Next month will mark six years since I gave up employment and launched into the deep as a small-business owner. And six years later, the journey feels no less intense.
I’ve had my share of victories, and I no longer wake up nights worried that I will lose home and hearth. Fear, like a grade school bully, typically retreats when properly confronted.
I ended 2013 by embarking on a listening tour. The goal was to hear – I mean really hear – what my customers were telling me, or not telling me. I used that information to set some broad strategies for 2014. (I’ve always been big on setting annual priorities, even when I worked for someone else.)
The good news is that the process worked. As a result of the feedback I received, I made choices that resulted in solid gains this year, and I approach the end of 2014 far stronger than I began the year.
Which brings me to 2015.
Despite being six years in, I know in my heart that something is wrong. I work too much and I plan too little. And too much of the daily operations still rely solely on me. Something in the new year must change.
As author Michael Gerber noted in his best-selling book “The E Myth,” I have succeeded greatly in creating a job for myself, but as for creating a business … well, not so much. (Gerber would loosely define a business as an ongoing enterprise capable of functioning, to some degree – independently of its creator.)
If my business is to see another six years, it must enter what Gerber calls the adolescent phase of growth. That’s when a business owner, often driven by exhaustion, gives in to the reality that he or she can’t do everything and finds a way to get some help.
“Every business that lasts must grow into the Adolescent phase,” Gerber says in his book. “Every small business owner who survives seeks help.”
Gerber is right. No business can long last when its leader is distracted by tasks unrelated to long-term growth. But how does a small-business owner get reliable help when the money for that kind of expansion simply isn’t there?
That will be my challenge in year seven.
Somehow, I must find time each week to focus at least a portion of my energy on the important, not just the urgent. I want to end 2015 pushing beyond what Gerber would call my “comfort zone” and heading toward “maturity.”