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Is Your Business Underperforming? Maybe It’s Your Ego!

Owning and running a business requires that you live beyond the limitations that others live under.  The challenge for many owners is balancing the determination to succeed against the belief that you must have all the answers to be successful.  Having all the answers has never been the secret to success. 

Henry Ford had a stable of people, smarter than himself, that he called on often to advance his business.  He understood his role was to manage his people, convey the vision, motivate the team, and make damn sure that his business remained on track and focused on achieving the big-picture vision; not running himself ragged by controlling everything and proving how smart he was by having all the answers.  In other words, he parked his ego, to speed up his success. 

Most owners start their business because of a particular skill or passion they possess.  Their high level of capability means they know just about all there is to know about their area of expertise.  So, it’s natural to take on the role of being in charge.  And it works, when the work to be done is focused on what they know inside and out.  But the game changes when you move from doing the thing that you are good at, to running a business that provides the thing you are good at doing. 

Being highly skilled at doing or providing something seldom automatically equates to being a great business owner.  There are many more aspects required to successfully run a business that provides the thing that you are good at doing.  Too often, many owners believe that they must know all there is to know about running a business, just like they know everything about their area of expertise. 

From my experience, owners that live by this mindset eventually find themselves living in their own personal hell.  They get stuck between feeling the pressure to do better, and the reality of not knowing how, and feeling overloaded.  They are also plagued by the fear that if they don’t have all the answers people will see through them.  They will realize that there are in over their heads and don’t have all the answers.  So they keep grinding, trying to figure it out, but falling further and further behind where they wanted and expected to be.

If you require your co-workers and employees to “run everything past you” or get your input on each step, you likely are operating under the belief you must have all the answers and the fear that if you don’t personally handle things or approve them that things will veer off course and not be done right, and your whole business will go to hell right in front of your eyes.  My friend, if your business is so demanding that only you can steer it, you are destined for a “lifestyle” business – a job that you own.  You’re not on track to own an organization that will take care of you, your loved ones, your employees, and your community.  

Asking for help is not a weakness.  It’s a strength.  Here’s why.  Other people see things differently.  In some cases, some people, see things incredibly differently.  Much different than how you see things.  And that’s good. Because when you get stuck you have exhausted what you know to do for a given situation, but with a new perspective, you have the ability to think of and do things differently, which creates the potential for getting unstuck and having a better outcome.  Beyond discovering new options to solve problems, when you, as the boss, ask your co-workers and employees for help, they feel a sense of purpose and pride.  They get confirmation that you believe in them, which causes them to feel a duty to contribute, and they will.  So don’t miss this important opportunity for getting yourself unstuck and making people feel a part of the team and valued, all in one swipe.  It’s truly the secret to creating an extremely valuable business and engaged and dedicated team members.

The challenge though is knowing when to push through on your own, and when to ask for help.   Here’s a good rule of thumb for recognizing when it’s time to ask for help:

  • When your daily workload is filled with putting out the same fires over and over
  • When the volume of issues that you handle is so numerous that you often can’t get to the business growth and improvement activities, and
  • When you are so mentally spent that you can’t think clearly about the future of the business or keep an eye out for lurking threats

Let’s be realistic.  Opening up and letting someone know that you need help, even when suffering through periods of struggle or under-performance, can be tough.  But you have to understand that no points are given for holding the line, while things around you are going sideways or worse.  Businesses fail, that’s reality.  Ask yourself, how many of the owners that had to close their doors, if given the chance to do it over again, would gladly face the pain of admitting they didn’t have all the answers instead of experiencing the pain and embarrassment of quietly going down with the ship.  Don’t allow your pride to override your good sense.

The truth is, we all have pride and strengths.  For owners, their strength is often self-reliance and their “I Can Figure It Out” attitude.  But, even your best attributes can become your biggest weakness when you become unyielding and closed-minded.  Don’t let your “I Can Figure It Out” attitude get in the way of your ability to succeed.  Remember back to the reason you went into business, what do you want to accomplish and achieve?  It’s something great, I bet.   Now that you’re thinking of it, remind yourself that no one builds anything of great value by themself. 

Seek out the help that you need to make your vision and dreams come true. And above all, understand that having all of the answers doesn’t make you a great business owner.  Engaging, delegating, leading, and motivating others makes you great.  Step out of your own way.  Ask for help, and start building the business you dreamed of and living the life you want.  It’s available to you if you will just park your ego and ask for help.   

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