You’re the proud owner of your small business. So you wake up early, and you’re the first to get to work.
But as soon as you get through the doors, there was a fire in every part of your business…
Your marketing systems broke down, there were upset customers calling the whole night before, taxes were due today, the inventory was understocked … and on top of all that, your two best employees called up to tell that they won’t come to work.)
So, you had to take your hose and put out fires.
Time flew by. It’s now 11 pm. You go back home. And then tomorrow, you have to do the same. It seems like an uphill battle.
I know how it feels because I have been there. (Answering customer calls at 11 pm? Yup, done that.) And even today, there’s some days I still go through the ‘fire-fighting’ mode.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can stop being a firefighter, and start becoming a successful small business owner, the leader you always wanted to be … Right now. Yes, you can actually find time to think in your business, and make the best decisions to grow it. I guarantee you that’s possible. As long as you understand this one key difference …
Good leaders react. Great leaders take action.
Here’s the genius of understanding this difference:
Taking action is a choice. Reacting … is not.
How does that translate to what you do as a business leader? When you’re working in the business, you’re reacting to all the problems that people have thrown at you. When you’re working on the business, you are the one who decides where to spend your time and what your priorities are.
Small Business Owner Mindsets to Adopt
To stop being in reactive mode and start taking full control of your company, these are the four key mindsets you should adopt:
1. Stop Chasing Shiny Objects and Focus on What You’re Great At
With the internet, there’s now more opportunities than ever. That’s when you could make a dangerous mistake. You chase one hot fad after another instead of focusing on what you’re good at. I call this the shiny object syndrome. That just destroys any momentum you have built up for your business, since you will have to start from square one again. To stay focused in business, here’s a story I always remember. Ten to fifteen years ago, I met an entrepreneur and I told him “I like to put my eggs on a lot of baskets.” He called me out right away: “Tommy, slow the hell down. Put all your eggs in one basket and that basket will give you more eggs than you [have] ever seen.” So, you should ask yourself, what’s one thing you are the best at that no one can replace you doing? And do just that.
2. Dump Toxic Apples, Hire and Keep Only the Best People
You need people to fill up your positions. You hire like crazy. But then you realize that some of your hires are toxic apples! For me, I learnt it the hard way. It’s almost always better to hire slow and fire fast. No matter how great an employee is, if he or she is toxic to your culture, show them the door immediately so that you protect your business. And, only ever hire the best people you can find in your industry. It takes time to hire this way. But, once you hire the A+ players who also fit your culture, your business will grow more than it ever could with average employees around. That’s how we have grown to 9 states and counting.
3. Stop Working 24/7, Take a Break and Do the Right Work
The more things you can do (read: react to), the more money you get in the door right? Well, you can only work 24 hours a day max … if you really push yourself that way. But that only means one thing: burnout! I sure have tons of things I need to go through on my desk each day, and I work hard. But I make sure that I get at least a bit of time each day to relax and have some time to myself. Without that, I wouldn’t be able to function well as a leader. On top of that, I pick the most important things to work on (with my assistant Breanna’s help — she’s amazing), so I don’t just do ‘busy work.’
4. Dump Complacency and Think Long Term
Now, I’m going to contradict myself a bit. Yes, you should keep doing what you do well. But the thing with disruption is, it might kill off your whole market overnight. I’m not saying you should react by jumping ship. The key instead is to think long term. Take a step back. Look at where things are going for the business you are in. Then, start to ‘plant the seeds’, in other words, try out small experiments with different customer segments, markets and so on. That way, you get the right data to know if you should be investing more in somewhere else or not. When you focus on where the market is going to be tomorrow, you will secure a business for today.
Are you ready to be a successful small business owner?
Look, I’m not perfect either. As I mentioned, I go through days or weeks that I ‘play dodgeball’ i.e. reacting to the millions of problems that land in my lap. But when I do practice these key mindsets, I lead my team on the right path to expand our businesses. This will be the case for you as well. To recap, here’s how they all work together.
When you can be world class in what you do, customers will come to you. When your business has a world class reputation, you can afford to hire superstars and pay them above market rate. With top people in your team, you will have time to think strategically. And that will lead to the smartest long term strategy you can make for your business.
Just remember: you have a choice in your small business. And your choice should always be excellence in the long run. Start taking action and stop reacting.
Butterfly Photo via Shutterstock
Right. But you have to ensure that you are keeping the right people. Look at their outputs and not what they are saying.
The shiny object comment was the “aha moment.” Is this same A1 Garage in Denver?
Great article! Those that have walked the walk (small business ownership) write the best articles!
Tommy, thanks for sharing your very valuable real world experience. It is truly so easy to get overwhelmed by the unexpected challenges, much of which ends up helping you grow you company.