Every week, I talk to dozens of business owners looking to grow and scale their businesses, and the majority of them share one trait that stops them from doing so. When I ask those business owners what’s the one thing standing in the way of their success, I often hear lack of sales or lack of qualified staff. Some may even say their innate urge to micromanage gets in the way of their growth. And while these all do play a role in a company’s inability to scale, the most common reason is one that often goes overlooked.
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Many business owners will never admit it, but they have a difficult time separating themselves from their business. They see themselves and the business as one entity, and whenever something affects their business it affects them as well. If their business is doing well, they themselves must be successful. If their business is failing, then that too has a direct connection to their own abilities. Their emotional well-being is closely tied to their business, and this often leads to anxiety and depression when things are not going their way.
They may long for a day when the business will no longer need them 24/7, but since they can’t separate themselves from the business emotionally, they have no clear plan on how to achieve that separation. They have no idea what it would feel like to not work for the business every day. And the idea, frankly, scares them.
So they hold on. They try to make sure that they will still have a job in five or 10 years, even if that isn’t what is best for the business as a whole.
This is the first thing that I tell any business owner struggling with this issue: You created something wonderful. You did something that many people will never be able to achieve, and for that you should be proud. But that is not all that you are. You have (or at least should have) a life outside of your business. You are a sum of so many things, and only one small percentage of which is the fact that you are a business owner.
Identifying the issue is the first step to overcoming it. The second step is to get a really clear picture of how you want to proceed and how you want to grow alongside your business. This could be a five-year or even a 10-year plan, but the exercise of thinking about the separation is an important one. Do you plan to one day have someone take over as CEO? Do you want to train your children to take over the business one day? Or do you want to create systems and procedures, so that your business runs even if you are on vacation or taking an extended leave of absence? The clearer you lay out the details, the easier this will be to achieve.
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