[Marketing Memo} It's 2am - are you worried about your small business?
By Cary Weston
I once participated in a leadership conference where a guest speaker named Jack Quirk presented. Jack is a well known guy in our state with a very successful family-owned business. He and his family have become a staple in the region and someone I look up to and respect for his business skills as well as his sense of commitment to the community.
Jack's presentation was not about how to do it right or the 10 things that makes a business grow. It was instead a list of characteristics that he thought would help us better understand him as a person.
And the first bullet point on the list was "I still wake up at 2am worrying that it might all go away."
Wow - to hear that come out of his mouth was amazing. I can still remember the response I had when I heard those words.
You mean this is normal?
You see, I'm a small business owner, which by definition separates me from the sane people of the world.
I get that.
My habits are different. My interests are different. And unless you are in the shoes of one that carries the stress and guilt (yes guilt) of owning a small business, it's really hard to understand why I do the things I do.
This year marks our firms 10th year in business. I'm proud of that. But for some reason, I thought that by now, I'd stop worrying about all the things I do.
Its not that I worry about the same things as much, but I do find I have more things to worry about.
Yes, I stress about payroll - but not in the same way that I used to. It's no longer a week to week stress but more of a big picture stress. Are we too light for capacity? Are we too heavy in one area? Do we have the skills we need to grow? How come I'm surrounded by people so much smarter than me?
Ok that last one really doesn't qualify as a payroll stress but it is an interesting shift in the nature of our business. I no longer find myself being the grinder, but more of the minder and the finder.
Which brings me to another worry: we have amazing people - are they happy? Fulfilled? Secure? Do I do a good job of letting them know how they're doing? What do they say about our business when their guard is down? Is there enough coffee in the kitchen to get us through the week?
Ok, again, that last one may seem out of place. But the Keurig coffee machine is our all-star appliance and those single cup coffee pods are the engine our our office economy.
Which leads me to another set of worries - are we productive enough? Do we have the right billable hour mix? Are we quoting appropriately on new projects? What IS the average market quote from our competition that we bid against? How come others seem to be able to find time to do all the things I want to do?
Time - boy thats something I never thought would move so fast. When I started this business, all I had was an interest in doing something for myself, a degree on the wall, and a few relationships in the community that allowed me to feed myself.
Now I have two children, with another due any moment, a business partner, community boards, city council, causes, commitments....well you know the drill.
Time balance was never one of my strong points and I've paid for that along the way. I've gotten better because there really is no alternative if you care about more than one thing in life.
I mentioned guilt eariler. Its the guilt that comes from feeling that I'm faking it and someone is going to find out soon that I actually have no idea what I'm doing.
Do you ever feel that way? That the kid who used to squint because wearing glasses wasn't cool and once cut his own hair to see what it was like is now running a business that supports not only his own family but 10 other families!
And there are other business owners that turn to me for advice and rely on what we do to grow their business?
Are you kidding me? Don't they know I still wake up at 2am thinking it might all go away?
So I was wondering - does anyone else feel the same way?
- Cary Weston is a partner of Sutherland Weston Marketing Communications in Bangor, Maine
Company's Web: www.sutherlandweston.com
Company's Twitter: www.twitter.com/SWMC_inc
Cary's Linked In: www.linkedin.com/in/caryweston
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