There are two problems with being a small business owner. We’re small, and we’re stubborn. Therefore, we’re limited…borderline handicapped.
We’re small for any number of reasons. Some of us like it that way, with few employees to get underfoot, so we can hang out the “gone fishing” sign whenever it suits us. For others, we’re small because our resources are limited, so we accept it as a fact of life.
Then there’s that stubborn part. We like to do things our way, not form a standing committee to organize a planning committee to organize monthly meetings to explore whether we should use pushpins or thumb tacks. We know the answers, and if we don’t, well….
As Steve Jenkins, partner in New York’s Fairway Market and author of his long-selling bible on cheese, Cheese Primer, likes to point out, “What I don’t know about cheese isn’t worth knowing.” That’s how most small business owners feel about their turf. They’re notorious for being independent to the point of hurting themselves.
I used to be that way, from emptying my own wastebaskets to personally designing trade show displays and responding to every complaint and mini-crisis. Truth be told, I was pretty good at some stuff, so-so at others, and downright lousy at a whole lot more. In the end, it slowed me down, limited my growth…and gave me a major headache, as I switched hats from accountant to advertising guru to product specialist faster than a cardsharp could slip an Ace up his sleeve.
I learned a better way…finally. For example, I am a pretty good business writer and marketing strategist. So, why would I do my own accounting when I could use the same time to draft a new marketing piece for either a client or myself? Or why would I personally revise my website when I could be lunching with a hot, new prospect?
So, here it is – how we can both maintain our independence and conquer the world, even go global, if we choose: Teams! Let me repeat that: TEAMS!
I am not talking about hiring a staff or delegating to employees. I am talking about loose-tie affiliations to other stubborn small business owners who recognize the value of relationships and networking.
I know. I know. This costs money. But let’s say you job out your website management to a hard-driving techie genius who provides five hours each month of updates for $150. Not only will your website look more professional, but you will now have five more hours (worth $250, if you bill out your time at $50 an hour) to focus on what you do best. You have turned an expense into a profit. That’s the power of building a team.
Better yet, swap services. I am writing a book on money management for couples. I haven’t tackled a project this big in ten years. The writing is no big woof for me, but I’m a novice at marketing a manuscript to a publisher. Sure, I could bull my way through by trial and error. However, an old friend, Dennis E. Hensley, is not only director of the Professional Writers Program at Taylor University Fort Wayne, but he also has published more than 50 books. (His latest, The Power of Positive Productivity, has already become something of a best seller in the business world.) Now there’s an expert on book publishing, so when he agreed to help, I jumped at the opportunity. He gave me a weekend of mentoring on how to prepare and market my manuscript. In exchange, I did a guest lecture for one of his journalism classes.
As Mark Victor Hansen and Robert G. Allen point out in their book, The One Minute Millionaire, even Jesus, who founded an organization that has endured for nearly 2,000 years, did not do it alone. “He personally selected 12 men and the world has never been the same.”
The bottom line: Network. Meet people. Build loose-tie affiliations with everyone you meet. Just as important, make yourself available to become part of other people’s teams. Your business will grow exponentially, and you can still remain small and be able to maintain your stubborn independence.
Work hard. Make money. Have fun.
The Freestyle Entrepreneur
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