Surviving Small Business


Lets not kid ourselves, small business is hard work. There are many benefits to being your own boss; independence, flexibility, fulfillment and of course you get to choose which 16 hours a day you work! As owners we can enjoy the good times when work is rolling in and things seem relatively easy. However, when it isn’t, business is tough and you need a survival strategy to get through. Here’s some tips I’ve used with myself and other business owners.

Expect The Ups and Downs

Apple sacked Steve Jobs, Nokia was worth $330 billion at it’s peak and sold soon after for $440 million, Kodak used to have 120,000 employees and now has 6,000. At times business can be great, everything is running smoothly, turnover is good, staff are happy,bills are paid and you have cash in the bank. You can take time off and enjoy the flexibility and benefits of being your own boss. At other times cash is short, customers scarce, staff leave, debts are mounting and you are working 16 hour days. You feel like you are falling further down the hole. Things can change quickly and it happens in most businesses. So don’t pangs and beat yourself up, hang in there, it takes tremendous resilience and determination to ride the inevitable Ups and downs of business.

Connect, Don’t Isolate

Business can absorb so much of your time it is easy to become isolated. Not many business owners have people they can relax and be real with, really real with. When
people ask you, “How’s business?” you can’t really say, “not good, I don’t know how I’m going to make payroll this week”. As owners we need to be the voice of hope and positivity to our staff, customers and referral partners. We need to inspire confidence through certainty and be the bright light that attracts, not the voice of despair that repels. So we regularly have to ‘fake it to make it’ but we need a place where we can be real. I’ve met many owners who can’t even be real to their husband or wife about the true state of their business. Owning a business can be a lonely journey so you need people you can be your real self with.

Build Connections with Other Business Owners

Employed friends just don’t understand the pressure and stress of running a business. While they complain that they can’t take five RDO’s in a row you are wondering how you can take on the two new staff you need but won’t see an income from for a month. Getting to know other business owners through networking groups puts you in contact with people who understand and can offer advice based on their own experiences. Find a networking or mastermind group you feel comfortable in and commit to attending.

Do Things Outside the Business You Enjoy

Often people get so wrapped up in their business they stop engaging in the sports or hobbies they used to love. We are all busy but we need to make time to step aside from our business to do the things that ‘spin our wheels’, the things that feed our spirit. Whether that is smashing out a gym session, walking beside a peaceful river, or screaming through the bush on a dirt bike (my stress relief ), you need to have some mental and physical distance from your business so you can return to it refreshed.

Engage Someone You Can Be Honest With

You need a relationship with a person who you can be honest with and who can be honest with you – even when you don’t want to hear it. For this reason it is better that this person is not emotionally connected to you. Look for a business adviser rather than a friend or partner. It is not unusual for owners to experience negative outcomes because their decisions were;

  • Rushed under pressure
  • Made due to fear
  • Unduly influenced by people or things
  • Based on their own bias and lack of knowledge

A classic example is owners who make instant dismissal decisions. An owner I know dismissed an employee who stole a large amount from him and was forced by Fair Work to pay him over $30 000. While the money hurt the injustice nearly broke him. All that grief and expense could have been avoided if he had made a phone call to an adviser. A good adviser will more than pay for them self in terms of money, but also in terms of ideas, information, peace of mind and reduced stress.

COUPLES – If you are a couple in business together it is even more important you have a third person to hold you accountable and say what needs to be said. I’ve seen many couples where one of them has to be the bad cop, nagging and harassing the other to do the things they need to do, or stop doing the things they shouldn’t be doing. This always results in resentment and conflict to the detriment of their relationship and the business.

Even if your business is going great guns I’d still recommend you practice these tips to ensure you keep a healthy perspective and can make great decisions and survive in your small business.

Grant Dempsey

Grant and his wife Karen have owned several small businesses and currently operate an Allied Health practice with eight staff. Years of solid business experience and with degrees in Psychology Grant is effective at helping owners, particularly couples, wade through the structural and personal challenges of running and growing a small business. If you are interested in mastermind groups or just chatting with Grant you can connect with him at

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Grant Dempsey
Grant is a passionate supporter of small business and small business owners. Having started and run several businesses he is well aware that owning a small business is no small task. He has experienced the complexities and challenges of having to wear multiple hats while juggling numerous balls, maxing out the credit card to make payroll and wondering if there is more to it all than existing to pay the bank, the landlord and the staff. As an avid reader and networker, and by drawing on his ‘on the job’ experience he is well placed to help business owners build and maintain the clarity and motivation to push through the uncertainty and fragility that many small businesses experience. p. 0448 026 644