When I first opened my business, I wanted to be my own boss, have great staff, and earn a good wage.
Simple. That was my plan.
I didn’t have any other plan. I had no idea what a business plan was. This was my picture of success. I knew I was good at what I did, and that’s all I thought that counted.
I wanted to do everything differently from where I had worked previously. I was going to be a better boss, a better person and have a better business.
It didn’t take long to realise that I didn’t understand nor have the skills for bookkeeping, budgeting, employment law, superannuation, negotiating leases and dealing with landlords, banks, loans and overdrafts, consumer law, negotiating with product companies, marketing and advertising, social media, Google and SEO, advertising, building a website, mental health, recruiting, interviewing and keeping staff, being a psychologist for clients and staff, OH&S regulations, what goes in a first aid box, training teams, council regulations, how often to change over a fire extinguisher, dealing with difficult, demanding and rude customers, litigation, toxic staff, dealing with the unions, understanding apprenticeships and training, creating a team culture, developing staff and how to make money, employment contracts, protecting IP, business insurance, audit insurance, director’s insurance… and so the list went on.
I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
I learnt that I was time-poor working in the business and on the business. I realised that I had to either learn or delegate.
Finding the right people is also time-consuming, and in business, who has the time?
Yet these are the expectations when you are in business — expectations that government departments, regulators and big businesses expect you to know and understand.
Bring on 2020. This year has been a roller coaster.
Never has there been a more challenging year for businesses, experiencing droughts, bushfires, floods, hail and of course COVID-19.
Some businesses have experienced all of these in 2020.
Never has there been a time more confusing and frustrating for businesses nationwide. Conflicting views, conflicting news, conflicting emotions.
Everything we have worked for and all we have become has been threatened: our health, our success and our livelihoods.
Who would have thought that going to a shopping centre or going to a crowded bar could be a threat to us or our business, our family or friends?
One staff member who may have COVID-19 means loss of income, staff entitlement costs, lost clients or even closure.
Now we need to understand infection control and new O&HS expectations on making a workplace safe from COVID-19 for our staff and clients. The reality is, 1.5-metre distancing means less income, but staff and clients want to know they are safe at work.
I do believe small business owners are underestimated. And we often underestimate and undervalue ourselves too.
For those who have been in business for a while, most of you have learnt or resourced all the above skills while working on your business, your staff and clients, and often with a family to consider.
COVID-19 is not going to disappear for 2021. There’s no guarantee that on December 31 this terrible virus will no longer be the noose around our neck that’s it’s trying to be.
Yet, we all want this year to disappear so we can restart a new decade.
If you’ve been through all of this, I think it’s time to acknowledge how far you’ve come as a business owner.
Not only would you have many more skills, but staying in business takes resilience, hope, resourcefulness and leadership.
It also takes character and COVID-19 has brought out some of the best in us.
It’s been a rollercoaster up to now and now it’s a long and winding road to 2021.
Pat yourself on the back, acknowledge how far you’ve come, take care of your mental health and physical wellness.
And never give up on hope.