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Do You Own Your Small Business...Or Does Your Small Business Own You?

How to tell if an entrepreneur is too involved in their business

Becoming an entrepreneur is never easy. In fact, according to the SBA, with 25% of start-ups failing in their first year, 50% within the first five, it's not exactly for the "faint of heart." But beyond just survival is the issue of growing the business. And often, the entrepreneur, so bent on making it happen becomes consumed by the business. In short, instead of owning the business, the company owns them!

a point of diminishing returns
The business becomes the absolute center of the entrepreneur's life, almost to the detriment of everything else in their life, including the very thing they're so focused on...their business!

If you've followed my blog for a while, you know I preach passion and focus, especially early. But even the deepest passion and the most maniacal focus has its limits, a point of diminishing returns. When the passion and focus become an obsession and the obsession blocks out good sense.

When this happens, your business becomes your life, not a part of it, as it should be. The business consumes every waking hour. Personal things, like significant others or family, play, at best, secondary role. Maybe even your health takes a back seat.

Letting personal things slip through the cracks be happening to you in your small business. But because you're so passionate about what you do and so focused on it, you may not even see some of the telltale signs.

So, here's a little self-assessment to determine where you are in your own business and if there are red flags you should pay close attention to.

Are you still the first one in, last one to leave?

Now, on the surface, this isn't a bad thing, and early on, when it's just you, that's a given. But now, you're passed that start-up phase, now trying to grow, maybe you've brought employees on and have a real company.

You don't always have to be the one who turns the lights on and off each day or the only one who comes in during a raging blizzard. Nobody will be impressed. There are no prizes awarded for early or perfect attendance, especially when it's your business. Now and then, let somebody else worry about the lights!

Are there no decisions, regardless of importance, that can get made without you?

Whether you think you do, or not, if all company's problems end up at your doorstep, you do. You have to let go of some things. It's why you hired the people that you did. If you don't trust them, you hired the wrong folks.

They may not make the same decision that you would, but they also might make a better one! If you don't give them the authority to make the fundamental decisions involved in their job responsibilities, you can't hold them accountable.

Do early customers still call you directly with problems?

Handling customer's problems, often, is something left over from the early days of the company where you had to be "hands on" in every customer situation.

That's never a bad thing until you begin hiring people whose job it is to manage the client experience. That doesn't mean you don't talk to customers or even have them call you directly; it's again about letting go of always being the "go-to" person for EVERYTHING!

Are there still times when you aren't collecting a paycheck?

Not paying yourself is the other side of the hiring employees coin. If you have hired people, but because you pay them, you can't be? Something's wrong with this picture. You either hired too many, are paying them too much, or they aren't justifying their employment.

You were so focused on growing the business; you let the business that you created become your Frankenstein. It owns you.

When's the last time you took time off, for family, kids, or just you?

Think about it. When the last time you didn't work a weekend? When's the last vacation you took, even if you didn't go anywhere, but just stayed home with your significant other or your family?  If you have kids, how many events of theirs did you miss in the last year?

If it's more than one, that's one too many
And when's the last time you took time out just for you, to work out, take a long walk or just read a non-business book?  Without a personal life, your professional life will never reach its full potential. It's your personal life that will, ultimately, benefit (or not) from your business.

Starting and growing a business is a most challenging task. It takes passion and focus. But when passion and focus become an obsession, both you and the company lose. Letting go is critical. Owning your own business is never a "day at the beach." But sometimes that's exactly what you need to prevent that business from owning you.

"The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things. He's been there. May success be with you!

Have you ever felt like your business owned you? Please share your experience in your comments. It can help another entrepreneur.

If you like this post, by all means, share it with your networks and colleagues.


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