It has been said that, “No man can gain perspective in the midst of his circumstances.” This is especially true with small business owners. With the success of their business being dependent on their every move, business owners have precious little time to assess anything beyond the tasks of getting work out the door on a daily or hourly basis. Add to that the responsibilities of supervising their teams, reading financial statements (however infrequently they may be produced) and trying to ensure a steady pipeline of new business, and it’s easy to see why entrepreneurs have a difficult time looking strategically at their business (working ON their business) and, more importantly, their personal weaknesses.
That said, it is critical for business owners to carve out time in their over-packed schedules to do exactly those two things. In order of importance, growing their self-awareness has to come first. Until they gain a more in-depth understanding of themselves and create an executable plan to fill in their skill gaps, it isn’t particularly practical to attempt to spend a lot of time refining the business. That’s not to say that much of working ON the business and gaining more self-awareness cannot occur simultaneously, but the lead dog has to get him/herself some perspective before real changes can occur.
Growing one’s self-awareness is a very brave undertaking for most business owners. I say this takes bravery because, in my time working with business owners (and being one myself), they usually have been the “Shell Answer Man (or Woman)” for their business for so long that they tend to think they have all the answers. Of course, none of us have all the answers. The key is to know what we don’t know and either get training to fill in that knowledge gap or hire people, either on staff or as mentors, to compensate for the holes. The most effective/efficient way to do this, in my experience, is to engage mentors to spend time, quiz and observe the owners in order to make recommendations as to areas that are not their strong suits.
Only with better self-awareness can critical business assessments and decisions be made optimally. Think about the difficulty of trying to decide if an expansion is appropriate for your business without adequate and honest self-awareness of the owner’s ability to lead this growth. Similarly, how can one determine if the business is salable without being real with one’s self in determining what we do/don’t know about making a business salable?
If you are a business owner and have not spent the time to build relationships with trusted mentors, get started today. Only by having someone looking at your circumstances from the outside can you be sure that your weaknesses are properly identified so you can improve yourself, and move your business forward.