They hear their own drum beat and march to it. That’s why they start businesses. It’s in their nature to build something that wasn’t there before. Ideas sprout inside their heads and they take action.
Part and parcel to that individuality is the tendency to make decisions based on a single perspective. They figure, “I’m the boss, so I’m making this decision,” and they do their best based on their knowledge and experience.
Unfortunately, that knowledge and experience is often limited — and limiting. Small business owners that listen only to their own voice inside their heads are doomed to make silly and avoidable mistakes.
“The buck stops here.”
Being the one to call the shots can be devastatingly lonely if a small business owner never recognizes that they need not listen to ONLY the voice inside her head. All those internal, creative, sometimes confusing thoughts can swarm together and make it difficult to gain clarity.
This can be especially overwhelming during times of growth, financial stress, or when issues in your personal life encroach on your business. How do you manage everything as the sole pilot on board?
Usually, small business owners who try to tackle every decision, large and small, all on their own, end up failing. They fail sometimes because they don’t have clear perspective, or because they don’t have all the information they need. They fail because their zealous independence borders on obstinance or insecurity. They fail because the stress of carrying the weight of their own thoughts and ideas becomes too much for them. The burden of doing everything alone, and not sharing ideas with others, is the reason a lot of small businesses fail within the first few years.
The psychological impact of running a business, especially as a sole proprietor (which so many small businesses start out as), can isolate even the healthiest, most confident, and connected entrepreneur. But it doesn’t have to be that way if you plan for this challenge. There are other ways to make decisions, nurture good ideas, and critique performance.
Here’s how to find trusted voices for useful advice when you need it.
Join a small business group, like a BNI, or find an entrepreneur’s meet-up near you. You may not have time at the meetings to explore the ideas your mulling around in your head, but at least you’ll make connections and friends.
Deepen those relationships so that you always have someone you can call when specific problems come up. If you’re losing sleep over a contract, you’ll know an attorney friend. When you can’t decide which tagline to use, you can ask a copywriter friend. You get the picture. A network of trusted professionals is a valuable thing!
A mastermind is based on the notion that two minds are better than one. I’ve been involved in several masterminds, and sometimes they can be awesome for providing safe havens to explore business and even personal challenges. (For most small biz folks, work and life are all mixed together, right?)
You can choose to participate in a loosely organized mastermind like a supportive Facebook group. You can also choose a highly structured organization if you’re ready to commit to travel and group get-togethers. A business retreat with like-minded entrepreneurs does wonders for your ability to re-evaluate what you thought you knew about your best next step in your business. The insights you get by sharing your experiences and listening to that of others can foster amazing growth.
A good business coach is someone who not only provides guidance as you grow your business, she also provides an encouraging and consultative voice. Yes, a coach can help provide structures and systems and keep you organized and motivated. All those things are valuable.
Often, however, the best work I do is simply listening and really hearing my clients and responding to their ideas with educated and experienced comments. Most times, the feedback I can provide is insight they would never even imagine on their own. That solo voice in their heads stops yammering on and on like a lost soul in the woods; and the solo business owner finally has someone to talk to and get opinions about their great ideas.
A great idea, poorly executed, won’t work. A bad idea can ruin your entire business. If you’re always flying solo in your small business, you’ll never know if your ideas are any good unless you test them. And then it can be too late.
Your other, better option is to ask for advice, recommendations or coaching from another trusted business person.
That rugged individual inside you can continue the brave climb to the top, but the voices in your head need to get out in the open air. Seek out other people and glean all the smarts and wisdom that you can from them. Business leaders who have “been there/done that” make the journey more fun and productive…
And don’t worry, you still get to make that final decision!