It’s the end of the month. You’re faced with the hard choice of either making payments to your suppliers in order to keep yourself in business or making payments to the IRS and closing up shop. Which do you choose?
You don’t have enough cash in your accounts to make payroll this week. Are you going to borrow more money to keep your employees paid? Are you going to have to let some of them go? Which ones?
You’re steadily losing customers to a competitor. Do you throw every spare dime into marketing to attract some of them back or do you start cutting the size of your business in order to remain competitive with the customers that you do have?
Here’s the real truth of the matter: being a small businessperson means that you are often stuck with some hard choices. Often, it’s a matter of figuring out which of the choices is the least of all evils because, frankly, none of them are good choices.
In my own experience as a small businessperson, I know that the times in which you have to make the hard choice is often the loneliest times for a small businessperson. You’re forced into making decisions that deeply affect the wonderful team of people you’ve built around you, thus it’s hard to ask them for advice. Similarly, asking for such advice in the community of small businesspeople can be a sign of oncoming failure for your business, a sign of weakness that you don’t want to reveal to them.
Where do you turn when you need to make such hard choices? Here are some options, both expected and unexpected.
Many small businesspeople turn to a business analyst or consultant in such a time of need. Such a decision is often itself an expensive one, but it can often point a business owner towards the best solution or reveal options that weren’t clear before.
My personal top option is my spouse. She is often able to see the cold realities of my business and suggest or encourage decisions that I may be unable to make due to my emotional closeness to the situation. She has a wise mind and isn’t held back by the business relationships I’ve built, enabling her to cut through the situation and find the best solution for the long-term health of the business.
The best solution, though, is something you can start constructing while times are good: a circle of trusted advisors.
In my work, I have a small group of people who are engaged in similar businesses in other communities. Although we are not in direct competition with one another, we are engaged in very similar businesses and thus we often face very similar problems and choices.
Over the years, I’ve taken exceptional effort to find these people and connect with them – as well as connect them to each other. Together, we’ve built a brain trust that we all rely on. We use a closed electronic mailing list to send out ideas and bounce them off of each other – in both good times and bad. We often share services with each other, like working together on package deals for business cards or website hosting services.
More than anything, though, these people serve as a strong support network when the chips are down. Most of us in this group have experienced a significant setback or two along the way and we all recognize the value in helping each other when someone in our group experiences a similar setback.
How can you find such a group? Start by locating peer businesses. Look for small businesses that are engaged in similar but non-overlapping markets to your own. Reach out to them. Exchange ideas with them – and give of yourself freely in these situations. Connect the people you meet with each other whenever you can.
You’ll find that when you’re faced with a hard choice when the chips are down, these people will come through with brilliant, powerful advice and help for you – just the kind of stuff you need to keep your business going.
Image credit: timetrax23