Have You Hit the Shape Up or Ship Out Point?


Have You Hit the Shape Up or Ship Out Point?

Have you found yourself late at night, a drink in one hand, despair and frustration on your face and in your heart thinking, ‘how did I get here’ and ‘this is not what I signed up for’?

This is the lightbulb moment I have seen with many clients (and I’ve certainly been there myself) when you realise you’re a rundown business owner running a rundown business. And this moment can hit at any time, be it in the first year of business or ten years down the track. But the fact is: It will hit at some stage because the life cycle of any business is never rosy 24/7.

So, do you still love your business or is the honeymoon over?

Unfortunately, too many business owners are running very expensive hobbies rather than profitable, simple businesses, and this happens because they are not truly committed to embracing all the functions and responsibilities associated with the title ‘Business Owner’.  Instead, they become what I term in my book, The Five Little Business Pigs, the ‘Reluctant Business Owner’.

The ‘Reluctant Business Owner’ is someone who only does the fun stuff or the things they love to do in their business and ignores the other essential functions; knowing the financial numbers, marketing, sales, systems, having hard conversations, etc. And because of this, after putting what they think is their blood, sweat and tears into this all-consuming business, and having sacrificed time away from family and friends, they hit a wall; culminating in ‘what the’ realisations. This then leads to more questions which feed the negativity and doubt swirling around their head:

  • Why did I start this business?
  • Is this really why I left my job?
  • Why is this happening?
  • I’m working so hard but where’s the cash?
  • Wasn’t it supposed to be easier than this?
  • How come everyone else is doing better than me?

Sound familiar?  Then here are three signs you’re running a rundown business or what I call ‘The Rundown Business Pig’:

1. Dollars may show acceptable turnover, but there’s little or no profit; you could even be close to bankruptcy.

2. People (including you) are disgruntled, bored, confused, frustrated, have lost interest and energy = poor organisational culture.

3. Mistakes keep happening but are covered up rather than looking at the cause.

The ultimate sign of ‘The Rundown Business’ is everything is a mess, your office, your desk, your files and your headspace. Lack of clarity means you don’t know which way to turn or what to do next to keep your head above water today, let alone survive next week.

If you’re reading this and thinking, ‘that’s me’, please know you’re not alone. We’ve all been here, but it’s what we do next that matters the most.

It’s decision time.

A previous client rang me, close to tears and disclosed she was in financial distress and didn’t know what to do next. After we talked about what happened and why, and before I could comment, she took a breath and said, “I know this is my fault, and I’ve created these problems, but I want some help to fix this and move on.”

Wow. What a revelation and how brave and courageous, to not only acknowledge that aloud to herself, but to someone else. I was so grateful she trusted me with this information and I believed I could help her work through this dark cloud. And that’s what we did, together.

We analysed what had happened and why, developed strategies to ensure this didn’t happen again, and determined practical solutions for the circumstances which were in her control. For those which couldn’t be changed, we developed coping strategies so she could productively and quickly complete these tasks. One of these strategies was to write the word ‘STOP’ on two post-it notes; one for her phone case and one for her monitor. Many of the issues were created by blindly trusting people’s words rather than getting things in writing, and by saying yes too quickly. This note was a simple but powerful gesture which triggered her to stop, take a breath and consider what to do next which may be, “I’ll call you back in half an hour once I’ve checked my diary.”

Remember: Time and space provide amazing clarity … If only we take it.

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”

Many business owners are great at what they do, e.g. developing websites, delivering training but don’t have the skills and expertise to run a simple, profitable business. This means there are only two choices:

1. Shape up and commit wholeheartedly to your business and wear the title of ‘Business Owner’ as a badge of honour by embracing all the functions and responsibilities, not just the fun stuff.

2. Ship out by accepting that running a business is really not for you and either exit the business to become an employee again or stay in the business but pay people to help you do all the things you aren’t good at or you don’t want to do.

The time for excuses is over so what decision do you need to make for your ‘Rundown Business’?

Has this article given you the kick up the backside you need to determine if you really want to make your business work or should you either exit the business or get someone in to help you go from rundown to resurgence?

If you’re like my client and decide to shape up, then what needs to change in your business; people and systems (including you)? If you decide to ship out, what steps do you need to take to make them happen as quickly as possible to stop throwing money down the drain?

Whatever decision you make, ensure it is right for you and your business, so you don’t keep making the same mistakes and be in the same position in 3, 6 or 12 months’ time, and remember if you don’t love your business, how can anyone else?

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