What’s the biggest limiting factor in any small business? What causes the most failure?
- Is it access to capital?
- Small markets or lack of customers?
- Inability to find the right employees, suppliers, or other resources?
These all suck and can certainly be business ending. But they aren’t the root cause of business failure. And this is where I have some shockingly bad news.
The biggest limitation in any business is you. It’s the business owner or other senior decision-makers. You are the captain of the ship. It’s your strategy, your motivation, and your knowledge that determines whether your business succeeds or fails. Everything else is just a challenge for you to figure out and navigate. The world is what it is, but you control how you and your business respond.
You can get more creative about sources of capital or better cost controls or a different model to alter your cash flow.
You can rethink your market or find a better way to connect with customers or outmaneuver your competition.
You can access a different work force or build something you can’t buy or make a creative offer to someone hungry and creative enough to solve your problem.
You can pivot or sell or hand-off.
Don’t get me wrong. Small business is incredibly difficult and no one can envision, do, and know everything. And the outside factors, like capital, markets, and other missing pieces, are real. Small business operates in a dangerous and often hostile world. Each problem you solve will just uncover another one. It’s frustrating, but also exhilarating. If it’s not part of why you do what you do, you might want to rethink running a business
So, what can you or any of us do about it?
The answer is simple and you probably already know it.
Just Keep Learning
Relentless learning is the key. Never stop. Every new challenge is an opportunity. The Internet puts know-how at your fingertips (if you can sort through all of the crap and distractions). There are experts and service providers who have figured stuff out and are happy to help you (for a fee). You can experiment and fire up your do-measure-learn loop with real experience.
Books are Cheap
Business books are like vitamins for your business. Given how much everything else costs in your business, $10, $20, or even $50 for a relevant and inspiring business book is a bargain. And there is so much great stuff out there. Books on startup. Books on marketing. Books on social media. Books on raising capital. I have yet to find a topic so esoteric that there isn’t something pretty darn close on Amazon.com. We should all be reading more. There is an adage out there,
Behind every great success, is an even greater library.
We all have the opportunity to stand on the shoulders of giants.
Business Book Club = Experts, Peers, and Beers
There are two major problems with books:
#1 Finding the time and motivation to read
#2 Holding yourself accountable for doing what you learn
In books, you have experts on tap. But how do you really use that?
One answer that I really like is the Business Book Club. Get together a group of peer business owners and commit to a regular meeting to discuss a business book.
The businesses don’t need to be in the same industry or at all related. The most important thing is really that they are people you can get along with and with whom you can speak openly.
Then, pick a book that interests you. Starting with something broad about running a small business, like The E-Myth Revisited, is a good place to start. But if there is a very specific issue you are all interested in, like social media marketing, then that can work too.
Put yourselves on a schedule, like a chapter a week or a section or book a month, with regular meetings of the group. Weekly is great, but monthly tends to be more realistic. Much longer than that between meetings and you will probably lose interest.
Make it fun. It helps to have the right group of peers and to pick books that are written well enough that they aren’t painful to read. Many business books are downright entertaining. I am also a fan of including food and beer. Because, really, what doesn’t get better with food and beer?
So, commit to continuous learning. Books are a cheap and easy way to do it. If you can’t motivate on your own, then start a Business Book Club. Good luck and happy reading.
If you happen to be in Central New York, I am going to be running a Business Book Club through LocalMotive Workshop that meets every 2nd Wednesday at noon. You can learn more on LocalMotive Workshop’s Facebook page and we will also be using Facebook to enable some virtual participation as well.