What Is a “Real” Business Owner Part 2
This is part 2 of a two-part post about what makes a “real” small business owner and how trying to live up to messages given to us by others may not actually support our best performances and leave us feeling overwhelmed and indequate. This post focuses on the strategies to support getting comfortable with your way of leading and managing your SME.
In the first part of this post, I talked about how learning to play the bass guitar has parallels to developing one’s identity as a small business owner. I trained as a musician for most of my life so I knew that learning to play an instrument would include hard work, repetition, and the inevitability of sounding really awful some days. And like the messages we receive about what makes a “real” business owner, there are loads of messages about what a “real” bass player sounds like. Most forums focus on the virtuosity of bass players like GeddyLee (Rush), Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) or Victor Wooten (bass playing genius). While they are definitely inspiring, it’s also good to take a look at another style, more like Adam Clayton’s (U2) style where he complements the other voices in his band with bass lines that add texture or harmony to the whole song. Now, I’m not saying that the others don’t do this. They certainly do! What I am saying is that it is easy to get caught up in messages that tell you that you must play your instrument in one particular way without consideration as to whether this even fits your style and your intent.
Defining one’s style as a business owner is essential. It is about developing the part of your identity that you call “business owner.” When you try to fit into a mould of another’s making, it can leave you feeling scattered. You’re not really one thing or another. It can even create a cognitive dissonance that feels quite painful! Like a novice bass player studying scales and basic harmonic and rhythmic patterns, get clear about what is basic for you and your organisation.
Consider these questions as a way to practice the scales and harmonic or rhythmic patterns of your business:
- What is the basic purpose of your business? Re-commit to the reason you founded your business. Often our businesses evolve as they maure and we modify the original reason. Re-dedicate yourself to the revamped purpose.
- How about your business model? Service providers are wondering if they must augment their offerings with products while product-based organisations are wondering if they must add consulting or coaching services. What is your experience? Analyse your metrics to see if your business model needs any tinkering or if it is humming along nicely.
- What role do you really have as business owner? It may be time to step out of being the number one technical expert and develop the skills to be CEO-like. And yet, you may be stronger as the technical expert and it’s time to hire or promote someone who is more talented at operations or leadership.
- What do you need to do to keep the revenues at least stable and at most growing? Review your actual money makers. There are times when we need to let go of a service or a product that doesn’t contribute to our bottom lines. Also assess if it is time to let go of new ideas and return to your basic offering.
- How do you want to handle your mistakes? Most of the mistakes you make do not destroy your business. It’s easy to imagine that catastrophes lurk in the background but they aren’t as frequent as we imagine. After you’ve acknowledged your emotions, ask yourself what you can learn from the situation. As a colleague often reminds me, “make new mistakes.”
Becoming the “real” business owner you want to be is about tuning out any messages that trigger a scattered feeling. Listen to who inspires you as you build the business you want. There is no right or wrong. Yes, there are lots of messages about what is “real.” But, who is to say what is the “real thing? That’s why there are different styles of playing bass. Maybe you’re a business owner who is adept at a down and dirty sound that just grabs your customers in the gut and they form a tribe. You might be more 50’s style rock and roll and your customers appreciate the conservative nature of your firm. The bottom line? Define your style as a business owner and “make your own kind of music.”
What do you “sound” like as a small business owner?
What questions challenge your identity the most?
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This post is part of the HP SugarTone contest: “Making your business amazing”, sponsored by Hewlett Packard