So… As you may know, we recently celebrated our 5th anniversary of opening the doors at H&Co. We’ve been proud to meet – and work with – many businesses, many of whom are still owned by their founder. So, that means we work closely with a lot of entrepreneurs.
We’re also proud of the success that many of those entrepreneurs have enjoyed, even in the relatively short time we’ve been working with them. We’ve seen business owners bloom from their first hesitant steps, to being highly effective and decisive businesspeople, who are creating wealth for their families – and bringing new jobs to their community.
Of course, being an entrepreneur’s not for everybody. Some people are capable of building a business, but find it’s just not what they’d rather spend their time doing. (See “taking the plunge” for thoughts on this.). And others….. well, it’s definitely not in their personal make-up. Sadly, we’ve seen some people struggle. This isn’t meant as a judgment – it’s just the way things are.
Over these past years, we’ve identified some personality traits and characteristics that are relevant. We thought these might be helpful to share.
- Successful entrepreneurs:
“Own” the responsibility for their own success – or failures.
For example, if they decide not to work the weekend to meet the deadline committed to their client…. Well, that’s their decision, and they have to wear it. The client’s not interested in last week’s overruns that put you behind, or your commitment to your kid’s soccer tournament
- Show good self-awareness.
That means a couple of things:
– They know the stuff they’re good at – and not good at. And then they try to spend their time working to their strengths and finding good people to do the other stuff. [Side note: That may explain why some of the most successful business owners we know are long-married couples – they complement each other’s personalities at work in the same way they do in their personal relationships.]
– Know their triggers – rational or otherwise. For example, I don’t look at the bank balance the day after payroll has gone out. I know full well it’s going to happen – and I don’t begrudge a penny of what we pay our team! But…. I’d still prefer not to watch it go out of the bank account. I’ve found it changes my mood for an hour or two.
This makes it easier to cope with the volatility and uncertainty that comes with being a business owner It doesn’t mean you like it – but helps you avoid being blown off course.
- Are grounded in reality.
Successful business owners understand their value proposition – what they offer to a customer, and why a customer may be prepared to pay for that good or service. They’re also able to be hard-headed about when an idea’s not working, rather than refusing to acknowledge the facts.
They also know what it takes to build a business, and have the discipline to take time to build the processes you need in place to scale it…. It doesn’t happen overnight, it’s not easy, and there’s no roadmap. Like I say, “that’s why it’s called work….”
Sadly, we do see the flip-side – those who struggle in their business. We’d never be so blunt as to tell you directly, but there are a few signs that give us concern. Here are a few to think about.
- Mindless optimism about your market.
Otherwise known as “If I build it, surely they will come”. Yes, they may. Or, they may not. And if they do come, are you sure people are prepared to pay for it?
Generally combined with a lack of hard research about the market, potential percentage of that market you may achieve, what you might price at, the true cost of delivering your product or service, etc…
- Blind spots / denial
The one we see most often with those who struggle in business is the failure to acknowledge that you will need to send the government the HST that you’ve collected from customer and payroll remittances for your staff. Thus, you should probably set it aside…and yet you don’t do it and fail to remit the full amount to CRA each month compounding the issue month over month.
This is the trickiest one for us to help with. We can make sure you know exactly what you owe to whom, and when you need to pay it – that’s why our clients come to us. We can help you with “nudges” to make sure you don’t spend the HST money – for example, by moving the amount to a separate bank account every week. But…. we can’t help you if you’re not interested in being helped.
The other one is profoundly sad: refusal to recognize that a business idea just hasn’t worked out – and it’s time to lay it to rest. Yes, that decision may mark the end of a dream. But…. I’ve seen too many people who threw good money after bad, and it made no difference to the end result.
- Lack of discipline
Like I said, it’s called “work” for a reason.
You can survive lack of discipline – and let’s face it, who’s never cheated on a diet or a budget? But…. it’s a lot harder to turn a profit if you are continually spending more than your cash flow. That’s why unsexy things like budgeting and monitoring your spending are important.
So…. In some ways, being a business owner is like playing a game. But it’s a grown-up game. Like all games and sports, you can raise your performance by practicing and analysing what’s working and what isn’t. But…. some people are just better at the game than others!