive coach.
Let go of fear. If I had to identify the single biggest roadblock to my success, it would be fear. I was fearful of everything – bigger risks, unhappy staff or clients, losing money – you name it. Ultimately, what I fear is losing control. The best thing about losing control is that it can be a choice, IF I make the conscious decision to let go. Then, I haven’t actually lost control – I’ve only delegated it! At least, this is what I have to tell myself, as a Type A personality, in order to let go!
Take more risk. I’ve always advocated taking calculated risks, but there many that I did not take because of fear. Letting this fear go – and allowing faith and focus to step in – have helped me stretch my risk muscles. I would never bet it all – it’s just not in my nature – but I am giving myself permission to take the risks that will be necessary to properly grow.
Focus on personal growth. In order to lead my team, I need to develop the skills to do so. One of the ways I’m doing this is by following Franklin’s 13 virtues – a list of self-prescribed areas of mastery. The concept is simple: identify 13 virtues to live up to (skills to acquire or goals to accomplish) then concentrate on one at a time giving a week’s strict attention to each one. Once finished with all 13, the process begins again, so that in one year each of the virtues have been visited four times. I’m currently entering week 7 of my first 13-week cycle. It’s too early to scale the impact of this exercise, but there is something empowering about focus.
Take more time to think and plan. Running a small business often means flying by the seat of your pants. This has to change – for me, anyway. I need to stop doing ‘everything’ and dedicate more time to thoughtful planning. To help with this, I’ve doubled our team meetings for the summer – all with specific agendas and tasks to accomplish in that time – and, in July, I’ve blocked out two afternoons a week to dedicate entirely to thinking and planning.
Delegate. In order to take time to focus on the business, I’m delegating more work. It takes effort to train on these tasks and patience as we transition, but it’s time well-spent. I have a solid team of people dedicated to #Strella – most whom have been with us at least three years. It’s time to give to give them more because they are not only highly capable doing the work, but truthfully, they can probably do it better!
In my second year of college, my media professor gave us the opportunity to determine our own grade. Being an overachiever, I believe I earned an ‘A’ and wrote that in my final portfolio.
The professor wrote back with this…
“Rachel…you have a way to go, but you’re on your way!” Then, he gave me an A- as my final grade.
I walked away from that experience with a smile, and I walk into this one just the same. I plan to make it ten years in business and beyond. And, I plan to not only survive, but to thrive.