The 2 Most Damaging Lies Business Owners Tell Themselves
At some point, we all tell ourselves sneaky little lies.
You know what I mean…On Monday, I’m starting back at the gym (for real this week) or I’m finally cleaning out my grown kids t-ball trophies so I can fix up that empty bedroom. Or I’m making my coffee at home every morning and breaking my standing date with Bonnie the Barista.
Whatever it is—big, small, important, mundane, we half know when we’re saying it, yeah, maybe I’ll do it, maybe I won’t. Right? I’ve been there too.
Ahh, but what happens when we lie to our self about our business? Does it matter or is it like the gym, no one knows, no one cares? Well, it can matter. It can matter a great deal, depending on the lie.
Maybe we got a terrific new idea from a book or a podcast and we promise to implement it …only it never happens. Maybe we learn about new software that will improve our efficiency but it’s such a big job to transfer over, we buy it and never implement it.
Maybe we learn of a new business course that if we just made the investment, would be a real game-changer. But before we know it, we’ve lost the mojo. We’re overwhelmed with our day to day, we rationalize and we whisper to our self, it doesn’t really matter. These little lies matter because surely we are missing the opportunity to up-level our business however these lies are not necessarily critical to our success.
This article originally appeared in Window Fashion Vision Magazine.
Click here for your FREE subscription
It is possible to coast along, to exist for years without facing these kinds of lies in the mirror. We tell ourselves, we’re doing our best, we’re too busy now, maybe next month or next year we’ll get to it. Ugh, we have all done it. It’s not just you.
However, some lies are critical and are much worse than others. Some of the things we lie to ourself about really do affect our business at a fundamental level. Certain areas in business cannot be ignored or you will not be profitable.
And understand very clearly: There is a huge difference between existing year after year versus being a vibrant, money-making, profitable business. Perfection is not a worthwhile goal, so let that go. But, if you are running a business, not a hobby, there are some lies you just cannot tell yourself.
The 2 Most Destructive Lies:
1. My finances are in order. I’m good.
Do you know your “cost to be open number”? This is the finite dollar amount it costs to run your business. These are the expenses you have every month whether you have 5 projects, 50 projects or 500 projects.
You must know your baseline number because until you hit this number you are, as my friend Alinda Morris of Alinda Morris Interior Design, WA said to me on the podcast, “If I don’t hit my cost to be open number every week, I’m just borrowing money from my own family to run my business”.
Sit with this statement. Don’t blow by it. Do you see how true it is? Let it hit you like the stomach punch it should. When you are not profitable you are borrowing from your family vacation fund, you are borrowing from your retirement egg, you are borrowing from yourself. You are robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Do you know your gross and net profit margins? Do you know the difference between them? Do you evaluate every single project at completion for profitability?
How about specific sales goals, defined by day, month and year? Without your cost to be open number and absent defined sales goals, it is truly impossible to know if you are on track, sliding off the rails, headed to a brick wall or headed for a banner year. Sales goals must finite, expenses must be tracked, and you must know at a glance where you are every single day of the year.
Believe me, I would be one of the many business owners who wouldn’t have known how to measure these things in detail let alone know I should be measuring them. I understand how it easy it is to think, there’s money in the bank, I make my payroll, I pay my bills, things are probably ok.
If this is you, this is the most critical lie you tell yourself. Years ago, my husband Vin taught this to me. More accurately, he drilled it into my head. Now I own it and guess what—it’s very empowering. It’s even comforting because I “know” when I am making money and when I better get up and get going. No surprises, only actions and outcomes.
If you know you should do this but you don’t know how to do this, there is no room for excuses anymore. There are tons of resources available, at all levels. Seek out awesome coaches like Michele Williams, of The Scarlet Thread Consulting who is also a Certified Profit First Coach or Madeleine MacRae of MM MacRae Consulting.
Join organizations like Exciting Windows, a pay to play group of high achieving window treatment professionals whose virtual monthly mastermind meetings are designed to help and guide each other to be better, be more profitable business owners. There is the WCAA with chapters all over the US providing resources and educational programming and webinars. And of course, our very own IWCE.
There are so many opportunities provided at the IWCE each year that you cannot ignore. It is the perfect place to meet like-minded, successful, driven colleagues whose goals align with yours. Join us every year and make it a point to attend the seminars by business experts who have been where you are and can teach you how to know your numbers.
2. I know how I do things. That’s good enough for me.
No, ma’am, no sir this is not good enough. I always tell the entrepreneur groups I speak to, if you don’t have a finite system for how your business is run, from answering the phone to collecting balance dues, you don’t have a business, you have a “you”.
There should be a particular way everything in your business is executed. Not you do it one way, your admin does it another way and your sales reps do it another way. One way, the same way, every time, by every person. I say to my staff all the time, if you win the lottery tonight and I never see your eyeballs again, I shouldn’t have to call you to ask a question about anything.
We all order product the same way, we all check-in product the same way, we all put install notes in the same place, every time. Why? Because now, anyone, at any time, can pick an order up in process and carry it to the finish line.
When you have clear, written systems it ensures your business runs smoothly and efficiently in good times and bad. Ever feel like you are so busy, you have to hire, but you don’t even have the time to train someone?
What about if you have a family emergency that takes you away for a few days or a few weeks, what happens then? Maybe you want to go on vacation, unplug, decompress, relax, hmm. there’s an idea. When you have a defined system in place, your business can operate with efficiency in your absences.
Other tangible benefits include elevated customer service because attention to detail is easier when you are not fighting fires all day and with a business manual and systems in place, you can actually contemplate selling your business, your life’s work, rather than simply close the doors at the end of your career.
I know it is hard work to create a system for every aspect of our business so I’m always asking colleagues: “How did you do it for your business?” My friend Sara Brennan of Sara Lynn Brennan Interiors, NC shared with me recently on the podcast how she did this for her interior design firm. Before I share her method can we just imagine for a moment how much more complex it is to run a full-service design firm than to run a window treatment business?
We know too well how many steps it takes to deliver awesome window treatments however we are merely one aspect in a full-service design project. In addition to specifying window treatments, there’s cabinetry, tile, floor plans, furniture, flooring, lighting, the list is endless. It makes my head hurt to think about it!
Sara explained for weeks and months, as she went about her normal workday she would jot in one notebook all the details required to execute the various tasks. In no particular order, just gathering intel. Additionally, whenever she had downtime, airplane rides, nights after she put her kids to bed, she brainstormed and added her wish list of the things she should be doing, could be doing, to make each process better.
From a checklist for the window treatment installer to a checklist for designing a kitchen renovation. Finally, after many weeks and a full notebook she went back and highlighted each note according to the process it belonged in. For example, any note related to onboarding a new client was highlighted in blue, any note related to the design presentation was highlighted in yellow, any note related to installation day was highlighted in pink and so on.
Next, she collated all the information for each process and created the detailed step by step how to do every task in her business. The last step, she assembled all the information, in order, according to task and category and created her SLB Interiors Manual.
This is a living document. It can be revised and improved upon as she grows and she faces new challenges and new revenue streams. Having this for your business is a game-changer.
This clarity in your process creates an unforgettable client experience, this clarity when you hire and train new employees makes the learning curve so much faster, this clarity creates synergy and optimal results when dealing with vendors.
Let’s get practical. There are at least 4 months left in 2019. What if you committed to knowing your numbers and to creating your business systems once and for all? 2019 is going to come and go either way.
Will you be telling yourself the same lies in 2020? Will you be looking around and blaming the economy, your customers, the competition because you are not reaching and achieving success in your business? Or will you be the one who seeks help, who commits, who stops rationalizing and makes changes once and for all?
The really hard truth is in addition to these two lies there are other critical lies we tell ourselves too. But the key to creating a sustainable, profitable business is a process that begins with a single action. Draw the line now and accept responsibility for making drastic changes.
I know the best way to do this is one step at a time. If you are telling yourself either of the lies above, start with one, master it and go to the next. Make a plan, read up on how to do it, join an organization, come to the IWCE in Charlotte this March, listen to my podcast or hire yourself a coach. Do something. You have 4 months, a chance to start 2020 in control of your business health. Be the CEO of your business.
Once you have these critical areas locked down, you can grow, move on and tackle some others. In the meantime, I’d love it if you found me at the IWCE this March in Charlotte and let me know what action you took.