Everyone talks about doing the right things to minimize the risks of their business. But here is the problem, owning a business is risky. And the risks that become real are never the ones that we plan for.
So, as they say, shit happens to businesses and it will happen to yours. Sometimes they are modest annoyances and other times they threaten the existence of your company. But more often they are a steady series of market changes that exert downward pressure on your business. And they do this so slowly that by the time you notice how far into the abyss you are, it feels like there is no way back. And the reason we don’t realize it is because, as my favorite saying goes, “it is hard to read the label when you are stuck inside the bottle.”
So we grind along, alone, inside the “bottle” that is our business as our business becomes a lonely grind. Worse, we business owners are external optimists as we feel it easier to say “it will all get better” in public while we worry in isolation over whether that will be true. “It is lonely at the top” is about as true a saying as there is.
There is another bad element at play here. Business owners hate to ask for help. Somehow, asking for help means that they are not doing a good enough job or admitting that someone else may know something that they do not. Or, they think, it is the same as admitting failure. I know this because I have been there and have felt all of these emotions. But, fortunately, I realized that one can’t do the heavy lifting that is needed to turn an organization of any size around all alone. It takes an outside perspective. It takes someone that will tell you the unvarnished truth and “read the label” for you. But most of all, it takes an outside person, or a team of them, to roll up their sleeves and get the hard,and sometimes ugly, work done that must to get done. And get it done with the fanatical urgency it requires.
Because, here is the important point, asking for help is not a sign of weakness or failure. A lot of people are counting on you to do whatever is necessary to save the business and make it thrive again. I cannot think of anything more brave.
As with anything, there is a right way and a wrong way to get a business turned around. Done right, the business will feel like yours when it is done. Yours without the worry and stress of wondering if each week will be the last or what other “shoe will drop” when you answer the phone or open your inbox. No more driving to and/or from work frustrated that a lot was said and done but the business still feels stuck. That may sound familiar but you must decide you are done feeling that way.
And that is why I do what I do. I went through all of these pains and, it turns out, I did not have to. I asked for help just before it was too late and am forever sorry I did not ask for it even sooner. I would have saved myself (and those around me) a year or two of extreme stress and worry.
And so I will continue to push against the conventional wisdom that business owners never ask for help until it is too late. That they are afraid to admit they need some real help. Those that feel that they would rather “go down with the ship” can certainly choose to do so… with my condolences.
There are many who realize that having a set of helping hands and minds on their side is the bravest and smartest move they can make to realize their biggest hopes and dreams for themselves, their business and those that rely on it. We should be spending more time celebrating this kind of business bravery and making it the badge of honor it is.