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When many entrepreneurs hit a snag, they point the finger at outside factors. But Suzanne Evans, author and entrepreneur, says that you—and you alone—are the source of your success or failure. Here, excerpted from her book, are 10 inconvenient but ironclad truths that all business owners should take to heart.
So you decided to seize your dream and start your own business. unfortunately, your fledgling company is losing altitude fast. despite putting in the work, you’re not seeing the profits. No matter how much you scour profit-and-loss statements, analyze your data, tweak your advertising, encourage your employees, or suck up to potential clients, you can’t move the needle. It feels hopeless.
before you throw in the towel, though, here is some ‘tough love’ advice. Your problem isn’t bad luck, bad breaks, bad people, or even a bad economy. It’s you.
“before you can hope to change your company’s fortunes, you have to first change yourself,” says Suzanne Evans, author of The Way You Do Anything Is the Way You Do Everything: The Why of Why Your Business Isn’t Making More Money.
“business acumen doesn’t matter as much as who you are and how you play the game.” Evans speaks from experience. In the space of just five years, she transformed herself from a dissatisfied secretary in a deadend job to the owner of a business-coaching firm that has surpassed the seven-figure mark and is on the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing companies.
The way you do anything is the way you do everything. Most of us approach life with the belief that as long as we get the major stuff right, it’s okay to let the little stuff slide every once in a while. As long as your team signs the client, it’s okay to skip out of a few meetings and leave a few voicemails unanswered. As long as you don’t actually lose anything, it’s okay if your files are disorganized. but you’re deluding yourself: Your attitude about the little stuff says a lot about your overall approach.
“Stop telling yourself that ‘good enough’ is acceptable or that the little things don’t matter,” she adds. “It’s not and they do. It’s all those little details that add up to who you are.”
Emotions are worthless. Yes, you read that right. Emotions really don’t do you any favors when you’re trying to launch and grow a business. If your motivation and enthusiasm are tied to feeling the warm-andfuzzies, you’re dead in the water, because there are a lot of disappointments and challenges ahead.
“You don’t have time to mope all afternoon when you receive an email from an unhappy customer,” points out Evans. “You can’t afford to sit at your desk and stew after an employee quits with no notice. You have to keep moving forward and making smart decisions— and to do that, you need to stop giving your energy to unhelpful emotions. And make no mistake: That’s a choice. You can choose to plug into negativity or into enthusiasm.
You only think you’re a special. “Problems don’t make you different,” says Evans, “they make you the same as everyone else who has problems—and that’s all of us! So stop using your ‘differences’ to justify your lack of success. Trust me, my ‘differences’ didn’t magically disappear, allowing me to finally launch my business. I simply stopped fixating on what was holding me back and started paying attention to beliefs and habits that helped me achieve my goals.”
Playing it safe is for wimps. A lot of entrepreneurs have a “better safe than sorry” mindset. They follow the rules, avoid risks, and accept mediocrity as the price of stability. They aren’t willing to gamble the way things are for the way they’d like them to be.
You don’t have what it takes to do it all. In some ways, entrepreneurs are the ultimate narcissists. They tend to tell themselves that no one is as smart, capable, or caring as they are: “No one can pitch to clients as effectively as I can. No one is as meticulous with accounts as I am.” As a result, these entrepreneurs suffer from ‘founder syndrome’: They can’t do all the work of running a business alone, but they don’t have enough faith in others to do it, so they get stuck.
You cannot do it all. ultimately, you’re going to have to take a leap of faith. Hire the smartest, most capable people you can and trust them to support you.
There is no such thing as ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ Thinking about your business in terms of right/wrong, good/bad, pass/fail isn’t helpful. However, there is no failsafe way forward; everything is a lesson waiting to be learned.
“Because we’ve been raised to believe tests are pass or fail, we usually become overwhelmed and scared when faced with them,” Evans points out. “but in the real world, outside of the classroom, tests exist to help us to grow. And anyway, what’s right for someone else may not be right for you and vice versa.”
Yes, you can spend your way to success. If you’ve been nodding along up to this point, here’s where Evans admits she might lose you: Sometimes, money—more money than you’re comfortable spending—is what it takes to jolt your business out of the mediocrity rut. (Nope, you’re not going to hear this advice from your financial planner.)
“I’ve overinvested and overspent on my business many times over the years,” she admits. “When I saw opportunities from sponsorship to hiring, I grabbed them, regardless of whether the expense was ‘prudent’ or success was guaranteed. And I’ve rarely had any regrets.”
You don’t know as much as you think you do. When you believe that you know it all and that you’re ahead of the pack, you don’t leave much room for learning more. And in an age where competency is no longer enough, that’s the kiss of death.
“You can’t be merely good at what you do; you need to be excellent and maintain your excellence by continuously studying your craft,” says Evans. “If you don’t actively seek to develop and deepen your skill set, you are severely limiting yourself. Remember, your skill or talent is simply that: a skill or talent. Reaching excellence is a choice. It’s what makes you better equipped than anyone else to serve your clients.”
Goofing off will help you succeed. When you’re bootstrapping a business, it can feel like you’re constantly under the stress of the to-do list. Taking a break, taking your eye off the prize, seems like blasphemy. do it anyway.
“On a daily basis, I recommend closing your email and doing something fun,” says Evans. “And every three to four months, you should take entire days off to do something you love. Here’s why: You’ll get more from the play than from the practical. You’ll get more ideas and answers from shutting down your to-dos than you will from driving yourself relentlessly.”
“As entrepreneurs, we have an amazing opportunity to shape the world, but we can do it only through expanding our thought processes,” concludes Evans. “Every success I have had, and every success you will have, is a reflection of your ability to expand your knowledge, to change your approach, and to adapt. In other words, your business is you. So it’s time to face the truth and get on track.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Suzanne Evans is the author of The Way You do Anything Is the Way You do Everything: The Why of Why Your business Isn’t Making More Money. She is owner and founder of SuzanneEvans.org, the “tell-it-like-it-is,” no-fluff boss of business building.