February has been a run of meetings with really capable business owners – all women. They’ve ranged from day spa operators, occupational therapists, software designers to farmers and retailers. Despite the diversity of industries, they’ve had one thing in common — they all knew they needed help and weren’t afraid to admit it. Like any business owner, they’re all risk takers but they’re doing far too much technical work pushing them to the edge of burnout.
Let me tell you a story about one of these clever women, whose brother I first met a while back. He really admires his sister and glowingly talked about her business success, but was quick to add that she needed help as her business was bursting at the seams — you know, when the stitching starts to show or the buttons start popping. I said I’d be happy to have a chat with her and we met up.
I liked her instantly. 100 per cent empathy. Watched her pretty face which was starting to show signs of strain as she explained her self-confessed mess. Now I said in last week's blog that I’m a listener rather than a talker, but as she looked so tired, I quickly turned the tables and told her my story, hoping that she’d see herself in the mirror. For years I pushed myself in business, I told her, telling myself all the time that next month would be easier, just another year like this and all will be well – until life threw a few obstacles in my way making me realise that it was time to change. I love this line: “Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were smarter”. Most of us refuse to get smart and we fool ourselves again and again that we can get by, it’ll be OK, tomorrow.
To me, getting help with your business is just like getting help with living a full and mature life. Most of us don’t get that either. We find it scary, even though we know inside that we should be getting counselling with our marriages, or seeking guidance on how to raise our teenage children, or even therapy on how to deal with death or divorce. But we avoid getting proper help. We go to a doctor, maybe, and get a pill to relieve depression or anxiety – and that might work, for a while. In business, we go to some motivational event or read business books like The Four-Hour Work Week (I must read that!) and just like the pills, for a few days, months or years if we’re really lucky, the stress dissipates. But it always returns.
We Aussies often have a very real fear of deconstructing our lives via personal therapy because of the stigma attached. It’s the same in business. We avoid business therapy (coaching) because it might seem too hard or too expensive, or too embarrassing to admit we don’t know what we’re doing, or it’s all getting too much.
I gave this woman two of our business magazines when she left. They’re full of great information.
“Great as they are, these magazines are like a pill,” I said. “They’ll help you for a while. But one day you’re going to have to put your business on the lawn and really sort it out.”
This woman wasn’t afraid to admit she needed help. Her next step will be harder – reaching out and actually getting it. And that’s such a hard step because you have to untangle the person from the business – toss out all the crazy parts and build some really solid foundations. Some business guru once said: “Find out what you need. Find out the price. Pay the price.” I don’t remember where I first read these words, but I do know that I act on them.
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