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Small Business Ownership Shouldn’t Be Lonely

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Small Business Ownership Shouldn’t Be Lonely

As a business owner, I’ve enjoyed highs and lows. My highs, not as high as many, my lows; well I’m sure there are many worse off.

Business amplifies everything.

I love having a business, then again, I love roller coasters (although that has been a while). Pre, the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), my recruitment business had a turnover of $3.5 million, and I was living the life. As I said, not as prosperous as some, but for me it was plenty.

When the business was going well, I felt like I was ‘King of the World’ and acted pretty much like it, in an arrogant way too. I felt I was the company even though there was a team of 15. I clearly was not either ‘King of the World’ or my business.

Then came the GFC, what a reality check, I failed to make decisions, held on to people for too long and lost a small fortune. With the belief that I was the business, I felt that I was the failure. Not, the business, not, I made mistakes, “I was a failure”. I’d let go all of the staff, now only a junior Director and myself remained. One challenging day after another challenging day, nobody needed recruitment in the wake of a GFC. Rejection after rejection, I’d go home to my dog and shut the world out.

Rock bottom.

One thing I knew, I didn’t want to recruit anymore. I recall telling a Coach I was seeking to engage, “The recruitment model is broken, my partnership model is broken and to be honest … I think I’m broken.”

Yep, as Jazz sang in the 80’s, “The only way is up”, and that’s just how I felt. Although I doubted there was a way up for me at that time.

It took a while working with the coach but eventually, I came to a realisation, I could leave. After establishing the business 15 years earlier, I’d forgotten this point. I’d been running the business on ego (it’s not a dirty word), but I had been using my ego in all the wrong ways.

“You are not Your Business.”

This realisation set me free. It gave me room to look at the business differently. I could be critical of how I’d been running it, without being critical of me. Admitting mistakes freely so I could learn from them. I’d like to say that things turned around instantly but life isn’t always like that and this isn’t one of those stories.

It’s a real-life Small Business story.

Things don’t always go well. As owners, we can struggle and often, too often, we do so in private. I still made plenty more mistakes, selling the recruitment business wasn’t one of them. Changing careers into helping Small Business owners wasn’t one of them, building a community for Small Business owners, definitely, wasn’t one of them. But mistakes a plenty I have made, and I’m sure there’s more to come.

My biggest mistake was to shut down emotionally when times were tough. Riding it out in silence, sucking it in; that, was a huge mistake. It made me feel that there was no one I could turn to.

Find some companions.

Find a community. Engage with that community. Seek help! Small Business shouldn’t be lonely. 98% of business in Australia is Small Business. There are over 2 400 000 Small Business owners out there. It’s one of the country’s most significant minority groups.

There are others just like you, in researching this article I came across the story of Leanne Faulkner. We’ve almost nothing in common, Leanne and I. She doesn’t know I exist. Finding her story, so close to my own made me realise; there’s more of us out there.

Seek out a community of Small Business owners. In real life through networking, on Facebook or LinkedIn, one that’s supportive, not a ‘spamfest’.  Resist the urge to just promote your business, your stuff, and be prepared to share your experience. In good times and through the challenging ones, you’ll find others going through the same or similar experiences. Your message might just be exactly what someone needs right now, and others may reach out with how they’ve overcome a similar situation.

It’s great ‘just being me’.

I can relax knowing that my successes are fine. That mistakes are a normal part of life and what I’m going through is, at the end of the day pretty common. Not every one of the 2 400 000 business owners makes the same mistakes I do (lucky for them), yet plenty will. Enough to know, I’m never alone.

So, use the courage that led you to start your business to reach out for support. It’s amazing how many people your story will help. The energy you get back from sharing is amazing. Try it, please.

Remember: You are not your business and it’s not you. Your lives are separate and separable.

If things are going well, congratulations. But engage in a Small Business community and be there for others who may be quietly seeking support but who are too timid right now to ask. Let’s be there for each other.

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