No two entrepreneurs or small-business owners are alike. It goes without saying. What should be stated again and again is that some good business practices are universal despite the individual strengths and weaknesses of any woman or man at the helm.
We’ve met our share of characters pursuing their big hairy dreams, whether at Alterna Capital Solutions or during our collective 65 years in small-business specialty and alternative financing prior to Alterna. Some business owners are polished and astute, others are scrappy and learn as they go. Some are over stressed and exhausted, others seem to have luck on their side and energy to spare. Regardless of their varied abilities and approach, what they all bring to work every day is a passion for running their business.
Passion is a through line, connecting many industries and business types across the country, and is the key ingredient to our first Principle of GR8NESS. Maybe for you this principle seems obvious? If so, bear with us. As you consider the various roles business owners perform, the deeper meaning of this principle is revealed.
Think back to that first year launching your business. Specifically, recall the raw passion and drive that propelled you forward. Although the passion hasn’t fizzled, you’d probably agree that it now shares your energy and attention with a multitude of responsibilities spanning operations, management, growth development, community, and family to name a few.
It’s no stretch to say the health of your business can be in jeopardy when you spread yourself too thin. Worse, your personal health can also be in jeopardy, according to this recent article in Inc. by Jessica Bruder. So how do you ensure your time and passion are optimized without damaging your business or your well-being?
Short of a playbook that works for everyone, we offer the following three suggestions for consideration.
Protect Your Passion
When you think about it, passion is a cost-free, renewable fuel that runs our economy. Without it, all the capital in the world wouldn’t help businesses thrive. Ask yourself, what drives me, what is my passion? In the early morning hours and late at night, what is your WHY? Why do you do what you do? Your answer may be the same as the day you opened shop, or it may have evolved over time. Either way, embrace your passion. Protect it fiercely. Let it guide you, fueling today and tomorrow.
Protecting your passion is about doing more of very few things and less of most. First, find a couple ways to nurture your passion, such as meeting up with a mentor, gleaning insights from a business advisor, or attending industry leadership events. These investments of your time will pay returns by feeding your passion. Next, own what you need to own and delegate the rest. Whether a sole-proprietor or leading a team of 100 across three locations, you simply can’t do everything and be an effective leader. Delegating will help you feel lighter and your leadership team will welcome opportunities to step up. In the long run, protecting your passion strengthens you and your business.
Let Your Baby Grow
A fussy infant either needs food, sleep or a diaper change. Although taking your business from crawling to walking to running isn’t as simple as caring for a newborn, chances are you’re already and always aware of what it needs to scale and thrive. Do you need more customers? Bigger customers? Do you need a faster supply chain? Bigger facility? New equipment? More employees? Access to capital? All the above?
Knowing what your business needs is half the battle, deciding what strategically comes first and how to make it happen will determine your success.
Be sure to have a financial partner, whether traditional lender or alternative financer, who understands your specific needs and is willing and able to be flexible as your growth plan takes root. Your needs may drastically change from month to month or quarter to quarter, so surround yourself with short-term and long-term financing options that allow you to adjust to a real-time health and speed of your business.
Invest In the Right People
Before you hire your next employee, assess your own strengths and weaknesses. Then look for traits complementary to yours in the people you interview and choose to add to your team. For example, if mentoring or training new employees is too distracting and time-consuming for you, seek out candidates who have mentoring experience and know how to support the growth of coworkers. Ultimately, the variety of strengths on your team will negate your own weaknesses.
“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
What goes for Apple also goes for a small fruit distributor: Hiring smart people may cost more but it’s worth it. Even the best leaders struggle to get the best out of team members who don’t bring their own ideas to work every day. Surround yourself with curious people who have the ability to learn, adapt and grow. They’ll give you freedom to focus your passion on where it best feeds the business.
As you can see, our experience tells us that setting a course for greatness requires intentional awareness and careful nurturing of key elements that fuel your business. The more you own these aspects of running a business, the more likely it is you’ll reach your goals.