Small business ownership can be incredibly rewarding. But anyone who’s owned a small business for any length of time would agree, it can also be incredibly difficult.
Small business is tough, but rewarding
The day in, day out juggling of a million priorities means you have little time to think, never mind enjoy the rewards your business was supposed to deliver. You’re just plain busy. Really, really busy.
That feeling of overwhelm is not uncommon. In fact, it’s common as all get out amongst small business owners. The good news is a lack of control needn’t creep up on you. If you take action when these signs appear, you can avoid heading down a slippery slope, get control and get your life back.
So what are the signs you’re losing control of your small business? These are some of the most common I’ve seen.
1. You spend your day putting out fires
As you’re driving to the office, in between phone calls, you’re mentally preparing for the onslaught. Despite the important tasks you know you should be working on that day, you know there’ll be urgent issues that gobble up your time. You know because they were there yesterday, and last week, and last month.
Maybe there’s been a staff issue that you haven’t had time to address. It’s been bubbling away and has finally exploded leaving you short staffed and low on morale.
There might be a pesky customer problem that keeps popping up. It’s not a huge thing, but it’s enough to make them annoyed and now you need to get involved.
Overdue invoices, broken down equipment, overflowing email and a phone that doesn’t stop ringing. Every day the important goes undone because the urgent is poking you in the chest demanding your attention.
2. There is no consistency in your operations
There’s so much of your day, and your team’s day, being done on the fly that consistency goes out the window. While initially it might seem more important just to get stuff done, inconsistency in operations can cause a lot of problems for your customers, your staff and, ultimately, you.
Inconsistencies in pricing, delivery, customer service, accounts, products or services all impact on your customers. Customers become confused when one team member says oranges, and another says apples. At worst, they’ll become so frustrated they’ll leave.
If you’re seeing frustrated staff and disappearing customers, it may be due to lack of consistency. Policies, responsibilities and expectations all impact on your business culture. When they’re ad hoc at best, the working environment can become increasingly difficult.
3. Spiralling costs
When you’re spending your day putting out fires, it’s difficult to make good decisions. Urgent solutions usually come at a double whammy cost, initially and in the longer term. Any strategic cost cutting (strategy, who’s got time for that?) seems ineffectual because the savings are eaten up by short term patches and inefficiencies.
4. You don’t have reliable information
It’s a fact of life – things done on the fly aren’t documented. That promise you made to the customer last month? The day off your receptionist requested? The supplier invoice you thought you’d paid? You booked a sales presentation at the same time you promised your son you’d watch him host school assembly! Aargh!
Not only do you feel (and look) disorganised, but you find it difficult to take advantage of opportunities because you just don’t have reliable information on budgets, markets, competitor activities or customers. What should be a quick win gets missed and insignificant issues become large ones.
5. You know it – you can feel it
If you’re honest with yourself, you can feel yourself slowly losing control of your business. You’re always stressed. You’re spending longer at the office and achieving less. The people you care about are concerned about you.
You might be feeling despondent at this point. The situation could be quite dire, if you didn’t recognise the signs and take action. And that’s the secret: take action, get control and get your life back.