Remember when you first started your business and you got that first big contract or hired your first employee? The excitement that you felt was so energetic. I know that when I was on a successful roll at the beginning of my cleaning business, I could work all day and all night on my big plans without getting tired or losing interest. Just thinking and dreaming about the future.
Well for many of us, as time goes on with our business we tend to lose that loving feeling after a while. Oh yes, you still like your business and your life, but maybe donít get those butterflies very often anymore. So, what happened? Whatís different now? And, how can you regain that spark?
Well, I look at your relationship with your business like any other close relationship in your life. It’s like a marriage, or for some people even stronger, like a parent child relationship. You have a lot dedicated to it. You care for the business, you work for the business, and you take pride in the business. So, just like with marriages or any long term relationship that goes cold, it’s not that you don’t love your business anymore, it’s just that you are so busy caring for it that you are missing a key element: Adventure.
At the beginning of your business there were all kinds of adventures, on a daily and even hourly basis. It was very exciting. It felt like the future was boundless. Now, sometimes it seems that you spend your days putting out fires, settling employee spats and dealing with the same old, same old, instead of conquering new challenges.
So, what we need is to give ourselves and our businesses more adventure, and new challenges, so that we can be more satisfied. We need to get outside of our comfort zone a bit, and take a little risk. When’s the last time you really took a risk with your business? And most of all, what we need is to get back to dreaming about the future. We get so busy trying to make our businesses predictable, that we leave out the things that make it exciting.
That’s what I’m going to try to capture in this article.
If we want to get the adventure back in our businesses, our first step is to eliminate the Dream Crushers from our inner circle. What’ís a Dream Crusher you may ask? Well, these are sneaky little things that come in the form of friends and family that wait until you’ve just exposed your big plans for your exciting new idea, and then burst out and say things like “you can’t do that”, “that’ll never work”, “sounds to risky to me”, or “if it was a good idea somebody would have already done it.”. These people, while well meaning, can suck the life right out of you. And really put enough doubts in your head that you arenít so excited about your big idea anymore. Mostly Dream Crushers really care about you, but they themselves would likely never be comfortable with taking on the level of risk that entrenpuers do on a regular basis. Never the less, having those people around you can keep you from taking on risk and adventure with your business. They are not a good advisory board for you.
All kinds of studies have been done on successful entrepreneurs and their habits, and one of the common things is that they surround themselves with mentors and successful people. So, of course you are not going to eliminate all dream crushers from your life, I mean this could be your spouse. What we want to do is, instead of discussing your plans with unmotivating people, is make a list of positive, business minded people that you can count on support and encourage your business plans when you need it. They could be business colleagues, trade association members, friends the business world, coaches, consultants and others. I’m talking kind of about an Advisory board, although I have found that many people shy away from the perceived commitment of being on your “advisory board”. These are just a group of people that when you are planning to make a move in your business you can talk to without any Dream Crushing.
I have a little story about my experience with this. Now, I am married to an engineer. We are talking someone who does not change brands of toothpaste without two days of research. He is not a big fan of change or risk. So, when I started my cleaning business I drove him literally crazy with all of my stories, and decisions that I needed to make. When I started to hire employees, it really got rockin and rollin. It didn’t matter what I asked him, he always answered that same thing, “Well, what do you think you should do?” I mean, I would tell him some long drawn out story about how a staff member dropped all of her client keys into the public sewer, and ask what should I do, and he would say, of course, “Well, what do you think you should do?”
So, it became clear to me that I needed to save my husband the grief, and talk with people who could really understand my issues, and are capable of helping and supporting the business. So I organized a group of 5 other women that were loose friends of mine that all were either business owners or managers. We began to meet on the second Tuesday of every month at the same restaurant. That was 12 years ago, and the group still meets same time, same station. The purpose of the group was to talk “shop”, to give advice, and to help each others professional development. This was a very positive step in getting me to take on new adventure in my business.
Tap back into your dreams by determining your exit.
So, now that we’ve set the stage, we are ready to start some new dreams about your business, and a good spark is to think about how you will exit your business? Where will you and your business be in 2, 5 or 10 years?
Let me a share little story from my business. I had plans from the beginning to grow my business to a certain size, and then sell it after 5 years. So, when five years rolled around I thought, well I better busy. By then I was running my business as an absentee owner, working 10 hours a week or less. Everything was running like clockwork, and I was making a good salary, but I was bored, and ready for new challenges (it’s the plight of a serial entrepreneur).
So, after doing some research into what buyers were looking for I realized that I had some work to do before I could sell my business for the top dollar that I wanted. Can you believe it? Buyers wanted to see a strong profit for more than two years? Of course they did.
My profitability was pretty good, but I had a lot of long term customers that weren’t really that profitable, and some staff members that really “forgot to quit”, and a few other imperfections that I was willing to live with for my own business. But, now that I was going to sell, I needed to spruce up the business to higher standards. For example, my gross profit was around 30%, and I needed it to be around 45 55%; We had lots of successful systems, but they were not really well documented and tangible to everyone. Things like that.
Suddenly, I had a new dream,a new adventure. And it was amazing how that new energy fueled big changes. I was willing to let go of unprofitable clients and employees to make the business good for the new owner, when I was willing to settle for less when I was just running the business for myself. So, at the end of the two years I not only achieved my goals, but I was a lot more satisfied with my work. I had to really think hard about whether or not I was going to sell. In the end for me it was either franchise or sell because I needed new challenges to keep me interested. I chose to sell, and thatís worked out great.
So, Exit planning is a great tool for building (and accomplishing ) your dreams for your business. And, I challenge you to really think and answer the question of “What will your exit plan be?” When and how will this stage of your business end? Your plans might be to work until retirement, maybe to sell the business, maybe to pass it on to a family member, to franchise, or to stay local and add on more services. Iím by no means saying that bigger is always better. Your may plans may be to stay exactly as you are, and thatís great. But, there is an end to everything, and by planning whatever your end may be, you can not only make sure that you achieve that goal, but also that you stay satisfied with your work until then.
So, I hope that I have inspired you to add more dreaming and adventure back into your business. I can help get yo back on track, and make an exit plan so contact me if you need help regaining that loving feeling.