Last week, I advised a jewelry manufacturer that before she goes on maternity leave, she should appoint a deputy, delegate, and communicate with clients and vendors (see Frontier, 5/31/00, "From Here to Maternity"). But let's face it: That's a major transition for a one-person show, and she wouldn't be the first entrepreneur to stumble on that threshold. So this week, here's some expert advice on nudging a business (and your psyche) to the next level.
You don't really have a business if no money comes in whenever you leave, notes Stanley Simkins, the founder of Organizational & Human Resources Development in Albany, N.Y., who teaches at Siena College's Family Buisness Institute. The jeweler's company, like most of America's 23 million small businesses, doesn't really deserve that name, he says.
That sounds harsh, but it raises a valid question: What's keeping some entrepreneurs from building a more stable company? Some possible answers:
Too Busy. Naturally -- most business owners are. It's tough to get it all done plus plan for future growth. "A lot of people like her are just stuck," says Simkins, who estimates that less than a quarter of all small businesses have a succession plan. But it may take less time than you think. Don't let exhaustion hold you back. If you're dangerously close to your wits' end, ask close friends or family members to help out for a spell.
Doing it all yourself. This is the classic productivity killer for small enterprises, says Barry Miller, a specialist in family issues who teaches management at Pace University's Lubin School of Business. "They'll say: 'I'll never be able to find the right person to work for me.' Or, 'No one can deal with my clients but me.' That's absolute baloney," notes New York therapist Marcia Rosen, the author of The Woman's Business Therapist: Eliminate the Mindblocks and Roadblocks to Success (Chandler House Press).
Try promoting a salesperson who understands the products, teaching her the operation, and paying her a salary. You are likely to be astonished at how much better the business does with a sales manager.
Penny wise, pound foolish? Money may be very tight, but some entrepreneurs can lean too far toward financial conservatism. You have to spend money to build something that will feed you when you retire, Simkins says. Try bartering to save cash.
And if your profits go flat because you hired a manager or administrative assistant, remember why. It's financing your growth and accommodating your family, says Beth Sirull, co-author of Creating Your Life Collage: Strategies for Solving the Work/Life Dilemma (Three Rivers Press). Plenty of business owners have sacrificed profitability in the short-term by hiring help so they can work less. The time will come when you will be able to roar right back.
Fear of success. Strangely enough, the prospect of success can scare some people. Take a deep breath, suggests Marian Baker, a counselor and coach with True Spirit Coaching in Chicago. This isn't a joke (it's how I quit smoking after 15 years). Deep breathing reduces paralyzing feelings of panic. You may find yourself suddenly able to take that first small step toward success.
Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jill Hamburg Coplan has covered work, family, business, and finance for the past decade as a writer and editor for newspapers,
magazines, and wire services. She left Working Woman magazine, where she was senior editor, when her first child was
works solo from a home office in Brooklyn, N.Y.