When you’re a business owner or leader, there are always so many things you need to be responsible for. Who do you turn to when you need a second opinion, some guidance or someone to talk to? For most business owners, there are very few people you feel like you can speak to regarding business issues or often sensitive personal issues. In practice it is often bottled up and you just push on through. You keep doing things as you have always done them which results in very little forward progress for the business.
It can be lonely at the top. Being a business owner you may often think to yourself “who can I turn to?” And you’re not alone. Many business owners and leaders feel this way.
It is common for business owners and leaders to have no one to speak to on sensitive business matters. Often it ends up being your spouse that you talk to. Most spouses want to help and are happy to listen because they care, but they don’t like seeing the stress that your business decisions can cause you.
In reality, your spouse’s approach is often wanting to rescue you which doesn’t really help shift the issue. Then what commonly happens is distance is put in your relationship, and at worse can risk your personal relationships. There are over two million businesses in Australia and the divorce rate runs at nearly half of all marriages. So there is a lot at risk.
You don’t know what you don’t know. It’s common as your business grows that there will be problems that develop, and those problems will stretch your knowledge and skills. You try your best to deal with any issues in the best way you know how to, but in reality it’s often only applying a band-aid to greater underlying issues that continue to fester underneath the surface.
You may feel like you don’t want to burden your relationships by taking any business or work frustrations home. It’s common for business owners to not be able to switch off. Even with the best of intentions what should be private relationship time ends up being taken by business issues. It can be even harder if you’re part of a husband and wife duo who work in the business together. Business decisions, and often frustrations can impact on family relationships, and most times it isn’t a positive impact with emotions running high. Add to that when children don’t receive the attention they desire and business life can really impact your personal relationships.
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Having someone outside your business to talk to as a sounding board can help you to feel less isolated. When you’re constantly in your business, it can be easy to miss things that might be obvious to someone from the outside looking in.
If your stress levels are at an all time high, and the current economic environment is compounding that stress, then now is the time to find someone to talk to about your business.
When looking for someone who you can talk to about your business, there are some common people you may immediately think of:
Team or employees
While your team might be always there, often they don’t understand the complexities of running a business. This can result in resentment towards your employees emanating out of your frustrations, which may also impact on your business culture. Soon becoming a you versus them scenario, ultimately resulting in lowering levels of trust in your business. This can then result in a high cost to your business with staff turnover, low productivity, and you having to work deeply in the business to keep the wheels turning. Paradoxically this puts more reliance on the owner and lowers the productivity of your employees because they let the owner step in.
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If you do have good team members they often end up leaving through frustration of seeing your acceptance of poor performance. And this leads to a dilution of poor performing staff putting more pressure on you, the owner. It’s a vicious cycle with not a happy outcome.
Your accountant may seem like a great person to talk to about your business, and depending on the issue, they can be. However many times your accountant may not be close enough to your business, or to you personally to properly understand your issues and how to best work through them.
There are a number of options to consider when looking for a sounding board for your business. Some potential options include:
Find a mentor. A mentor is someone who:
Work with a business coach. A business coach is someone who:
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Work with an advisory board. An advisory board is:
It’s important to have a sounding board in business to discuss things that you may need a second opinion on, or to debrief and discuss important issues. Who you choose to be your sounding board will be impacted by your circumstances, but having someone outside the business, who isn’t a family member or friend is often the best option to allow for transparency and unbiased support.