Isolation affects individuals, but it has a special affinity for business owners. During hard times, many owners wonder if anyone can understand what it is like to make the hard decisions day after day, month after month, year after year. During good times, owners fall into the trap of believing that they can do it all—and do it alone.
Let’s look at how the Isolation Elephant affected one typical owner.
Renaldo, the owner of an auto repair shop, wanted to expand his business. Several months earlier, he had promoted his best mechanic to manager of the three bays and all was going well. With that success, Renaldo determined that he could maximize profits with 20 bays. Renaldo’s goal was not unreasonable because business had been great. So, Renaldo promoted this mechanic/manger again to manage the entire 20-bay operation.
Six months later, I ran into Renaldo at a charity event. He seemed distracted. I asked him, “How’s business?” and Renaldo told me what he’d done to expand his company. “I just don’t get it! This guy handled three bays without a problem. He’s a hard worker and a great mechanic. The business is coming in, but we can’t get a handle on the workflow!”
“Renaldo, I don’t doubt that your mechanic is all you say, but a much bigger shop requires strong and effective management. Does he have the managerial skills to handle the increased workflow, make the right calls on whom to hire and fire, and maintain proper supervision on the work being done in all those bays? Could he be in over his head? And if he is, how long do you think he’ll stick around?”
That last question really got Renaldo’s attention. He knew that his bigger shop wasn’t performing as he intended, but he hadn’t figured out why or considered that he could lose his best employee. We set up a time to meet.
Renaldo was a typical owner: smart, successful entrepreneurial. But he was too close to objectively assess his problem or his plan. As each strategy failed to deliver, he dug further into his shell when the remedy was to seek professional advice. Once he did, his company reached the sales goals he had set.
Taming The Isolation Elephant
Bringing in qualified outsiders is the best way to tame the Isolation Elephant. When owners cling to the notion that they can’t trust anyone but themselves, they keep making important financial decisions with their heads stuck in the sand of Isolation Island.
1. If “something” is standing between you and your goals, reach out.
2. Take advantage of the resources and guidance available to you. Call on your financial planner, a business coaching group or a trusted mentor, and listen to their observations.
3. Develop a written plan, with benchmarks, that takes you from where you are to where you want to be.