Sometimes The Obvious Answer Isn't So Obvious

My small business had really hit the wall. After years of success — 10 years to be precise — something had changed. What used to come easily — clients, new opportunities, contract wins — was now incredibly difficult. Healthy profit margins had now evaporated to margins so thin that any unexpected interruption in cashflow was a major problem.

My personal life had also started to suffer. My wife and I were getting more short-tempered with each other. I’m sure it was more me than her. I was getting very worried, very nervous about the business. My mind was playing out scenarios, and they all ended horribly. I was having trouble seeing my situation positively. I am sure this resulted in me treating my sweet, loving soulmate in ways I’m ashamed of. Something I regret very much.

Even my children were noticing, “What’s wrong with Dad?” I had less and less time for them. I missed some of their school and other personal events. Why? I justified my actions by telling myself I was trying to keep a sinking ship afloat. I had over 40 employees and felt a tremendous responsibility to them. They depended on the income from our company for their mortgage payments, their retirement funds, their financial goals, and the means to live their lives. I took this very, very seriously.  Perhaps, too seriously?

Something Had To Change

My business and life were out of sync, out of balance, and out of options. Something had to change. I sought out one of my mentors. He sat down with me and asked me to tell him what was going on. He listened to me rant for about 30 minutes before he held up his hand, signaling he had heard enough.

“So, you’ve told me about the part of your business that is struggling. Is there another part that is doing well?” he asked. “Yes,” I said and began to describe it. It was a smaller but still significant part of my business, and it was doing nicely. Always had done nicely. In fact, I told him I expected it to grow and why.

Then he hit me with one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received. “First, concerning your personal life,” he said, “make everything right with your wife and family. They don’t deserve to be treated harshly by you, no matter what you’re going through.” He then added, “Concerning your business…why not stop doing what’s not working…and do more of what is working?” What? I was blown away!

I Was Blown Away!

He continued, “I’m not trying to offend you, and I know what I said seems so obvious and simple, but sometimes it’s the obvious and simple that is so hard to see when you’re in the middle of a struggle.”  He was right. I had allowed my circumstances to affect how I treated my family. Plus, I was too close to the business problem to see the obvious answer. I also thought to myself, “This is why it’s good to have a real mentor.”

I told him he had not offended me at all. In fact, he may have just saved me, my family and my business from greater harm. To make a very long story short, I followed his advice. It was still very difficult when I went through the process of stopping what wasn’t working (more on that in future blogs), but everything overall has turned out much better than I had thought possible, and I’m in a much healthier place in my business and my life.

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Author Wayland Coker

My goal is to help entrepreneurs learn as much as they can about themselves and their businesses, and the vital connection between the two. I don’t intend this to be a monologue, but a dialogue. Please give me your feedback in the comment sections located at the bottom of each article. I will read every comment and respond as I am able. I am looking forward to connecting with you!

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