The Power of Focus: not only a good book, but a great habit.
There is a lot to be said for small business owners avoiding the distraction of almost anything that does not drive their business forwards. For example, rants about political opinion, or wasted energy combating/contributing to projects outside of their own ambitions.. This may seem brutally selfish, but enterprise is to some extent a selfish business. Single minded determination, 100% of your effort on growth in your planned direction and an ability to say no to all other offers will perhaps be the determining factor that beats the competition.
Spend your time better becoming the industry expert, working relentlessly to drive excellence in your company, leading by example in both networking and collaboration ambitions. These things grow opportunities and profit. Maintain your own climate, in the heartbeat of your business and care for the values, the purpose and the culture of the company, reading the “mood” of your team. The ambition should be always to serve those that work for you. This is what makes progress permanent. Paranoia about continued improvement, accepting the inevitable need for change and always making goals clear and actionable – these will all affect your profit potential, the people machine you grow and the asset value of your hard work.
When did you last appallingly procrastinate, to the annoyance of those around you, rather than make a good decision? Do you even empower and engage your people properly?
When you run a small company the challenges come daily, and can seem endless. It can often feel like “someone” has it in for you. Nobody is going to tell you you’re doing a great job; your team may quietly admire you but until your culture is world-class and embedded you will not be celebrated for the efforts you put in. You will though – I hope – earn the immense credit of goodwill. My team did me a great service by making me aware of the 500th invoice we raised – a fabulous surprise out of nowhere, and their way of saying we were doing pretty well.
One thing I have learned after more than thirty years in business is that looking backwards adds little value. Of course, sharing the lessons I learned from making endless mistakes is a worthwhile time investment but I never mull over all the wrong roads I take. Learn and move on. Affect what you can really impact, leave your mark in the right places, conserve your energy and attitude for the industry you wish to dominate.
I think as small business owners we need to spend less time in the hot-aired and frankly pointless pursuit of something we cannot change, and more time on the things we know we can change. Brexit is Brexit – and what will be will be.
Export, and you can control your outcomes, speak English and sell anywhere. As a small business owner, you have bigger fish to fry by applying innovation, creativity and the wonderful agility of making progressive decisions faster than the big boys.
Instead, focus on all of the things you can change: all the things that bear results and move the needle in the right direction.
Prioritise your profit margin, not your right to complain about the government!
I believe running a business should be a constant process of planning, reviewing and rethinking in order to always make the best possible step forward. Looking backwards and pointlessly engaging in a topic which makes no difference to your actual profits is a ridiculous waste of time and energy. At the end of the day, if your company folds it will not be down to an increase in your NI contributions or a decrease in the amount of tax-free dividends you can take from your company. Being in enterprise, takes enterprise to succeed. Innovation to squeeze the lemon, to employ A-graders and to focus with steely determination on your end goal are all things that will have a bearing on your success.
I returned to the UK in the middle of the 1991 recession. I set up my own company because there were no jobs. The journey was not always easy. Foot and Mouth affected the hospitality industry, as did SARS in Asia. A container sank with some of my goods, and we mistakenly shipped goods to Korea rather than Croatia. I was sued by my US competition in attempt to slow me down; that hurt, but we triumphed in the end. I managed to steer that company through the massive industry collapse that happened post 9/11 and through the subsequent banking collapse that saw a lot of companies in a lot of different sectors go under. Things were tough, but I am incredibly proud of what we as a company achieved.
The small business owner in England is tough and resilient, but needs to take advantage of the luxury of speaking English and all the positives with which Great Britain is reputed across the globe. The up sides of international sales travel and outcomes for growth are many to list, including resilience, staff loyalty and frankly enjoyment and experiences that are life forming and often entertaining.
Work smarter; invest in some training, even if it’s just a learning app on your mobile or a tenner spent on a business book. Look at ways to increase sales; work on building a loyal customer base of raving fans. There is always something you can do to improve the current state of your business, and if you always focus your efforts on improvement you won’t go far wrong.
We have some fantastic, smart and innovative small business owners in this country. Small business owners can achieve amazing things; we have achieved amazing things already. We have always done this by adapting to changes, by rolling with the punches and by never being victims of whatever was thrown at us.
This fatalistic attitude I’ve seen in newspapers and on TV of late is not what has brought numerous small and scale-up businesses through such hard times in recent years – and it won’t see us through the next rough patch either.