Master Juggler: The Small Business Owner’s Actual Job Title

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the most balls successfully juggled is 11 and was accomplished by Alex Barron, an 18-year-old UK man, in 2012. In order to qualify for the record he had to make 23 consecutive catches. On the day in question he spent 4.5 hours trying to get to make his goal – not your average Sunday afternoon activity.

I am captivated anytime I run across a juggler at a fair. How on Earth do they have the concentration to keep the balls in the air? The coordination? The ability to play to the crowd? To understand my fascination, you need to know that I can’t even juggle two balls at once on a good day.

But did you know that if you are a small business owner that you are, in fact, a master juggler? Sure, your name might not be found in the Guinness Book, but given the amount of balls you juggle, I’m guessing you qualify!

There are many directions I could go with this metaphor, but I’m going to keep it simple and talk about what it means as a small business owner to start with one ball and add to it only when you’re ready.

Ball 1: Engaging in Learning, Growth, and Reflection

Think about this: the first ball you start with will *always* be in the mix. Whether you are simply tossing the ball from one hand to the other, or juggling a ridiculous number (11 comes to mind), you can’t drop this one because that means the show is over.

I believe the first, most critical ball is represented by personal and professional learning and growth. Ultimately, our own growth that we obtain is channeled to our clients. When people don’t do this, they can easily get stuck in a particular decade (like, I don’t know…getting stuck listening to 80’s music…because it’s certainly not objectively ‘good’). In our modern world, you see many people ‘stuck’ in the pre-Internet, or at least pre-cloud era.

The funny thing is that this is often the ball we drop first when things get busy. A question I’ll simply leave you with is this – how much time in a week are you spending on learning, growth, and reflection? If it’s less than 5 hours, consider reintroducing this ball to the mix and see the magic that happens!

Ball 2: Perfecting Your Core Craft

Although it’s essential to toss that first ball back and forth, it would get boring after awhile if that’s ALL you have going on – not to mention you’re surely not going to wow any onlookers!

When you build your business, you really need to decide what (product, service) you want to focus on, instead of introducing five balls at once. Even the best jugglers in the world don’t add five balls at once!

This process involves creating your company vision and then defining your product or service, your target audience, and your methods for ‘getting the word out’.

Once you combine ball 1 (your own personal learning/growth) with ball 2 (your core service/product), you now have a viable business that can truly meet your customer needs. Get really good at juggling these two balls back and forth; it may not be thrilling, or attract that much of a crowd, but you will always be happy that you perfected the initial motion!

Ball 3: Sharing Your Knowledge

Ok, so now you’re getting really good at the virtuous cycle that’s created when your ongoing learning (ball 1) is applied to your core craft (ball 2). All of the sudden you have a few folks who stop and check in on what you are doing…potential and new clients, employees, partners, and even friends and family!

Now is the time to think about how you are getting your message across. You have something to offer each type of person, but what you offer to each will be different. To your new clients, you want to train them in your methods. To your potential partners, you want to show them why your product/service is a useful add-on for their offering. And on and on…

It’s important to focus more broadly than just on your products/services that will make you money. You need to share your knowledge with the community – via daily interactions, blogs, etc.

Now you really have something going, as you are constantly learning (ball 1), perfecting your core craft (ball 2), and sharing your knowledge (ball 3). Is that a small crowd I see gathering?

Ball 4: Playing to the crowd

Let’s be honest, as a small business owner there are times in life when we can only juggle the first two balls well, and that’s fine. But once we get good at sharing our knowledge, the next step (ball 4) is what I call ‘playing to the crowd’.

Now playing to the crowd, mind you, is not to be confused with showing off. Showing off just for the sake of making yourself look good is easy for others to spot (not an appealing quality). Playing to the crowd involves developing your own personal flair that makes you stand out from the crowd just a bit more. This is where your friends and family really can help you – ask them what qualities they love about you and try to infuse those into your business. Everyone loves authenticity; there is no reason to hide your personality behind your business – instead let it shine through your business.   

If you get this fourth ball going you are literally ahead of 95% of small business owners, and the world is one big Kumamoto oyster (yes, I am an oyster fanatic).

Ball 5: Expanding your horizons

At this point, you’re in the groove – you build on your learning/personal growth (ball 1), continue to perfect your core craft (ball 2), share your knowledge with those around you (ball 3), and learn how to ‘play to the crowd’ (ball 4). Now, and only now, it’s time to expand your horizons. That could mean a million different things – is it time to add another ‘core’ offering to your business? Is it time to embark on an entirely new business venture? Is it time for your business to become completely remote so that you can travel more?  

Now, five balls in the air at once is not quite 11, but it’s more than anyone I know can do! At this point you are at the top of your game, well-positioned to influence the world around you.

Above all, the main way that running a successful business is like juggling is that, when everything is going well, it is a lot of fun! Congrats to all of you who are juggling three, four, or five balls – as a fellow small business we salute you!!!

Our Vision for Your Small Business

We are coming up on our five-year anniversary at Joy Accounting in the Spring of 2020! Five years ago, our business was simply an idea. Fast-forward to today, we are solving problems and enabling growth for small business owners all over the Puget Sound area – and we are having a blast doing it!

But before we pop open the champagne and celebrate this milestone, I’d like to pull the curtain back and explain a bit more about how we got here – a strong sense of purpose that defines every action we take. Our raison d’être hasn’t changed, and is best summed up in our vision statement:

To transform small businesses into profit-generating, smooth-running operations whose owners are enjoying life because they are doing what they love, and doing it well.

It’s amazing to me that everything that we aim for can be summed up in 26 words! There are a few phrases in our vision statement that I’d like to unpack – ‘Profit-generating’, ‘Smooth-running’, and ‘Enjoying Life’.

Profit-generating

Small business ownership can be a heavy burden to carry. As an owner, you are responsible for every aspect of the business – from keeping the lights on, to making sure the service/product you are providing is valuable, to taking care of employee needs. You represent your business everywhere you go – even after-hours on your personal time. It can be exhausting.

If the burden is so great, why would we (as small business owners) accept less-than-satisfactory profits?

Oftentimes, owners start a small business because it enables them to do what they love. But as they embark on their journey, there are a million reasons why they don’t make the profit they desire. Perhaps they didn’t do enough competitive analysis. Perhaps prices weren’t properly set because they did not account for time and/or costs. Perhaps they didn’t set their profitability targets high enough.

Small business ownership does not have to equate to a vow of poverty. If you look around at larger businesses, they have no problem with this concept, but because small business interactions are so personal there is a tendency to discount services or place less value on them.  If you need to, say this 100 times each morning: “The service I provide is valuable to my customers.” Figure out how to price your services so that you are profiting in the way that you desire.

Smooth-running

Do you have a ‘smooth-running’ business? If you can’t answer that directly, try thinking about a typical day. Here are a few questions to ask:

Do you constantly get interrupted from conversations by phone calls/texts/emails?

Do you have to explain the same thing over and over to the same people?

Are you always taking care of other people, but not taking time for yourself?

Does your desk look like a tornado landed on it before a hurricane washed it away?

Photo by Espen Bierud on Unsplash

If you answer ‘yes’ to most of those, I would guess that your business (and life) is not as smooth-running as it could be.

Often, small business owners want to maintain control over every piece of their business. I can understand why – your business is your baby! But to be successful as an owner, it’s critical to document processes, decide which tasks truly require your skills, and trust others to carry out tasks that don’t fit into that category.

Sometimes taking a step back, assessing your processes, and making tweaks is the absolute best thing you can do, even if you feel like you don’t have time. And if you need help, I know of a company that is just about to hit their five-year mark who specializes in this!     

Enjoying life

Many people who leave the corporate world and start a small business feel an overwhelming amount of freedom and excitement initially. That feeling is quickly followed by an ‘oh crap’ moment when they realize that the paycheck doesn’t just roll in as it did before.

After the honeymoon stage and the corresponding freak-out stages are over, you’ll settle into a routine. At that point it’s important to assess whether the reality matches your dreams of running a business. Are you doing what you love, or do you feel burdened by a million different administrative tasks?

As your business grows, it is absolutely critical to keep this at the top of your mind. Many people assume that small businesses should always be growing – but if (for example) growth means that you need to hire more employees, and managing employees is not your cup of tea, then perhaps you should reconsider your plans.

Bottom line – you started a small business because you felt like it would provide you with the best life of all the possible options. Never settle for less, not at the beginning, the middle, or end of your small business journey. Make sure you are enjoying the ride, bumps and all!