“I am so sick and tired of dealing with this. I work so hard, sacrifice my family time, pay myself almost nothing – and just barely making my margins… I keep watching the bottom line like a hawk but I am no closer to where I want to be… I think I am ready to just walk away from this business… It’s causing me so much stress that I don’t know how much longer I can put up with it… ”
This were the comments of an entrepreneur I mentor, when I started mentoring her, talking about her business, which she built and ran for over 10 years now.
The truth about Laura’s business is that it has been very successful for the first 6 years. But after the 2008 recession things never quite got back to where they have been. However, Laura’s business did survive, while so many had to close their doors. And this she was very proud of.
What Laura didn’t realise is that even after the economy improved, she continued to run her business in survival mode, getting enough results not to fail completely, yet not growing or moving forward.
Most entrepreneurs start their businesses with so much passion and vision within the first few years of operation. They are eager to wake and push their vision. At this time, the vision is crystal clear, they know what they want, how they will achieve it and when the project to achieve it.
Do you find yourself buried in the daily grind of running your business and spend almost no time on strategising for growth? Do you keep throwing band-aid solutions on problems without investing the time and resources to figure out what’s really going on? If so, you may be stuck in survival mode too.
Business is not a straight line and over time challenges such as lack of cash flow, problematic clients or lack of clients etc, starts to slowly erode the vision you had. The stresses that entrepreneurs go through fighting fires makes them keep their head down and focus on working IN the business and not ON the business.
Working in the business over a long period of time makes that crystal clear vision to become ambiguous. Lose the vision, lose the direction. Where there is no vision, people perish, the same applies in business.
An entrepreneur who has been on survival mode for years when asked what she wants will say I want enough sales to pay salaries at the end of the month, I want enough cash not for my car to be repossessed by the bank. The same entrepreneur when asked what she wants in the first year of opening of her business will say I want to build an empire, I want to revolutionise the industry, I want to be best in the industry. I want to be the most innovative company in the industry.
Entrepreneurship is not easy, but if it were, everyone would be doing it.
Over time, survival mode steals the vision of a business. Working so hard to put out fires every month, working so hard to collect scrap clients so that you can make it to the next month makes you a scrap collector, not a builder of an empire.
Vision of the business is at the centre of what drives an entrepreneur. If you lose sight of that, your will float and be on survival.
The danger about being a survival mode entrepreneur is that this can be your new normal and a habit that will last for a long time.
A lot of business don’t transition to growth stage because they are stuck on survival. When you are in survival mode, you make survival mode decisions, you doubt your capabilities, you doubt your worth, you doubt your products, your pricing is so low because you don’t want to lose that client, you need that money so bad. If you are building a legacy business, you know what you want and you are not going to take short cuts to get there.
While survival mode is an essential skill to master during tough financial times, it also leads to instability and an uncertain business future. Getting out of survival mode and transitioning into a ready-to-grow state is a challenge many small business owners and entrepreneurs face.
Escaping survival mode means transitioning your business to a better place with more clients, better service, and more profits.
When you are on survival mode, go back to that original vision, ignite that vision, ask yourself why did you want to be an entrepreneur. Live that vision passionately.
Be driven by passion not survival.
Don’t make survival mode a habit. This is true for entrepreneurs and also for working people. You were not born to work and pay bills.
When the vision is permanent the challenges that come may injure but can never destroy you. – Lucas Moloi