Small business plate spinning needn’t mean broken plates.
Having started my own business a few years ago, I found it difficult to keep each of the plates spinning, one moment I was consultant, the next trainer, then admin clerk, a very frightened head of sales, marketing (not so) guru, and pretty much every other trade necessary to keep my business running.
I had little or no budget for personal study and learning, let alone employing people to do the jobs that they would have been good at, leaving me to do the job that I was good at, the one that I originally started my company for.
Skybrook Consultants survived and more amazingly, I have been able to expand my ‘products’ from their original IT roots through to the more personal coaching, mindset and mental resilience training that I now offer. My company’s success for a while however, had been mainly down to really hard work, lots of effort, much of it misplaced, and many, many mistakes. Sometimes it was only sheer will power that got me through.
I like to believe that I am competent at most things, and my previous experience in the corporate world had given me the expectation that setting up my own business would be simple, however the truth was the actual reality of running my own business was very different and I learnt many lessons along the way.
1. It isn’t possible to know everything.
Running your own company is not just about doing what you love, it’s about doing all the other things that are necessary to keep the company running. All those other roles I talked about earlier, all that plate spinning. Your natural skills might include numbers and so you'll feel quite happy in the knowledge that you can do the accounts, but do you know how to build your own website, can you set up an automated calendar system?
2. It’s not possible to be good at everything.
You may have the skills to undertake all the roles, however are you equally as good at every role that you undertake? You could be able, however enthusiasm, time and sheer necessity will certainly impact the level of care and detail that you give to each. If selling the product is what brings the money into your company, then that is what you will need to concentrate on, but if IT and web design is what excites you then you are going to be more likely to spend time on that, perhaps to the detriment of the other tasks of the day.
3. Fear causes procrastination.
Certain elements of running a business are absolute pre-requisites, sales for instance, although in my experience, I've met very few small business owners that call themselves sales people. The reality is, however we are ALL sales people or at least should be. W all promote ourselves and our products, it’s just how well we do it.
I freely admit that I used to be terrified of sales, frightened of promoting myself and my company’s products. My reaction to this fear was not to admit to myself the truths of points 1 & 2 and rather than do something about the fear, I'd bury my head in the sand and find other things, something, ANY thing else to do rather than actively contacting people. And sometimes, I kid you not, even cleaning the bathroom and loos took priority over doing a sales based activity.
4. Procrastination stops achievement.
Seems odd that I had to ‘learn’ this one, however, procrastinate over the important things and be busy at being busy and things may still grow organically and so you still has that sense of achievement. Once the root cause of the procrastination is found and overcome, it suddenly becomes so obvious how much more one can achieve when you’re not trying to avoid the things that will really help your business grow.
5. Working alone can be debilitating.
What can I add to this statement? Even the most independent, self-sufficient individuals need company, as human beings we are naturally gregarious. We might not need to have others to pat us on our backs for a job well done, but when things aren’t going so well, having something to talk things over with, someone to bounce ideas with can often resolve things twice as fast. When the opposite happens, and things do go well, it can feel just as difficult when you are alone.
High fiving with a ‘whoop, whoop’, is so much better when shared than when you are alone.
A good mentor of mine says that it’s important to ‘work ON your business not IN your business’, which is great as far as it goes; being able to work with others without is significantly affecting our costs can be challenging. Without the additional skills being added to your company, then you are likely to be affected by some of the potential obstacles I’ve covered above, but that same mentor also said ‘you don’t need more money, you need a better strategy’.
To overcome my own challenges within my own company, I took these two nuggets of wisdom to heart.
a) I delegated.
I looked at the tasks that I wasn’t doing, either because I couldn’t, or because I didn’t want to, those things that I procrastinated about. I then found a fantastic person that could and would do them with more enthusiasm, more skill and, more importantly, in far less time than I ever could. I could not afford to employ someone, nor did I have sufficient enough work to employ someone. By enlisting the services of a VA, I was free to do those things that I loved to do and that brought the money into the company, which in turn paid for her services.
The choice of a VA can be difficult, but a good VA with the same attitudes as yourself can be a tremendous asset and, if you chose well, then you may find the relationship will grow as your business does.
b) I faced my fears.
I realised my fear of sales was irrational, I had tried to overcome it with brute force, ‘just do it’ I was once told. The irony of this was that in being frightened, and ‘just doing it’, I fouled up and so my belief that I was ‘no good at sales’ became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I could have outsourced the whole sales thing, indeed I did for a while with limited success, but soon realised that it was the fear itself that was inhibiting me not just in how I viewed sales but also how I viewed myself in other ways too. Overcoming this fear, which by this time had become a phobia, took a little more effort and the combination of a number of things.
Firstly, I became part of an accountability group, and set myself small, achievable steps, to take that could build my confidence. Secondly, I sought out affordable sales coaching from someone I trusted, somebody I felt comfortable enough with to be able to voice my deep-seated fears and therefore bring them out into the open and subsequently overcome them. Lastly, determined not to be trapped by such a fear again, I underwent my own journey of self-discovery within a mentorship programme to let me really understand my own limiting beliefs and become the best person I can be.
I haven't fully stop spinning plates, but I spin a lot less of them now. I learnt that as the owner of the business there are some plates that only I can spin, and I even question those to ensure that I spin them for the right reason, not through ego.
But the most important thing that has happened as a result of this journey is that I now know I'm not alone, I have people I trust and supportaround me that allow me to feel that I have somewhere to turn if (and when) I do need help and many people to high five and shout 'whoop, whoop' with when I have a success.