What Is a Real Business Owner? Part 1
As we learn, change, and deepen our identity of “business owner”, we get advice and messages about what we’re supposed to do. From the moment we start our business to the time we exit it, there are messages about what makes a “real” business owner. This two-part post talk about how trying to live these messages undermines our peformance and can contribute to feeling overwhelmed or inadequate as well as strategies to gain clarity and spend your energy on the activities that will create the business you really want.
When I decided to learn how to play the bass guitar, I also discovered there are lots of opinions about what a “real” bass player sounds like. There are some people who believe that you aren’t a real bass player unless you have the virtuosity of Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) or Geddy Lee (Rush). They do have incredible chops and how they play the bass amazes me! But what about someone with a different style, say Adam Clayton (U2)? He has a gift for playing bass lines that fill out a song so it sounds complete. He also has some riffs that remind you that the bass is not simply that low sound in the background. The inspiring part of these bass players is they understand when their instrument is grounding a song harmonically and when it is part of the melodic tapestry.
Reminds me of how easy it is for business owners to get sidetracked by what a “real” business owner is supposed to do. We’re given all sorts of messages about how to be perfect leaders and managers. For example, in one day, I saw an advice column that said that business owners should be dictators and another article about the new book by Tony Hsieh (Zappos.com CEO) which focused on happiness. How many gurus do you hear telling you to add products to your service-based business or services to your product-based business? It’s enough to make your brain hurt!
When a small business owner is unclear about what is most true for him or her, it is easy to get scattered. All priorities become number one and we try to do too much without clear business planning. Fertile ground for procrastination! (There is a great meta-study by Piers Steel of the University of Calgary. He discovered that feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities and tasks is one of the major cause s of why we put things off.) The continuous messages about what makes a “real” business owner combined with all of the usual responsibilities adds to the lack of focus and information overload.
Some of the common bad messages we receive:
- You’re supposed to work 50+ hours per week.
- You must be an innovative leader in your industry.
- Failure is not allowed
- All doubt is bad
- You must be engaged in all social networking sites
- You have to know everything
This list could go on and on. There are times when we reach our limits and say, what have I gotten myself into? If you’re finding your head is spinning, you’re not alone. Getting scattered can happen to anyone. There is a client I work with who is generally very self-disciplined and focused. And yet, she expresses feeling scattered and daunted by the prospect of hiring additional staff. So she has put off completing tasks that will lay the foundation for the next stage of her business. Her challenge? Decide whether or not to believe the message that failure is not allowed. We’re not even talking about a full-fledged, going-out-of-business failure. For her, it’s adjusting her management style and changing her in-person availability to the firm’s clients. To her, somehow not being on the job twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week is a failure.
Like the novice bass player finding her own personal sound, business owners have to find which messages are complete nonsense and what is truly special about themselves so they can create the business they want.
How do you describe a “real” business owner?
What messages do you believe are complete rubbish?