The statistics on small business failure rates are staggering, and depressing. The few that make it to their ten year anniversary are a minuscule sampling of those that started the journey.
I've read about and studied small businesses and micro enterprises for many years. Success really comes down to the ability of the founders and the core group they have surrounded themselves with, to endure the battle. Yes... battle.
Many of us start a business for common reasons. We simply want to provide a good or a service that is not being provided by others. Without a doubt there are as many nuances to that reasoning as there are small companies, but the overarching pattern seems to be to fill a void left unfilled by others.
How we do it, when to launch, whether we have a detailed business plan or simply an outline drawn out on a napkin over a cold beer, the route to success can take on many looks. All types of businesses make it, sustaining beyond the decade mark or 40 people or $8 million in revenue, crossing these thresholds as they grow.
Small business owners are a weird lot. I know that for a fact, as I am one. The weirdism’s and the uniqueness as to how and why we choose to run our businesses is what makes small companies great. It also makes us fragile.
Fragile in the sense of that you are the one lying in bed at 3:07 AM realizing that payroll is due TOMORROW and that payables are due FRIDAY, health insurance questions linger, who’s having a baby, is Mary pregnant… by Bob?!, did Joe really just apply to the special forces, etc. The point is that you never know what is coming at you.
Over my tenure of running a sizable small business that made it, yes, beyond ten years with around 38 people and close to $9 million in revenue, we ran it with the vision of taking care of families.
Sure, we had Moms and Dads employed, but we also had girl scouts, little leaguers, choir singers, special needs kids, and athletes. You name it, we had it. No, they weren’t on the payroll, but they were the families of the Moms and Dads who were.
My wife and I would work pretty diligently from October 1st through December 15th, just about every year, figuring out how to pay for health care for the group. Not just the employees, but their entire family, at no cost to the employee until 2014. More hours were spent budgeting monies for educating our team. We had a nice fleet of vehicles, we had nice looking, warm and safe uniforms for our field teams. I hope you see the point here, it's a lot of effort to create a great small business and a steady, fun, exciting place to work for many.
Fragile in a sense that no matter how hard we worked to provide a great place to be, it was still is hard to please everyone.
Most of us reach a tipping point. That point which tells your inner self that it's time to go, sell, close, merge, etc… My story was no different.
It came one morning when, after working to provide our “On Call" techs with a small amount of money for doing so, about $100.00 or so per week, but not having the “On Deck” guy, who was there if needed in an emergency situation, getting paid the same money. On deck meaning they was on call the next, upcoming week.
So after some internal conversations, it was announced to all that the “On Deck" tech would be getting compensated as well. Man, we thought for sure everyone would be delighted. It was small money over the course of a year, but in our minds, we were reaching in and giving another perk that would help instill good will, as it was intended, and provide some extra running money for Mom and Dad.
The moment I heard this I knew I had reached MY tipping point. One of the men that had been with us 5 or 6 years said, “'Bout time we got paid for it.”
From that moment, as small as that particular moment was, I knew as well it was indeed “’Bout time.” Within a year or so, we transacted the sale of that great business.
My point here is really two-fold. Take a moment to appreciate what you have. Regardless of whether you are the provider of a job, benefits and perks or if you are on the receiving end of all the owners hard work, don’t take it for granted.
Small businesses and micro enterprises need to have great people to make it. It's the people on the front line that keeps the customers calling back, wanting more and paying all of the bills.
Encourage people to take that risk and start a business if they are so inclined. Yes, the odds are stacked high against a long-term endeavor, but encourage them anyway. However, if given a chance, many people, both those giving of their time and talents as well as customers seeking excellence will find each other. Get prepared at: https://www.sba.gov/thinking-about-starting
I recently read a quote that said, “Life is short, work somewhere awesome”. For me, I plan to keep building those places that people want to migrate to and are excited to be a part of, both as employees and as customers.
Until next time,