Category Archives: Small Business

Opportunity in the Midst of a Crisis – Two Truths and a Lie

Have you ever wondered how many generations are alive today? According to this chart from CareerPlanner.com, there are no less than 10, which is remarkable considering that most media focus seems to be on Millennials and Baby Boomers.

Each generation has had at least one defining coming-of-age moment. I am a Xennial – a relatively new designation for those of us who were introduced to the Internet late in our childhood – meaning that we lived in and therefore comprehend both the digital and pre-digital (analog) world (some would say with moderate success…). I actually remember coming across rotary dial phones in my younger days!

Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash

The coming-of-age event of my cohort (Xennials) was, without a doubt, 9/11. I’m guessing for Millennials that moment was The Great Recession of 2008. And while the Covid-19 situation could be considered the coming-of-age event for Generation Z, in many ways it is redefining all of our lives – which means many of us older folks are getting a bonus jolt! Yay for that!!!

Between these life-altering moments, our individual lives go on without requiring much adjustment. Sure, we gain a few pounds and decide to cut back on the cinnamon rolls, but mostly things carry on as normal. This holds on a national scale as well; as conditions shift the stock market goes up and down, but very few things substantially alter our collective or individual lives in a dramatic fashion.

When I would go on a camping trip growing up, others always wanted to play ‘Two Truths and a Lie’, a game in which the teller makes three statements, and everyone else has to guess which one is the lie. Well…I was and still am terrible at that game. As a teller, I am incapable of telling a straight-faced lie. As a listener, I always guess incorrectly.

For example, here are three statements related to the discussion above – two truths and one lie:

Statement 1: There are periods of time (years, even) that are relatively calm.

Statement 2: Large events and disasters can occur unexpectedly at any point.

Statement 3: If you are prepared, you can always handle the next disaster without any problems!

It is simple to guess the lie, isn’t it? Covid-19 shows what a large lie that third statement is! This crisis demonstrates how powerless we all are in the face of an overwhelmingly crippling event. So what is a small business owner to do?

It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day – questions like ‘How do I pay my bills?’ and ‘What if all of my customers leave?’ are important to think about and strategize for. But we would be remiss if we didn’t use this opportunity to dig a little deeper. The disruption caused by the crisis provides an opportunity to ask fundamental questions about your business, and it could pave the way for rebirth, rebranding, or simple changes that you have been putting off for too long!

Without further ado, here are ‘Two Truths and a Lie’ designed to help you step back and evaluate your business apart from the panicked feelings that times like this can often induce.

Truth #1: Your business is a representation of your creativity

At its core, what is your small business?

All small businesses started as an idea – a thought uniquely generated by you (the small business owner), a plan for business formation brought about by you, a set of actions to set the wheels in motion, and then day after endless day of keeping it all together.

Yes, the business became its own thing after a period of time – but don’t forget that your ingenuity and creativity caused it to spring to life. You are a problem solver, and you care so much about the solution that you were willing to put your well-being on the line to make it happen.

Your business, then, simply is that inherent creativity brought to life and given a name (hopefully not ‘Frankenstein’). So when your business is running into challenges or even failing because of a situation lie Covid-19, there is really no reason why you can’t go through that creative process again and either re-start or re-shape your business to changing circumstances.

hopefully not your small business…

Amidst a global pandemic, all of us small business owners (even those who continue to do well) should take some time and go through the creative process again. For example, many of us are embracing online offerings and reaching vast new audiences as a result! I’m thinking of our friends Paul and Kim Goldenberger from BasePoint Fitness, who are hosting some stellar online classes during this time. (Check them out if my ‘cinnamon roll’ comments resonated with you earlier…)

Although it has developed a life of its own, your small business is really just your creativity that has sprung to life – never forget that. This is a great time to evaluate whether your business is continuing to reflect your vision; if not, don’t be afraid to make some bold changes!

Truth #2: Your business is an extension of your values

How well are you living out your values through your small business?

The other day I decided to bike to the store to get some exercise, except that I got way too many groceries to actually carry back, so I ended up with a large bag slung over my right shoulder which would alternatively bang against my spokes and slip off my shoulder every few minutes. If I would have been aware enough to see the drivers passing me by, I’m sure I would have seen a few strange looks.

I’ve been known to carry a bit too much on my bike…

The point of the story is this – when things go poorly or we bite off more than we can chew, we can get a bit desperate. And then we make bad decisions that do not reflect our core values. This can show itself up in a number of ways in a small business, including: 1) Cutting corners that the customer might not notice, 2) Under-valuing or under-pricing your own products or services, 3) Disregarding your own health while you burn the candle at both ends, or 4) Having no ability to walk away from toxic business relationships.

Life was already stressful, and then a pandemic hit. All of a sudden we are all slinging extra bags over our shoulder trying to avoid a mailbox on one side and a motorcycle on the other. This is prime cutting-corners time, especially when it seems like others aren’t paying attention because they are dealing with their own issues.

But this is exactly the time that you should re-focus on your values, because at the end of the day, your business is an extension of your personal values. You will not be satisfied if these two things are out of whack. I would go as far to say that if you can’t figure out how to align them, you may want to re-evaluate whether your business is a good fit.

At Joy Accounting, we focus one five values – Honesty, Integrity, Creativity, Consistency, and Adventure. Our business would not thrive in the absence of any of these values. This is a great time to either review your values or set them for the first time, and then ensure that you are bringing them to the table every day.

Lie: Your dreams will never be achieved if your business is unsuccessful

Why did you start your small business?

I sincerely hope that every small business owner reading this will continue on better than ever after this crisis, but the reality is that many small businesses have already folded, and many more will in the coming months. Yes, many businesses are dying – but does that mean that the ideas and dreams behind them will die as well?

As I mentioned in the first truth, at its core all businesses start as an idea. As the idea is essentially replaced with a real entity – one that has payroll, employees, products/services, etc. – we become laser-focused on the ‘stuff’ of the business, and then we can’t imagine our lives without it. And then (as I mentioned in Truth #2) we can start cutting corners to try and make things right.

While there will be many unfortunate and irreversible outcomes of Covid-19, one thing that it can never do to the small business owner is take away your creativity, your spirit, and your passion.

For those of us who can, we would do well to remember the truths in this blog and lift our businesses to new heights on the other side of this. But don’t wait until later – now is the time to really dig deep and evaluate what changes you can make, so that you are prepared for the new world that awaits us!

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!!!