Reality: your best business partner

We all come into our businesses – whatever background we may have had beforehand – with a host of assumptions and ideas and beliefs about what running a small business looks and feels like.

Those ideas aren’t necessarily wrong.  But if you keep checking your results and experiences against ideas instead of against reality, you run some serious risks.

To start with, you risk constantly struggling with things that aren’t working.  Even more painful, you risk completely missing out on great opportunities.

Taking reality as your business partner – letting reality help you look at and acknowledge what’s actually happening – means gaining real perspective on what’s working for you, versus what’s not – and what’s fun for you, versus a painful struggle.

Reality has no hidden agendas and no personal goals to fulfill.  That’s why I call it your best business partner.  It simply sits there and tells you the truth – patiently and persistently, without getting its feelings hurt if you aren’t paying attention.

Sound good?  Here are a few suggestions to help you start working in partnership with your new business partner – reality.

Assumptions and Shoulds

There are things about being in business that most people take for granted – that you just assume are true.

Take networking as an example.  As a small business owner, you should network – right?

On the face of it, that’s reasonable.  And I’d even agree with it. It’s when you start examining what’s really happening that things get interesting.

I can’t begin to count the number of people I’ve met at various events who will probably never experience the results they want from networking.

Why?  Mostly because they’re looking for people who won’t be at the events they’re attending.

For instance, I constantly meet people at Chamber of Commerce events whose clients are executive and corporate.  If they were listening to reality, they’d notice that executives and corporate decision-makers are rarely found at Chamber of Commerce events.  These people are fishing in the wrong pond, based on the assumption that they “should” network, and that Chamber of Commerce events are places where all small business owners “should” make an appearance.

There are plenty of so-called “business rules” that fall into this category.  Everything from creating business and marketing plans to networking to how you do your financial tracking and goal-setting – there are assumptions and “shoulds” about them all.

What assumptions, shoulds, and rules are you following?

Are they producing the results you want?  Do you feel good about the tasks you do in support of those assumptions, rules, and shoulds, or is it a frustrating struggle?

What is reality suggesting that you do differently?

“I must be doing it wrong”

When you don’t get the results you want or expect, it’s easy to assume it’s because you’re doing it wrong.

But maybe it’s simply that it’s the wrong approach for who you are and what you offer.

I talked last week with a client who has a fantastic new idea for marketing his business.  He’s excited, energized, and flying high with it.

His old plan was to work with an outcall service to do cold calling for him.  Blech.  Not in line with his values or principles of doing business.  Not in line with how he wants – and loves – to serve his clients and potential clients.  No energy there at all.  Small wonder he’d gotten no traction.

What’s reality trying to point out that hasn’t been working for you?

And what could you do instead that might be more fun and therefore more productive?

Everyone’s doing it …

When you see other people apparently achieving great results, it’s natural to want to emulate them.  No point reinventing the wheel – and no one wants to be left behind on the latest hot idea.

When a trend or idea attracts your attention, take a moment to evaluate whether it’s appropriate for your situation.  Does it suit who you are?  Does it suit who your clients are?  And what is it you’re really trying to accomplish?

For instance, video seems to be all the rage right now.  Everyone is producing videos to market their services, or as part of the service or product they offer.

I hear a lot of complaints about this.  Busy people don’t have the time or inclination to watch even a short video when they’re not sure if it’s relevant for them.

Smart marketers are recognizing that while they may want to incorporate video for certain reasons (for instance, Google seems to like sites with video content), they also need to consider alternatives (such as downloadable audio and/or written transcripts) … or they risk losing a significant portion of their audience.

Before you jump on a bandwagon – whether it’s new or it’s been around for a while – ask yourself what you really want to accomplish.  Given your personality and that of your audience, will what you’re considering actually get you the results you want?

Reality is ready and willing to help!

And reality is there for you whatever it is that you’re doing, and whenever you need some help.

Stop.  Do a reality check.  Because chances are that reality, your best business partner, has been calling – knocking on your door – trying to tell you that things could be better, easier, and more fun.

And you might not have heard what it was trying to say.

How much simpler, and how much more enjoyable, to listen and adjust what you’re doing based on what’s really happening, instead of continuing to expect different results from the same old actions!

Because in the end, reality always wins.

“I hate reality, but it’s still the best place to get a good steak.”  Woody Allen, 1935-, American screenwriter, director, actor, comedian, jazz musician, author, and playwright.

“How hard it is, sometimes, to trust the evidence of one’s senses! How reluctantly the mind consents to reality.”  Norman Douglas, 1868-1952, Austrian-born British writer.

gljudson Management & Leadership