I have been thinking a lot recently about the failure rates of businesses and motivational speakers/hype gurus. We are bombarded by success stories, rags to riches tales, and people telling us we all need to follow our dreams and reach for the stars. We get caught up in the passion and success of the story and venture down a similar road as those who influence us….but should we?
There are some that, after hearing a speaker think “Ya, I can do it!” when in reality they might not really have what it takes to do it. There’s something missing. I believe that every person has a purpose on this earth, but what does that look like? It can’t all be what society would call fame, sometimes having purpose presents in collecting garbage from our homes, some may get on their knees and weed organic vegetable fields. One prime example came from a conference I was at last year in Toronto. Robin Sharma told a story (with video evidence to back it up) of a janitor at an airport in Africa. This janitor was so in love with his job and serving people, it would be difficult to imagine him in any other job. This guy LOVED what he did and worked every day to be the best janitor he could possibly be.
Ultimately that is what’s missing. We tell people that they can do something better than what they do right now. Almost as if to say that what they do should be beneath them. Rather, we should be encouraging people to be the BEST in the place that they are right now.
We too often encourage people to strike out on their own because they could a) make more money, b) be happier, c) experience freedom, among other things. If we’re not balancing this encouragement by asking some hard questions, we might be sending our loved ones down a difficult path. Just because you’re smart/talented/experienced doesn’t mean you can necessarily make it as a business owner. Additionally, if you do possess all of the necessary traits to be successful in business it doesn’t eliminate risk.
So what should we be thinking about? A would-be entrepreneur asked my opinion on their ideas and their future businesses. Before we even get into the details of the business I asked them to think about 3 scenarios.
1) The business fails. You lose a lot of money and it’s a major setback in life. What do you do at this point? Do you throw in the towel and claim bankruptcy or pay your debts and go back to work for someone else? Do you pay everything off and pick yourself up and start again? Or maybe you were fortunate to use cash to pay for the business upfront, so you maybe don’t have debt, but your savings are gone. What do you do now?
2) The business barely scrapes by. You’re a slave to the business you started. It makes enough money to not be in debt, but you don’t pay yourself a real wage, you don’t experience the freedom of income or time that you thought you would. Your best plan is to make sure that you build up some assets over time and sell the business someday for the depreciated value of those assets, but because it’s not really making money, you don’t get what you feel you should for all of the time and energy you put into it. What do you do now?
3) The business is successful. You’re making good, if not great money. You have to limit growth because you cannot handle how much work you’re getting. So now you have to become an employer. You hire some people to do the work, but it’s your business and relinquishing responsibilities is tough. You don’t want to admit it, but you are now limiting the growth of the business. In order to make “your baby” what it could be, you need to hire talented people and hand over the reins. What do you do now?
There are two key takeaways from thinking through questions like this; decided to be the best possible you and do the best possible work at what you do right now, or, if you’re an ambitious future entrepreneur, think carefully and weigh out all possible outcomes.
The failure rate of businesses within 5 years is staggering. Do some research and PLAN PLAN PLAN.
Whether you choose to be, as Robin Sharma would put it, a leader without a title, or press on to the business person that has inspired you, I wish you all the best success at the things you choose to do. Smile while you work. It makes a lot of things better and I would wager that even if you consciously change nothing other than this, your performance will get better.