The Fear of Loss

Overcome insecurity with Build a Better Business

[blockquote cite=”Kobe Bryant” type=”left”]I have self-doubt, I have insecurity, I have fear of failure, we all do. You don’t deny it, but you also don’t capitulate to it.[/blockquote]

It happens more with men, is ego driven, and impacts the entire family.

Insecurity is a character trait rendering many business owners incapable of implementing profit improvement strategies adopted by successful corporations throughout the world. They choose instead to toil long hours for meager returns.

Wives often query the decision:

“Why do you work so much with so little to show for the effort?”

“You don’t understand business!” is not an acceptable response to proffer, or accept. Nothing else will be forthcoming however until a foil is found for a well-hidden lack of self-confidence causing loss of profits, harming relationships, and impacting the lifestyle of those dependent upon the outcomes of the family enterprise.

There are a few entrepreneurs who do well, they keep a low profile, happy to go unnoticed. If the indicator of success is dollars earned per hour worked, the significant majority are unsuccessful. Some are unaffected by this, for others the consequence of effort without reward is dramatic – broken relationships, stress, financial problems, sickness, and low self-esteem are often the result.

It does not have to be that way.

Fear of loss, and ego, stand in the way of improved profitability – barriers more easily broken through by discussing options with the life partner as opposed to the owner. When you point out to a spouse it is possible for their husband to earn a higher income and spend more time with friends and family, you will not be ignored! The same advice delivered to an owner often goes unheeded.

The common understanding among business advisers as to the root cause of this inaction, is the incessant interruptions experienced by busy business owners. There is however a more plausible explanation.

It is not that they don’t want to improve, or are distracted by the daily rigors of their work, people resist the introduction of new strategies because they fear change.

This sentiment is reinforced in the professional literature examining what motivates action. This body of work is the reason this book acknowledges the critical role wives and life partners can play in building better businesses. The combination of their influence and support is enough to destroy the insecurity demon and unleash the potential for improved performance.

The motivation to act, psychologists suggest, is driven by many things, the most powerful of which is fear.

“The building is burning, leave now!”
“Shark sanctuary, no swimming.”

The first command motivates us to move, the second is sufficient motivation to stay out of the water. The threat of danger will make us do some things and not do others.

Fear of loss is a stronger motivator than opportunity to gain. People will go to greater lengths to protect what they own than they will to obtain something new. If a different strategy holds the promise of higher profitability, but necessitates change, the option will often languish.

Much rides on the success of an enterprise which explains why proprietors are fearful of implementing new ideas. To be afraid of the unknown is a natural state and therefore reluctance to initiate change is a reasonable predisposition.

Proprietors require support at the time of strategic decision making, something not always available due the nature and structure of the small enterprise. Important decisions are best made in an environment that fosters courageous – improvement orientated choices. But the business owner makes decisions in a very different state, when isolated and under pressure.

We are influenced more by our life partner than any other person, it makes sense therefore to recruit their assistance to deal with the insecurity of the proprietor that is holding back improvement and growth.

The first step is to become aware if that problem exists. It will not be obvious; you need to look for signs it exists.

Entrepreneurs, on the outside at least, are a proud, brave, and optimistic breed, admitting to feelings of self-doubt is inconsistent with this persona. An awareness of how insecurity manifests in a work setting may alert you to the need for commencing a dialogue with your loved one or friend.

Insecure business owners are quick to transfer blame to others:

“I wish my employees would take more care of the equipment.”
“The customers do not understand the complexities of this installation.
“I am sick of back yard operators undercutting my price.”
“The economy is terrible!”
“The government forms I must lodge each month cost me a fortune.”
“The bank manager is a fool.”
“I am going to withdraw from the association, they never do anything to help me.”

Insecure business owners refer to special circumstances:

“I agree with what you say but you do not understand our industry”
“Yes, but my customers are different”
“My employees would never support the process.”
“My operation is not large enough”
“Our organisation is too big.”

Insecure business owners find a reason to delay action:

“I plan to address the workshop bottlenecks but not until we move to larger premises.”
” Customer service training will help us build our market share, as soon as cash flow improves I will enrol everyone.
“Can we discuss reducing stock levels at our next meeting, now our priority is cash flow!”
“I feel a little uncomfortable about increasing prices now, let’s wait until the economy picks up.”
“A budget makes a lot of sense to me, but now is the wrong time.”

Insecure business owners ignore warning signs.

The true financial position is hidden from family members.
Cautions from accountants and bookkeepers are ignored.
Long arrears in tax obligations seem to be of no concern.
Insecure business owners talk about the next big project.

The well-known corporation is about to sign a supply contract; an export opportunity years in the making, now almost confirmed ; a well-connected industry expert considering accepting an offer to join the firm a mining company is holding back a major announcement; confidence is high the grant will be approved. These are the distractions insecure proprietors like to focus on to take their mind off the lack of profits from existing contracts and customers.

Insecure business owners work long hours.

The need to put in long days is the result of poor delegation or an inability to hire employees due to low profitability. Both make the owner indispensable, and this is a problem.

Insecure business owners do not prepare annual financial plans, and do not meet with their accountants on a regular basis.

“What is the value in forecasting?” How can I predict what my sales revenue will be in 6 months’ time if I cannot be sure what they will be next week?” Reasons abound why not to draft financial forecasts, none of them are valid. Every large organisation will submit an annual projection to the board of directors in control the business. On a monthly basis management will be held to account for variances to the forecast.

Smaller operators will argue they too are accountable, but in reality there is precious little. They confuse accountability with responsibility, they are different. The former involves a degree of pro-activity such as explaining results to a third party on a regular basis and therefore encompasses opportunities for improvement from one period to the next. Responsibility is more aligned to the blame game – after the event. “Who is responsible for this?”

Insecure business owners do not attend formal management courses.

Training is not a prerequisite for the establishment or operation of a commercial enterprise. Think about that in the context of the areas where you excel, whether in professional or trade skills, athletic or artistic pursuits, craft or hobbies, communication & leadership. Some proficiency can be can achieved through self-instruction however for most people the things they are best at involve tuition. Operating a small business is a complex task, taking on the challenge without instruction is likely to result in less than optimal performance.

Management tips are obtained from previous employers, friends and family, and associates from the same industry. This type of learning is akin to the game of Chinese whispers, or telephone, where the message is lost in translation.

Insecure business owners fall into patterns of consistent behaviour.

Change brings uncertainty, increases stress and occupies time. “Why bring that upon ourselves?” It is safer to follow patterns of consistent behaviour and activity. In this environment growth is unlikely. And when circumstances alter, like with the emergence of new competition, or a decline in an economic conditions, some historic practices will not be robust enough to cope.

I am convinced the concentration of management duties to only a few individuals creates an environment whereby insecurity is almost an inevitable consequence of small business ownership. No stigma should be associated with an inevitability.

But there is.

And this is where ego gets in the way of advisors attempts to help their clients build better businesses – more reason to recruit the assistance of a life partner!

We think of business owners as entrepreneurs, risk takes, hard workers, ambitious positive minded people who are leaders in the community. Expectations are high! If that is not enough, the pressure on people responsible for outcomes is intensified as the economic existence of the family unit is dependent upon the success of a business.

And all this responsibility is borne by the owners.

Contrast that to a public company with a group of at least 4 directors share the burden and contribute expertise to strategic direction, governance, forecasting, monitoring and control. The board appoints a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to implement strategy. The CEO in turn selects executives to assist with all finance, marketing, sales, and operational aspects of the enterprise.

In a private enterprise the owners are the directors, CEO and also fill most of the other senior roles. It is a testament to their resilience so many enterprises perform as well as they do.

Every business can improve and this is best achieved with the assistance and support of a life partner, or if the proprietor is single,  a close friend or trusted employee. Think about the big decisions you make in life, are they made with or without the consultation of others?

“I’m home honey, good news, I have bought a new home, settlement is next month, you will love the place”

The thought of making a major financial or lifestyle decision without consulting your loved one is a preposterous idea. Why then are management decisions made without consultation with those affected by the outcomes? No asset impacts more on family relationships than a business.

Continuing to work long hours, under stress, receiving nothing close to a reasonable financial return is one decision worthy of review, even more so because it does not have to be that way!

Imagine if it were possible to make a few small changes to a business that resulted in the owner earning more money and working less hours.

It is.

And it is why I created the Build a Better Program. All the courses are free, enrol now.


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