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Whether you like it or not, you are the beating heart of your business… are translating your DNA into a walking, talking corporate entity. But how does an owner remain consciously and productively engaged in that role — one that advances a personal identity professionally without becoming self-defeatingly egocentric?
It may seem new-age or “woo-woo” to traffic in this term, but to me, the key is in “alignment”. In considering this, I’m reminded of 1980s-era Wall Street types, pin-striped and screaming into grey plastic bricks, with Sun Tzu’s The Art of War poking out of their briefcases. What that (admittedly stereotypical) yuppy type communicates to me is someone trying to force it, who is possibly not in alignment with who they are or their foundational values. They might have thought that Gordon Gecko’s “Greed is good” mantra — backed by an aggressive, pushy attitude and washed down with Johnny Walker Blue — was all that was required, but with the benefit of hindsight, perhaps we can see the fallacies at work. It’s more than likely that these behaviors were coping mechanisms and faux bravado standing in for an actual set of values.
The point is that we can’t force our businesses to be anything that we ourselves are not — that it’s vital to do the work of first understanding who we are and who we’d like to be, then assess how a business will help get us there.
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An often-overlooked reason for failure
According to Fundsquire, 20% of companies in the UK fail in their first year, and around 60% will go bust within their first three, with periodic lockdowns and other Covid-19 compliancy regulations only exacerbating the situation. The main reason for failure (42%) Fundsquire cited is “no market need for their services or product”. That cause might seem obvious, but what such a stat says to me is that there was a very good chance these owners were not personally aligned with their business and customers.
Whoever is reading this has probably met or knows somebody like this… who has doggedly pursued an entrepreneurial endeavor long beyond its “sell by” date, convinced that its idea/product is so ingenious and well conceived that a market for it will simply appear. It’s a tale as old as time. If this person had done the work of not only creating a brilliant product but also understanding who that product/business should be helping them to become, however, a different outcome could have been had.
Related: How to Not Let Impostor Syndrome Sabotage Your Worth
A quick example: say a person creates a company devoted to making great wrenches — applies years of knowledge and experience to make one better than any other. If that’s the only guiding principal, fine, but what is it doing for their future dimensionally? If the wrench concept fuels both professional and personal growth, an owner will make better decisions in how to direct a company. This internal and dimensional approach to intention might also save years of struggle and debt if a business idea simply isn’t working. When you start from a place of wanting to grow yourself, and see your business as an extension of that, a lot of decisions will fall into place, including being motivated to find help and advice — the incentive to hire business development experts, even if just on a consultancy basis.
So, when people ask who your product or service is for, your answer should really be “me”. That’s not to say that you create something that only you want, but that this task is for you in the sense that it is part of your personal growth… not just in monetary terms (though that’s certainly a part of it), but as a whole.
Related: 3 Reasons Why a Strong Purpose Is a Good Business Idea
Ask a vague question, get a vague answer
As with just about anything in life, if you’re not specific in what you’re asking for, you cannot expect a specific answer. If you’re at a restaurant and just ask for fish (but really want salmon en croute) what are the odds you’ll get what you want? The same is true of a business. Saying “I want to make the best wrenches and be rich” is not enough. Why do you want to make the best wrenches and be rich? Who will you be when you have achieved that, and why do you want to be that person? Your business can only support you if you are clear about this. If you simply think that the whole thing will take care of itself, without such clarity at its center, you’re mistaken.
How to maintain alignment
“This is all well and good”, you might be thinking, “but what are the pathways of achieving such clarity?” First and foremost, you need to listen to yourself. I make it a point to check in with myself on a routine basis throughout the day — clear the decks and get back in tune with my body and how I’m feeling. So much time is wasted on unproductive behavior because we are trying to force something that we’re really not aligned with, but a practice like meditation, yoga or guided visualizations enables us to get present, bring awareness to what our body is telling us, and be of maximum service. What this will do for your business is ensure that day-to-day operations are better monitored — will fuel clarity in decision-making and improve alignment with its overall vision/goal. That clarity will also enable you to clearly communicate with a team, giving them the focus that they need in order to deliver.
Being the heart of your business and recognizing that it’s there to help you grow is not about ego or selfishness, it’s about being an effective leader who can communicate articulately and instill confidence in every aspect of operations.
Become that person and the rest will fall into line.