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Fit for purpose? 5 questions to help you be a better business owner

When you started your business, you probably thought a lot about your product or service offering, the market, cash flow, and so on.  But you may not have given as much (or even any) thought to your own suitability to be an owner-manager.  Or perhaps you only had a short period of time to decide whether to take the plunge, and those thoughts ended up being relegated to the future.

In an ideal world, you’d think about your own suitability when considering a new business venture.  But, once up and running, it’s vital you look at how you’re performing as a business owner-manager.  Even if the business is growing well and revenues are climbing, your own performance might be holding the business back in one particular area.

These five questions will help you assess how you’re doing and identify areas where you may need a little independent support:

  1. Can you manage the financial implications for you and your family?
    Chances are you wanted to own a business so you could advance your financial prospects and provide a better, more secure future for your loved ones.  But the key word there is ‘future’.  For most new owners, the short term is characterised by lower income, higher commitments and, possibly, personal guarantees on a business loan.  Even a more established business can experience times of financial uncertainty.  Any good adviser will help you model the cash requirements for your business and then repeatedly challenge you with ‘what if?’ questions to ensure you’re considering the full picture.
  2. Are you happy working and making decisions alone when you must?
    One of the more surprising reasons businesses fail is not the product, service or financial performance, but the ‘loneliness’ of business ownership – especially compared to a previous corporate role.  However, while you do often need to make decisions alone, you also need to have the confidence to share your thoughts, feelings and ideas, without getting hung up on the perception that being the boss means you alone have all the answers.  It’s always a good idea to ask for internal input and external support when you need it.
  3. How good are you at building and developing a team?
    Along with managing cash flow and prioritising your time, the biggest frustration for owner-managers is in recruiting, developing and retaining a high-performance team.  Often these frustrations boil down to how long it takes to recruit, misjudgements based on a poor selection process and impatience with new recruits who you expect to deliver very quickly.  Recruitment mistakes are very costly so get some help, always have a second opinion, and plan for success by recognising that, while training is necessary, ongoing coaching and good leadership are equally important.
  4. What’s your appetite for delegating?
    As an owner-manager, you quickly realise that there are many activities needed to keep the business running, often requiring you to learn new skills like bookkeeping, marketing, selling, etc.  Understanding and controlling these activities is fine, but spending too much time on them, at the expense of your core strengths, is a mistake.  There are plenty of low-commitment and low-cost ways to get these activities done by outsourced specialists.
  5. How resilient and determined are you when the going gets tough? (And it will.)
    Even if you’ve been very successful so far, you’re likely to experience setbacks like a client loss or failed supplier at some point.  How good are you at looking for the positives and seeing the upsides, without deceiving yourself if there are real problems?  A good adviser will help you see the real picture, ensuring the ups don’t get out of hand and the downs are treated pragmatically and quickly.

Did you ask yourself any of these questions before you were starting out?  If you didn’t, you’re not alone!  By asking yourself them now, and revisiting them regularly in the future, you can assess your strengths and weaknesses, and grow in your role as a business owner.

Good coaching support has helped many business owners develop over the years, and the earlier you get the support you need, the greater your chances of success.  To find out more, contact us today.

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