Friday, July 10, 2015

Defining Success (Tradecraft)

As small business owners, we've spent a lot of time just trying to survive. A good percentage, 20% according to my recent research on small business credit, are late on their bills, probably just hoping to float rent or payroll. The struggle leads to a kind of PTSD, a traumatization that makes identifying success difficult to impossible. You don't know it when you're there and you don't believe it when you've got it.

Part of that not believing is success is a moving target. If you stopped for a year to admire your success, it would be gone. Small business is a shark, it must keep moving or die. A shark sitting still, admiring the scenery, is a shark about to suffocate. So you must always be growing, which entails a frustrating level of inefficiency. A lot of times it's action for the sake of action and you need to step back and measure, especially with things like advertising, employee hours and inventory that tends to move like lightning in good times, but clog your shark arteries when it's slow.

Defining success is a personal definition. For many, success means liberation from their day job. For those who've been working the counter for a while, success might mean liberation from being chained to the counter. For others, success might be breaking out from the single store model and finally stretching their owner legs with multiple stores. For a select few, it's scaling their multi store operation to integrate a middle management level for increased efficiency. Everyone has their definition, and that definition can change over time. It's then a question of enough.

When is it enough? How do you decide this right here is the correct incarnation of your business? How do you do that without the shark suffocating? How do you completely reinvent your business while maintaining personal enthusiasm for taking something good and making a different something good? How do you do this without screwing the whole thing up?

I was recently asked in a podcast about moving store locations. Imagine you worked at a company for seven years and you decided to leave your job for a new company. Imagine that if you failed at this new job, you couldn't work in that field again. That's the risks of just moving a store. You could lose everything. Part of that store owner PTSD is thinking perhaps you're just playing a press your luck game with the whole thing and it will come crashing down on your next turn. This is one more reason why you need a support network of like minded individuals. Who else can understand this stuff?

I don't have answers to these big questions. Those are answers each of us has to discover on our own. Definitely don't let anyone else tell you what success looks like, or how your business should be run. Also, these are winner questions. I don't want to sound smug, but these are known as the problems you want to have, the problems that come about because you did the thing and you did it right. These are likely problems you'll always have in business as well, which means if you were hoping to derive some personal happiness by mastering this stuff and solving all your problems, it ain't happening. If you revel in new problems, new scenarios in need of solving, you've found the right place.

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