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  • Neil Cleaver

The Lesson Small Business Owners Must Learn To Create The Business (& Life) They Want

Updated: Jun 29



To make a profit - for the satisfaction - to make a difference - these are the 3 main reasons UK school children are given in Business Studies as to why Entrepreneurs set up businesses.


Sounds good to me!


Is this why you started in Business?


The money? It was a bit risky, but you never wanted a boring job anyway. You wanted to enjoy creating your own highly profitable company, earn ‘big money’ AND own a valuable business to sell on when you were ready right? Working hard and feathering someone else’s nest whilst they have all the fun was never going to be your bag.


Maybe you wanted the satisfaction that comes from working hard for yourself, setting up a successful business, being independent and free?


For some of you being able to make a difference was certainly in there too. Not all of us can set up a game changing social enterprise and win an MBE whilst we are at it. But most of us set out to create a place where people are proud to come to work and be a part of. A good place that you would be proud to call yours.


So where are you now since setting up all those moons ago?


Some of us don’t make it and end up having to turn back. Something that we all realise quickly is that running a business is one of the toughest things you will ever do. It’s not for everyone.


Some of us just wanted an income or a ‘’side hustle’ and we were just happy owning a job. Building a ‘big’ business was never the aim anyway.


But some of us fight our way through.


Hard work, tenacity, intelligence, desire, teamwork, charity, blind luck all play their part and one day you look around and with a mixture of pride, disbelief, and amazement you see a profitable little business with a close-knit team who border on family.


The money is ok and you’re working your socks off but that’s the game, right? You love it!

Your spouse is super proud and their occasional reprimands for checking your phone on the family holiday can be laughed off.

“Relax!” you cry, “It’ll all pay off in the end! Just a couple more years tops and we’ll be free to enjoy it properly”.


……time passes…. things change.

  • Your marketplace evolves.

  • The technology changes everything

  • Employment practises and attitudes to work change beyond recognition from the days when you set up.

  • Your Employees’ faces change, and the ‘original family’ are gradually replaced with ‘conventional hires’.

  • Your reflection in the mirror looks more tired.

  • The patience of your spouse becomes shorter.

And one morning you realise…. you are not enjoying it like you once were.


What would you say to the eager young Business Studies Student in an interview?


Are you making a profit? “Yes!”.

Enough to step away / slow down a bit and employ someone to do your job? “…No”.

Are you satisfied with your business? “It’s ok”.

Are you doing all the exciting top level business strategy and making the big moves you used to? “No”.

Ok, then instead are you doing hours and hours of ‘important client stuff and admin’ that “no one else can do but you?”. “Yes”.

Do the new members of your team connect with the old magic and passion you managed to nurture when the business was first set up and growing fast? “No”.

Do your current team ‘just do a job’ they could do for any old, hum drum competitor? “hmmm”

Have you enjoyed being your own boss? “Yes. I wouldn’t do anything else anyway – I’m practically unemployable now”.

Do you feel tired? “Yes”.

Have you run out of excuses to check your email on your phone in the presence of your spouse? “No comment”.


Time For a Fresh Perspective?


It’s not my intention to make you feel miserable or to ruffle your feathers. You are an amazing, successful, formidable businessperson BUT even you can’t keep this up forever!

Every small business owner reaches a point on their journey (Some in 20 months and some in 20 years*) where they stop, look around and take stock. Perhaps that’s why you’re reading this article…?


If profits aren’t what you need them to be. If you feel flat and unsatisfied. If your business isn’t making you and your team smile (let alone making a difference), then perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate and accept that ‘what got you here’ isn’t going to ‘get you there’.


*I took 20 years to stop and start asking these questions!


Back To School


If this is you then we say it’s time to go back to the black / whiteboard. It’s time for an old dog to take a new approach. Not do more work! your ‘to do’ list is long enough. There is another way.


Remember why you are different from the Owner who owns a job and the one who had to turn back and get a normal job?


You have a team!


A team of beautiful human beings, brimming with potential, ideas, energy, and hunger to get their hands on the levers of your business and set the wheels spinning faster.


Some of them are you ten years ago, frustrated at the lack scope to express themselves because you’re doing ‘all that important client work’ and now they’re thinking about getting out from under your feet and starting their own business.


Stop.


Stop doing the work for everyone.


Start being the coach.


Start being a mentor.


Start being a strategist.


Start giving your team the wriggle room they need to express themselves and take the strain on the delivery in your business.


Start prioritising your health and theirs for the long term good of your small business.


Start letting their energy and ideas drive the changes in your business necessary for it to be relevant in a fast-changing world.


My Grandfather used to say, “The graveyard is full of indispensable people” - Start systemising what you do so it doesn’t have to be you that does it OR your business will grind to halt whenever you do.


Do you want to prove the textbooks right?


Do you want to enjoy great profits, enjoy your small business they way you used to AND build a small business that creates positive change and joy in people’s lives? If you want to get an ‘A’ in your small business owner exam….


The answers are simple.

  • Systemise your business’ people performance.

  • Get some life balance back.

  • Help your team to shine.

  • Get the hell out of the way.


Ready to enjoy and scale your small business through happy employees?

Start your journey in just five minutes by finding out your current People Performance score below:



About Neil: As a small business owner, Neil has worked in the field of corporate leadership training, team development and team events for over 21 years. With clients including Deloitte, HSBC, NHS and P&G, Neil has worked closely with learning and development and senior leadership teams to help them achieve their goals. Family Man, Entrepreneur, Small Business Geek, Health & Wellbeing Enthusiast &

Aston Villa Fan.

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