Has there ever been a time when you felt that a change was needed in your business, but it seemed nearly impossible to implement?  Or perhaps you’re aware of a great new opportunity for a new product or service, but finding the time and money to get it going has turned out to be a challenge?

I’m here to tell you that I can relate to that feeling!  I have been working hard to create a new business while still keeping my existing business going.  It has been a challenge to juggle both of them.  I certainly don’t want to completely drop my existing work (and revenue source!) to get the new business going.  At the same time, by making sure I am getting my work done for clients of my current business, I end up leaving precious little time to add clients to the new one.  The frustration is that I know better.  I know that ultimately my new business model is a better fit for my skillsets and interests.  And it offers a more complete array of benefits to my same target audience.  I can see this great future in my head.  So why can’t I get it going?

From vision to action

We are all familiar with the saying “He who hesitates is lost” (which apparently came from a play in 1712, whose original wording was “The woman that deliberates is lost”). 

I think it’s safe to say that regardless of gender, the point of the saying is that if you take your time to think about an opportunity, you will likely lose your chance to take advantage of the opportunity.  Exactly my worry. 

The more modern version, of course, simplified for our short attention spans, comes from the giant sneaker manufacturer.  Or this crazy video that generated a ton of memes.  Just do it.

There is a reason this common sense saying is popular.  It’s harder than it seems to actually take action.  This applies whether that action is creating a new fitness regime for yourself, getting a term paper written, making strategic decisions for your small business, or, apparently, launching a new business model for your existing services and customers.

Fear gets in the way

It’s not just me.  Fear of failure has stood in the way of many of us working to grow a new business.  You can’t fail if you don’t start, right? 

It’s also a reason why, as Seth Godin has said, we get “so hung up on tactics rather than strategy.”  Paraphrasing Mr. Godin, strategy is scary.  We might fail and be disappointed, or we might succeed and that would be frightening.  So better to focus on the tactics, the details, the day-to-day operations, than to step back and look at your long-term goals.  Easier to keep your head down focused on small tasks than to look up at where you should be heading.

For those with perfectionistic tendencies, making forward progress toward a new goal is risky.  It can be hard to live up to your unrealistic expectations.  It’s easier to focus on the details of the activities than to take a big leap that could be messy.  Perfectionism and fear both lead to procrastination with the goal of avoiding failure.

I’m not sure that I have the perfectionistic tendencies, but I can tell you that I am absolutely fabulously talented at checking off long lists of To Do items full of tactics and small actions that don’t actually take me any further.  And while I continue to insist to myself that fear is not the issue, I have a feeling that it’s in the mix there. 

Uncertainty gets in the way

If there’s one thing for certain this year, it’s uncertainty.  Bet you never heard that one before! Ha ha.

But seriously, the COVID-19 pandemic certainly drove home the point that there’s not much we can count on as small business owners – supply chains, steady customers, trade shows, and so forth.  We are indeed, living in a VUCA world – a world filled with Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. 

If that’s the case, then what is the point of planning?  Or of making quick decisions to try something new or different?  We can’t plan for the changes, and we can’t control for them.  We have no idea what the future will bring.  This can certainly cause small business owners to hesitate or deliberate a bit too long.  And then the opportunity is gone.

Of course, the irony in my case is that I specialize in secondary market research to help small businesses make better informed decisions in a VUCA world.  It’s the uncertainty and ambiguity of the world around us that drives business owners to seek out market research help to try to make sense of things.  So it seems as if I should embrace that world and not let it slow me down.  And honestly, all the market research I’ve done for my own business is part of what’s driving me to want to take action.  I can see my path forward but I’m not quite there yet. 

So many things get in the way

Even if we can persuade ourselves that we aren’t afraid to take action, and that we are ready to embrace uncertainty, there are a host of other reasons I hear from aspiring entrepreneurs as to why they aren’t ready to take action. 

  • If I just had $100k, I’d be ready to launch
  • If someone could introduce me to Mark Cuban, I know I’d be able to sell my idea
  • If only I knew how to get my website to show up on the first page of Google, then I’d be set
  • Once I get 100k followers on social media, then I know I can sell more

Yes, we can all come up with many reasons why we shouldn’t or don’t want to take action, make a change, seize an opportunity.  And I’m sure we can all share examples of people who acted too soon, moved too quickly, said yes too many times.  

But it comes down to this.  If we see an opportunity, then we should explore it further (research!) and find a way to take advantage of it before it goes away.  After all, we already did that once when we started a business.  No time like the present to take on that risk with a great chance of reward yet again!

Get out of your own way

As small business owners, we should be constantly on the lookout for new and different ways to serve our target customers – or new and different customers to sell to.  And when those opportunities appear on the horizon, we should take action. 

If we hesitate to do so, then we should turn to a mastermind group, an accountability buddy, a business owner roundtable group, a business coach, or someone to hold us accountable for making forward progress.

I just put myself out there by sharing my story of planned progress and how I get in my own way.  What goals are you struggling with?  And how you can find a way to hold yourself accountable for getting them done?

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