A successful small business owner needs many diverse skills and characteristics. Ranging from those of a world-class mountaineer, the practical skills of a mechanic, the wisdom of Aristotle, the patience of Gandhi, the illusions of a magician, plus many others!
Added to these are personal characteristics, like resilience and a high tolerance for failure. With an ability to lead, be flexible, challenging, resourceful, and self-motivated.
Also being self-aware and having the willingness to reach out for advice. Having the skill and willingness to delegate and be a team player or an autocrat while at the same time being humble.
Is this even possible?
All these skills and qualities being needed at various stages in the fun and arduous, challenging business voyage. Mixed up as cocktails, depending on the situation.
Carefully woven together for the ultimate prize … a successful small business.
Small Business Owner Persistence
In a recent webinar, Raizcorp CEO Allon Raiz made some interesting comments about resilience. Based on his 20 years of experience in business and through supporting more than 13,000 entrepreneurial companies.
He quotes a research paper which showed that the re-entry rate [the number of times entrepreneurs start again] is 3.6 times in the US. Whereas in South Africa this is only 1.1 times. Raiz believes that this statistic has a lot to do with what he calls the structural shame that exists within South African society.
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Raiz adds “The US, for all its ills, does not shame failure.” Conversely, “In a weird way, it venerates failure.”
This is a disturbing comment for South Africa and countries with a similar ethos, as they need many more flourishing small and medium-sized businesses. And anyone who has experienced a small business knows that entrepreneurial ventures are a succession of misfires and pivots. Or corrections from mistakes!
However, small business owners from countries with this “failure shame” attitude may lack two critical characteristics,
- a high level of resilience and
- a high tolerance for failure.
The characteristics needed to try and fail and try and fail again and again.
The Impact of the Covid Crisis
In a conversation with one of Raiz’s clients, he was told: “Covid-19 was the best thing that has happened to me in a long time. I went from pain to shame, to changing my game”.
Raiz goes on to differentiate between “opportunity entrepreneurs” and “necessity entrepreneurs”.
“Opportunity entrepreneurs” are the ones who search for money-making gaps in the market. individuals who are aware of changing circumstances and actively looking to find potential opportunities.
People who previously had inhibitions about buying online were forced to do so during the pandemic, p. Businesses that previously had only considered e-commerce went digital in droves. While traditional brick-and-mortar merchants were cutting jobs, digital commerce businesses snowballed.
He compares this mindset to that of a “necessity entrepreneur”. Someone who is forced to start a business because they have no alternative. He believes that if this category were given the chance, most of them would rather take up formal employment.
Torn between the freedom and benefits of self-employment and the security of a monthly salary, the monthly salary is the winner.
Teamwork as the Path to Success
One of the missing attributes of many small business owners is “the ability to reach out for advice”.
It may be a case of penny-wise pound foolish! As they are unaware of the costs of their role of being the business bottleneck.
While the owner often thinks they can do the job better than anyone else they don’t validate their assumption. So, they carry on taking on everything themselves. Believing that their way, it must be the best way!
This is a fallacy as every successful business, whatever the size, needs a team.
A team who individually are excellent at their work and at the same time aligned with the organizational goals. A team with a committed vision.
Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people
~ Steve Jobs ~
Being a small business owner is a lonely life with a limited perspective, and they should be aware that it is impossible to read a label from inside the bottle.
Then, understanding their limited perspective, should create a culture of open and honest feedback. Encourage plain-speak and develop and grow the process for getting advice from their trusted team members.
The team needs to have a level of trust that permits genuine debate and constructive conflict.
What prevents this trust in many large companies is politics. What blocks it in many small firms is friendship.
The role of the owner then, is to give the team space and resources to be excellent at delivering results.
Even with an open and candid culture, all businesses need an external perspective. Impartial views from someone not in the business but who understands the business.
Advisors whose role is not threatened as would be an employee. Larger companies have non-executive directors. In contrast, most smaller businesses have nothing except the owner’s limited and filtered view from inside the bottle.
Small business ownership is a challenging and relenting ride, and most small and medium businesses need skilled and candid support to succeed.
Many of these failures will be avoided with a change in perspective and a clearer understanding of persistence and the importance of teamwork.