Do you find yourself thinking, this just isn't worth it any more? Sometimes the stress and frustration of running your own business can outweigh the joy and freedom. It may start to feel like you're trapped in a bad relationship. You can find a business consultant (or a marriage counselor), but they'll tell you that you have to fix the problem.
So before seeking out professional help, try these seven tactics to put the fun back in your business.
1. Figure out what's going on. Most business owners, if you ask them, can't explain what the problem is. "If I knew, I'd fix it," they'll tell you.
They know there's been a drop in new customers or an increase in manufacturing costs, and probably have spreadsheets out the wazoo to prove it. But blaming sales or manufacturing won't solve the problem. In fact, it will make the problem worse because the people working there will feel blamed and anxious.
You need to look at what's causing the problem; fixing blame ignores the underlying issues. You need to figure out, with the help of your people, what's really going on.
2. Accept responsibility. The problems you're having didn't just happen overnight. Bad businesses, like good ones, are built, maintained and encouraged. To fix a problem you have to look at how you (and others) have contributed to it and do something about it.
3. Test your realities. The nice thing about reality is it's the same whether you believe it or not. The bad thing about wishful thinking is it may, or may not, match reality.
We all know there are certain guidelines and accepted truths, about running a business. But we often get into trouble because we follow the wrong truths. “Best practices” sometimes aren’t.
It's easy to fall into the trap of working harder and harder to get better and better at something you shouldn't be doing at all.
4. Stop self-sabotage. People are strange, and one of the strangest things we sometimes do is ensure our own failure.
We're used to toxic situations or dysfunctional people, so when things are going well, we take steps to make sure that we end up with the familiar. We think something is "too good to be true," so we engineer its failure to demonstrate we're in control. When things are going well, we create problems just to liven things up.
Step back and see if, insidiously, you are why the business isn't fun anymore.
5. Adopt a new approach. It's not good enough to get to the root of the problem. If you're in a rut, you have to sow new seeds for success, and adopt new approaches. Self-sabotage, as we've discussed, makes it easy to just accept the problems that are dragging you down.
6. Create new relationships. After identifying new, positive, self-supporting, success-producing approaches, you have to create new relationships. New ways of relating with people you've worked with before, and relationships with new people who will give you an opportunity to practice and improve your new approaches.
7. Make it a puzzle. People who start a business enjoy the thrill of the chase, the creative process of putting the pieces together, the rewards that come from figuring things out.
Initiate a new program to cut out a confusing bunch of products from your line, or start a new subsidiary. Step away from the desk and get back in the trenches. Get out of your head—spend some work or play time doing something entirely different. Take a class, learn something new, and apply it to your business.
Still don't like what you're doing? Put on a pair of pantyhose or a necktie (or both) and try to get a "real job." It'll remind you why you started your business to begin with, and why it's so much better than "working for the man."
What steps have you taken to stay engaged with your business?
Tom Harnish is a serial entrepreneur. Always on the bleeding edge of technology, he learned what works (and what doesn't) leading projects, products and companies to success (mostly). He can't play a lot of musical instruments.
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