The Passion of the Small Business Owner

By Greg Nathan posted June 27, 2024

This Tip is dedicated to all business owners, including franchisees, franchisor founders, and independent operators. Your work deserves to be celebrated now more than ever before.

I grew up in a small business family and have owned and operated FRI for 35 years, so I understand the anxieties and joys of running a business. We have also surveyed over 30,000 franchisees on how they feel about their business, enabling me to combine my direct experience with a researcher's perspective.

Yes, it's tough out there

While members of the public might legitimately complain today about the cost of living, the costs and pressures on small business owners are the most difficult many have seen.

Despite this, business owners around the world rise each morning with optimism and determination, knowing many people depend on them, including their staff, customers and families. This is what I love about business owners. Their passion for their work, their down-to-earth approach to dealing with others, and their commitment to do what’s needed because they understand that, ultimately, the buck stops with them.

Owning a business is a little like parenting a child. Both involve ongoing tests of character. Both require continual nurturing, and both draw on that unrelenting belief that, despite the worry, something good and satisfying is bound to come of it all.

To continue the analogy, a babysitter or a teacher may care deeply about your child's welfare, but they will give them back to you with a smile when their shift is done. Similarly, while your staff may care for your customers and feel some responsibility for the success of your business, it's not theirs.

The Owner's Eye

Of course, every business owner wants their team to approach their work through the lens of the owner's eye, treating the business as if it were their own. Sometimes they will, but mostly they will think, "I respect my boss, I like our customers and I want the business to succeed, but I also have other priorities in my life that I need to take care of."

This is the difference between accountability and responsibility. Responsibilities can be shared, but accountabilities can only have one owner, and here, it is the business owner. As owners, we are accountable for ensuring our business remains profitable, our staff and suppliers are paid, our customers are satisfied, and we pay our taxes and comply with a mountain of government regulations. It's a huge ask. But this is what differentiates the business owner mindset from the employee mindset.

And yet, despite the stresses and the struggles, the long hours, the financial uncertainty, and the ongoing disappointments, many business owners still say, there's nothing else they'd rather be doing. Why is this?

Insights from Alfred Adler

At the turn of the last century a famous psychologist, Alfred Adler, concluded that we all need three things to be happy.

  • Firstly to believe that we matter and are respected, not just by others, but also by ourselves.
  • Secondly, to have meaningful work that we enjoy, and that gives us a sense of achievement.
  • And thirdly we need to have a sense of identity and to feel we belong to a family or social group.

When I reflect on my role as a business owner, I can honestly say it has gifted me a sense of self-respect, purpose, and connection with others, knowing that I am making a positive difference to my team, peers and customers. I am sure that many business owners feel the same, especially those in franchise networks where social connections are typically strong.

So I just wanted to encourage and remind all the business owners out there about the value of your efforts. Not just in supporting families, providing life education and careers for young people, solving customer problems and contributing to local communities, but also using your business as a vehicle for your personal growth. However you need to apply some personal and business disciplines, or you’ll burn out. To finish, here are some evidence-based tips to help you on your journey.

The Franchisee Wheel of Excellence

Several years ago we conducted a large study on 2,400 franchise owners from 74 different networks. One of the important findings that separated the top and bottom performers was a five-factor model we call The Franchisee Wheel of Excellence which can be used to help business owners thrive, especially in difficult times. (Our latest innovation, the FranchiseLab Mentor is based on these factors and our franchisee conference presentations also include them).

#1: Cultivate a team of supporters. Nurture relationships with people who want you to succeed and who will encourage you when you need a hand. Start with your franchisor team, peers, and family.

#2: Focus on what you want to be known for. Build brand passion into your culture by being a positive example and regularly reminding your team about the attitudes and behaviours you need them to practice with customers.

#3: Embrace a growth mindset. Strive to improve rather than prove yourself. Also continuously seek opportunities to drive sales, and be proactive by using the mantra, "If it is to be it is up to me".

#4. Maintain personal vitality. Pay attention to the factors that protect your energy. Your most valuable assets are good physical health, a sharp mind, emotional resilience, and a sense of purpose.

#5: Invest time to master what matters. This involves regularly reviewing ambitious goals, monitoring key performance indicators, refining systems, and maintaining an efficient meeting rhythm with your team.

So, here's to the business owners that have put themselves out there. May your perseverance, your commitment to personal and business growth, and your willingness to collaborate with others result in the satisfaction and profitability you seek.

Until next time,

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