The Small Business Road To Travel

Jim Blasingame Most of us have had “Ah-ha” moments in our lives. You know, when you read, hear, or see something that turns a light on in a dark corridor of your journey of understanding. One of those moments happened for me about 20 years ago, when I first read The Road Less Traveled, by M. Scott Peck.

I like people who have the courage to make bold statements based on their beliefs. Early in his book, Dr. Peck endeared himself to me when he said, essentially, that all people can be put into one of two categories: neurotics and those with character disorders.

In his book, Dr. Peck says that, “Neurotics are easy to work with in psychotherapy, because they assume responsibility.” He goes on to say that, “Those with character disorders are difficult, if not impossible, to work with, because they never see themselves as any part of the problem.” Thus missing the opportunity for self-examination.

Contemplating this information in Dr. Peck’s book was a true watershed moment that really helped me to better understand why people—including me—behave as we do.

The Humanity Coin
Simply put, a neurotic is someone who takes responsibility for what happens in his or her life. Those on the character disorder side of this coin of humanity will blame you, the world, and anyone or anything else for their problems and failures—but never themselves. Consider these scenarios:

Challenge: A Big Box competitor is opening up in town.

Neurotic reaction: I knew I shouldn’t have gone into this business. What was I thinking?

Character Disorder reaction: I hate that company. How can the city allow those people to come in here and destroy my business?

Challenge: Sales are off, profits are down, and cash is tight.

Neurotic reaction: If I were a better manager, I wouldn’t have gotten myself into this mess.

Character Disorder reaction: How can I be expected to succeed in the face of the 9-11 attacks, globalization, and insurance premiums going through the roof?

When a problem occurs, the challenge for neurotics is to focus their predisposition on a solution and not waste valuable time and energy blaming themselves. When the same setbacks happen to the half of humanity with character disorders, their challenge is to resist spending precious time and resources focusing on how the world let them down, and instead, turn their critical focus inward.

Another Bold Statement
Since small business owners come in both flavors, as Dr. Peck defines us, here is my bold statement, which is based on years of experience: It’s difficult—perhaps impossible—to have a successful small business if you operate it with character disorders. This is not to say that a person who fits the character disorder profile can never be a successful small business owner. But rather that the business can’t be operated that way.

Here are those two challenges I mentioned earlier, but now with an appropriate response:

Challenge: A Big Box competitor is opening up in town.

Productive response: Well, I chose this business for the right reasons. The Big Boxes can’t get all of the business. I’m going to make sure I position my company to serve customers in ways Big Boxes can’t.

Challenge: Sales are off, profits are down, and cash is tight.

Productive response: There are steps—probably new ones—that can be taken that will allow my business to thrive in the current economic environment. I will find those steps and take them, and when I do, my business will be in a better position to withstand downturns, and maximize opportunities in good economic periods.

The Value of Self-Analysis
Many setbacks happen to small businesses in the course of a year, and yes, some of those are caused by others. But the only way to survive, let alone thrive, is to manage more like a neurotic. Not with the “blame yourself first” trait; self-blame is not only unproductive it can be destructive. But rather, with the very productive “take responsibility for the hand I’ve been dealt” trait.

Self-analysis may be the most valuable skill we can employ to become a better person. In a small business, organizational self-analysis -and acceptance of what we find—is essential to sustained success in the marketplace. Denial is not a river in Egypt. In a small business, it’s a terminal character disorder.

Which leads us to another bold statement that I believe should be memorized by every small business owner.

Blasingame’s Small Business Success Attitude
I accept that my small business will face challenges every day. As I begin my day, I will assume the attitude that, regardless of the number of challenges, the degree of difficulty, or who caused them, if my business is to survive, I must face each one. Therefore, I know that the only thing in question today is how well I will respond to challenges, and the future of my business may depend on the answer to that question.

Write this on a rock... Self-analysis, acceptance, and taking responsibility are three important keys to success for a small business owner.

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Category: Work-Life, Balance
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