You didn't start your business with dreams of working all the time doing stuff you hate and answering to a ton of bosses, better known as clients, who don't understand what you do but want to tell you how to do it anyway. (whew – run-on sentence!)
Unfortunately, most people who start a business end up in exactly that position, especially if it's a service business. I'll bet you have, too. It's just so easy to get stuck in a rut that it's hard to take a step back and think things through.
Nobody else has the knowledge and experience that you do, though. They may have similar, but they'll never have exactly the same. That's what makes you so valuable to the clients who are the best fit for you to work with and not valuable to those who aren't. And that's great! You only want to work with the ones who fit, right? Unless you're a masochist, I already know the answer is yes.
Here's a reminder: it's YOUR business and you can do anything you want! Obviously you have to pay the bills, but things don't have to stay like they are forever. You really can make changes that make a difference.
That's one of the things I love about the internet. It opens up so many possibilities for totally transforming your business into the business of your dreams, not your nightmares.
If you know anything about me, you probably know that way back in 1997 I started working with a business that was on the edge of bankruptcy. In about 2 years I was able to turn it around for successful sale at 20x investment – and the business wasn't even for sale when the buyer made an offer!
I did it by developing an online store for existing products, creating a new recurring revenue stream, and enhancing customer service by developing an industry-specific search engine. And I didn't have anywhere near the online tools that you have available now, not even Google.
Not that you necessarily want to sell your business, but the same things that make it more valuable to a potential buyer are the things that will make it more enjoyable and profitable for you. You can actually start dreaming again. Gasp!
Do me a favor. Take 30 minutes of quiet time and think back to when you were starting your business. Why did you want to start a business? What were your dreams and passions? What things did you envision yourself doing in the business? How did you envision your work schedule? Write down as much as you can think of to help bring back your memories.
Fast forward. Is the business anything like you thought it could be? If not, were your dreams unrealistic, or did you get off track? Where were you unrealistic, or what caused you to get off track? What are your favorite things to do or sell, and what things do you despise? What's the most profitable service or item you sell? Is it one of the things you like, or one that you hate? Can you make a living going with only your favorites? What would happen if you just ditched the stuff you hate?
Now compare thoughts from those two time periods. If they're closely aligned, kudos to you. But if they're not, it's time to take back control. It's your business and your life.
Don't be afraid to start dreaming again, and to really consider how you might be able to use the internet to make your business more efficient, profitable, easy to run, or fun. I guarantee you there are ways out there, and they're only limited by your imagination. Think especially of the things you like the most; how might the internet help sell them or add value?
Before you start thinking “that's easy for her to say start dreaming again, but she just doesn't understand how hard it is.” Well, yes, I do.
I've owned Glerin since 1996, and for the first 16 years I really owned it. I worked when I wanted doing what I wanted with who I wanted, and loved my work. I made good money and so did my son and daughter, who both started working with me when they were in high school. It was hard for me to understand when other business owners would complain about hating their businesses. Why would they have a business they don't like?
Then life interrupted due to illness in my family and I lost control, started offering services I really didn't want to be doing, and working with clients I didn't want to be working with for much less than we're worth. People make really poor decisions when they're under stress, and mine was a hiring decision that came back to bite me hard in the butt.
That was bad enough but it left me like a rat on a wheel, constantly taking on crappy work for crappy pay just to pay the bills. Let me tell you, that's a never-ending cycle. The more time you spend on bad work, the less time you have to look for good work. And, as you probably know, the clients who pay the least seem to be the most demanding. The one thing I was lucky to have was a great team who was willing to tough it out with me.
I finally said enough is enough, though. I did what I asked you to do earlier in this post – assessed where I was, where I wanted to be, what I wanted to be doing, who I wanted to be working with, and who I didn't want to be working with.
We made major changes, like refusing to respond to RFP's any more and productizing services to better control project scope creep. I also started taking more time for myself, just to brainstorm and think, and charging for advice that I used to give away (often before someone was even a client; how stupid).
If your dream business has turned into your nightmare, please take the time to figure things out and make changes so you can live your life again. It's hard, but you can do it!
If you need help jump starting your thinking, I'm offering a discount code below to get a free PDF copy of my book, Boomer Cashout: Increase Your Business’s Value & Marketability to Sell For Retirement with affordable online tools. Although it's written for Baby Boomers, all of the information is applicable to any owner. It doesn't matter if you aren't looking to sell, either; the same advice will help you make your business more profitable and easier to run, freeing you up to work less and enjoy it more.
I hope it helps you!
Here's the code: IMSTUCK