Problems Can Make Your Day

The problems you see in your business are evidence that you understand it.

The UK’s largest insurer Aviva carries out a bi-annual survey of small businesses to gauge feelings among their owners. The latest Aviva SME Pulse research asked 500 of them how they felt about their businesses. You might be surprised to hear that a quarter said they were thinking of giving up and getting a “proper job” and a third said that they had lost the enthusiasm they once had. Do you have these feelings too?

I can’t remember how many business owners have told me much the same thing. Even the most successful of them often say they want a change and they’ve been thinking of building houses instead. “Building houses” is a metaphor for the many and varied aspirations I’ve been told about, but in fact a lot of them do have to do with housing development, as it happens.

My much-practised response is to ask them what they know about housing development. The response I get is simply, “Well, what is there to know? It looks simple enough to me”. What they mean by this is, “It’s not as complicated and difficult as this!”; that is their own familiar and wearisome businesses.

I beg to differ. Most of the competitive advantage that small businesses have comes from their knowledge of the business and the industry they work in. It is the detail that can make you rich, if you know what to do with it. However, detail can seem to be a problem at times. It is completely misguided to think that because you have been successful at one business, which you know a lot about, you can be equally successful doing something completely different, which you know nothing about. Knowing nothing about things makes them look much easier than they are.

Successful men – more so than women, in my experience – sometimes think that anything they touch will turn to gold, but alas I have never met a King Midas. I have met several people who went off to “build houses” and soon learned that it was more complicated and difficult than their day job. Learning curves are expensive things to climb; and they are effective barriers to entry for your competitors.

What I have found is that many businesses are stuck and their owners aren’t too sure what to do with them, so they lose heart. Owners can go and work for someone else, but there is another option. The reason they don’t know what to do is often because they haven’t been faced with the sort of issues they are now facing before. They don’t really have the confidence to make decisions and move on.

If you are in this position, there is a simple solution. You need help from someone who has done this sort of thing before to give you the confidence necessary to more on. How do I know? Well, this is what I do every working day. Many people I have worked with have found renewed enthusiasm once they know what to do and decide to eschew house building for a while at least.

If you know enough to see all the problems, you may be able to use that knowledge to make yourself rich. Perhaps it’s time to turn your problems into cash?

Mark

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