Is small (very small) business a real option?

A relatively new client told me recently that they had downsized and wanted to stay smaller. This would overcome the pressure of finding additional work for staff and continually worrying about the standard of work and the attitude with which it was being conducted.

 They needed assistance in becoming more confident in their business management and more organised. I agreed to help, but quietly thought that, if the business was going to be dependent upon only a couple of people, they would soon realise that other pressure points would arise.

This became obvious sooner that I thought. Unfortunately the business partner who conducted most of the service delivery, became ill to the extent that he was hospitalised and incapacitated for some weeks. As a result, business had to be put off or farmed out – in some cases, to the competition. My next question was: What happens when you need – or just want – a holiday?

As Michael Gerber (“The E-Myth Revisited”) said “… if you have a business that relies solely on you, you don’t have business, you have a job!” While the client may have had a bad experience with staff in the past (did the staff also have a bad experience?) if they want to build the business as an asset – to have value when they finally exit – the will need other people.

It’s a matter of the basis on which people are engaged in the first place and how ongoing relationships are developed.

The unfortunate truth for business owners is that “people problems” involve all people – and that includes the owner(s). If the “right” people are recruited in the first place, the chances are that these problems won’t occur. Within a number of previous blogs, I have talked about recruiting for Values and this is the truth of the matter: if we ensure that we recruit people who align with our Values, we immensely improve our chances of creating an improved workplace.

Of course, it doesn’t begin and end there; like all great relationships, the various parties have to work at it. In all cases, it begins with regular, robust and respectful communications. Without this, there will always be unspoken doubts, insecurity and eventually, mistrust and conflict.

Communications need to be addressed on several levels – and these levels increase as the business grows. When the business grows from embryonic to small, there will naturally be informal conversations as a part of the day’s activities. However, to mistake this informal chat for meaningful communications will lead to the first lot of problems. This is where the Daily Huddle (or whatever terminology you prefer) is a great starting point. A brief daily meeting ensures people are on the same page; potential sticking points are identified and overcome.

As the business grows, there will be a necessity for team meetings and one-on-one meetings. While this might, at first glance, look like meeting overload, a well-structured meeting process can overcome problems and save time, effort and angst.

Daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual meetings, all with differing structures and purpose greatly enhance the business and its path to success. What is very likely to happen as a consequence, is that people gain an increased respect for each other and that open, more casual conversations also take place.

While business owners may well have had negative “people problems” on the past, it is highly likely that they, as owners, unknowingly contributed to those problems. If there is a concerted, open-minded, deliberate and disciplined approach to communications, there is no reason a workplace cannot be an inspiring and highly enjoyable place – as it should be.

Staying small – or even downsizing – means you are just providing yourself with a job. Furthermore, a job from which holidays are difficult to organise.

Is this the life you planned?

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What John Matthew believes about small business

That the owner has risked many things that others take for granted;

That there is no guaranteed income or reward for the considerable effort that is required;

That often, the family home is on the line to support the business and its constituents;

That there is a dignity and self-respect that is earned;

That entire communities would be better places if there was an increased appreciation and respect for small business.

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