It’s just as easy to build a business that you hate as it is to work in a job you despise. Why? What enables us to get into situations that frustrate and exhaust us? Sometimes it’s the product of unforeseen circumstances, but too often the culprit is a lack of understanding of our deepest natures and an unwillingness to approach our needs and wants with unflinching honesty.
Lots of entrepreneurs begin the journey with dollar signs in their eyes, and justifiably so. The richest people are not the highly celebrated actors, musicians and sports heroes we watch on TV. They tend to be people who have started and developed their own businesses.
But if you were told the highest return on investment would come from doing something that you hate doing, would you do it? Wealth does not create happiness, and value is not the same thing as money. If you create a job that you hate, what was the point of creating your own business in the first place? Small business owners need customers, but the pursuit of the wrong customers can lead entrepreneurs astray, derailing their original plans. They chase customers that they don’t like, discount their prices until their profit margins are either razor thin or vanish altogether, or offer to do things that they aren’t really comfortable doing. If you decrease the value of your offering or go after customers that don't help you reach your goals, you can do long-lasting damage to your brand and kill the business.
Entrepreneurs must also be honest with themselves about what they do well and what they can’t do. If you’re really good at bookkeeping, do it. But if you can’t manage your personal money you need to address that honestly and hire someone to take care of your company’s finances. If you’re a great mechanic but you don’t interact with customers very well, you should acknowledge that aspect of your personality and hire someone to take care of customer service. These evaluations are difficult but also critical. If you can’t be honest about what you do well and what you don’t, you may end up letting an unqualified employee — yourself — damage the business you’re trying to create.
Glenda loves cars. She loves racing, speed and the skill required to handle high-end engines. She knows everything there is to know about the engineering that creates performance, and she spends much of her free time learning about the newest technologies on the horizon. When Glenda decided to open her own shop, she advertised in the local community and she quickly found customers.
But most of the people she worked for were only interested in keeping their cars operating and passing annual state inspections. They didn’t really care about performance and there were precious few who owned the kinds of cars Glenda found exciting. Her customers' lackadaisical attitude irritated her, and she found herself in short, tense conversations explaining why oil should be changed more than once every two years, and why tire pressure is an important thing to keep track of. This wasn’t the kind of clientele that she envisioned when she opened her store, and it wasn’t making her daily experience of entrepreneurship a good one.
Rather than get rid of the existing customer base, Glenda decided to open a subsidiary to her own business. She began a marketing program to attract customers who purchase and maintain high-end sports cars, positioning herself as an expert by presenting at auto shows and advertising at races. She turned over the day-to-day operations for her base business to trusted employees, giving them the flexibility and the freedom to grow that part of the business. She focused her attention on creating a community around the new business, Glenda’s Gearheads. Her honest self-analysis enabled her to expand her business and create a more fulfilling entrepreneurial experience for herself.