A phrase that can often strike fear in the hearts of even the bravest of business owners is, “Your banker is on the phone and would like to speak with you.” Oh no, you think, what could she possibly want? Does she know about my key employee who is threatening to leave? Did that upset customer call her to complain? Will she be pulling our line of credit?
Business owners can be a worrisome bunch. Oftentimes owners aren’t even sure what to worry about. One of the top worries for business owners, no matter what stage they’re in, is cash. More specifically, will I run out of cash? So how do you keep track of all your money?
If you’ve been in business long enough, chances are you’ve received some unsolicited interest in your business. By “interest” we mean someone is expressing an interest in perhaps buying your business. It likely came in the form of a letter that was either physically mailed or emailed or from a phone call. These letters and phone calls often come from intermediaries so the actual person who might be interested in buying your company has their identity hidden. Do you welcome these solicitations with open arms? Do you avoid them like the plague…or COVID? Likely you’re somewhere in between.
One of the things we fight in our day jobs as business coaches is the never ending poor advice given to small business owners. Perhaps the biggest offense with this advice is folks talking about business plans. It might sound something like, “All you need is a business plan to get started.” Well intentioned advice. But what does this really mean?
Have you ever seen the movie Rudy? It’s based on a true story of a young man whose biggest desire was to play football for Notre Dame. As with any great story there are many obstacles for our hero to overcome including his limited physical abilities. Perhaps the most challenging obstacle that Rudy and many of us face is the doubters around us who tell us we’re crazy for thinking something is possible or that it can’t be done. It’s often easy to give into this fear of failure and start to doubt ourselves.
One of the biggest challenges and common frustrations of any leader is to get everyone on your team on the same page. Use whatever metaphor you want. Things like “all rowing in the same direction” or “everyone reading from the same hymnal” and hundreds of other cliches. At the end of the day, it comes down to what you focus on as a Leader. Because whatever you focus on is what your team will focus on.
One of the biggest challenges for a business owner looking to transition their business to the next generation is figuring out who to transition the business to and how to know when that next generation is ready to take over. What does it look like when someone is ready to take over the company? Will you just know it when you see it? Should you have the next generation just follow you around for six months or a couple of years to learn by osmosis?
One of the things we help our clients do is buy companies. We usually start the process off by having our clients “turning over rocks.” Those “rocks” can include everything from talking to business brokers to responding to online listings or ones in the newspaper to sending out unsolicited letters to a target group.
One of the annual traditions of business ownership is making some tax planning decisions, usually late in the year. It includes things like buying equipment or vehicles to take advantage of accelerated depreciation through a Section 179 tax deduction or some other accounting jargon. But those aren’t really the surprises we’re talking about. We’re talking about those surprise tax bills you get from your CPA where you have less than a couple of weeks to come up with significant cash to pay your bill.
We all have doubts. It’s only human. Some of us are just better at hiding those doubts than others. One phrase that is often difficult for business owners to utter is “I don’t know.” There can be a pressure as an owner to know all the answers. Whether that pressure is real or perceived doesn’t matter because you still feel it. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in business for a few weeks or several decades, chances are there are times when you feel like you’re in over your head. So what’s a business owner to do about it?