The following is a “Dear Charlie” letter written and from our Expert Guide, Don Hadley. Although this letter was originally intended for a client, Applied Vision Works believes there is a lesson to be learned by all business leaders and business owners.
In the life of a business owner (and any other leader for that matter), there are many challenging times. From the outside, your life looks grand with a nice lifestyle, country club membership, fancy vacations, nice car etc.
However, from the inside, the responsibility of caring for people both emotionally and financially, dealing with 800 pound gorillas (regulators, competitors, banks, suppliers, and large customers) and the unknown can drive an owner emotionally, spiritually and mentally into the ground.
One of the biggest symptoms we see in leaders is a fatigue where they look like they are engaging the problem, but the reality is they are unwilling to engage in dealing with the root cause.
Rarely is it one event that causes an owner to question what they are doing or what is wrong, but one day, they can wake up in a fog through which it seems there is no destination, path or safe place. In general, a dramatic change is needed to discover a cure that has acceptable side effects.
In the course of working through this with many leaders, the vast majority being successful business owners, there seem to be a number of options. I am writing this letter to you so you are clear about your options, which separately or in combination, may be able to get you back from the edge of the cliff.
Option A – Do nothing: this approach is the “this too shall pass” concept. It may or may not be a possible option. If this situation has occurred previously, doing nothing is probably not a good approach to take. Given that situations like this suck the life and soul out of leaders, you may realize too late what you need to do and not have the strength or will power to do it. Doing nothing is always an option, but it does leave you at the mercy of the winds of time and fatigue. This can help where there is an external problem that is temporary. It does not help if it involves an internal issue.
Option B – Look inside: increased introspection to determine not just what you feel but why you feel it. Identifying options to change your perspective or know what it is that feeds your soul is critical to do. Doing the inside work allows you to then align your outside in a way that takes care of you. While everything goes through cycles, there is an internal structure that allows you to engage each stage of the cycle with confidence. The best leaders know how to do this. Much like a competent camper can handle sunny days as well as thunder storms, understanding your insides can bring peace regardless of the outer experience. Whether through reading, psychologist or discussion with others, this is a great low cost and safe option.
Option C – Work on your weekly structure: sometimes we need a structure that prevents us from having to do certain things and allow us to focus on what we do best. Improving the time management, priorities and people around us can allow us more energy to engage and handle root causes. Over long periods of time, little changes in our weekly focus create dramatic results. As a leader recently told me, reading 5 pages a day means he reads over 1,800 pages a year. That is 9 books a year on average. This option also helps with practical ideas for you to share with those around you.
Option D – Change your position: instead of operationally doing what you normally do, change your position in the organization. This is a great way to get a different perspective, try something new and come at similar problems from a unique direction. In one situation, we moved an owner from a very operational position to a more strategic coaching position. Initially it was uncomfortable, but quickly he realized he was naturally very good at it. Now the organization is thriving. Rather than grieving over his “inability” to be great operationally, he is enjoying the dynamic results he is now producing with his team.
Option E – Take a long break: sometimes the work ethic of leaders gets in the way. Over years of working hard they get worn down. Even the two week vacation to Europe did not sharpen their saw. Consider taking a 1 month, 3 month or even 1 year sabbatical. Especially if you have a strong operational team or partner, this is a great way to re-energize and gain a powerful new perspective. In getting away for a longer period, you may realize how much you love what you do and return to it with new vigor, or realize a major change really is needed in what you are doing. J.P. Morgan is an example of a successful entrepreneur that used sabbaticals to become a more powerful leader.
Option F – Quit working: just because you own a business does not mean you have to run it. While this option is not possible for non-owners, owners can replace themselves and then show up monthly to verify everything is running well. While your lifestyle may not be able to be what it was and it may take time to get this option working well, don’t get locked into thinking that because you own it you must run it.
Option G – Sell: the ultimate of the American dream is to build a business and sell it. While this approach looks successful from the outside, internally selling out can feel like you are quitting or giving up. The reality is that this approach reduces your risk, takes chips off of the table and allows you full freedom to live and go anywhere you want without the restrictions of owning a business. In some cases, we have seen owners re-purchase the business later. In other cases they start a new business that better fits their needs. Or they are just happier and invest more time with family and friends.
Charlie, I did not intend to make the letter this long, but as I was writing, I was amazed at all of the options you have to make your life better. While none of them are perfect, they all have value in helping you through the journey of life. One option or a combination will help you. The only option that seems to do more harm than good is doing nothing.
You deserve more out of life. Those around you deserve more of the best of you.
As you consider the above options, let us know which option is not appropriate for you as well as what intrigues you.
We, Applied Vision Works, are committed on the journey to helping you, but as we shared in the lost car keys story, at times it will feel very uncomfortable. That feeling is a nudge from God that “hey, Charlie, I have an idea for you”. Listen to that feeling. Listen to that instinct.
No one has a right to tell you where your journey should take you. Only you can do that. Everyone is around you to assist you on your journey.
Let me know how and when we can help.
If you or someone you know is on the “edge of the cliff” and not sure how to take action for success, contact our Expert Guides at Applied Vision Works. We will help guide you through your journey. Contact us today to schedule your complimentary Exploration Session by calling us at 800-786-4332 or emailing us at JSabatini@AppliedVisionWorks.com. We look forward to the journey!