You already know that to grow your business you need to focus on strategy, execution, people and money. What you may not know is the single most important thing you must do is love your business. This isn’t some new flavor of “woo.” The reality is if you don’t love your business, no one else will either. Not your clients, not your team, and especially not potential buyers. Because the way you feel about your business fuels the actions you take, and it’s your actions that create results.
Your relationship with your business is like any other relationship.
It includes the way you think, feel and talk about it. Do you complain about your business? Do you feel trapped by it? If so, chances are you think the reason is because of the employees, the clients, the market, cashflow or some other reason outside of yourself. A new competitor surfaces, an employee quits, the clients don’t pay on time, your bank balance is low. But those are just circumstances. It’s our thoughts about those situations that lead to feelings of being frustrated or trapped, not the circumstances themselves.
When we are frustrated by our business, feelings such as resentment and irritation are driving our actions. We still take action, but we have to use willpower to overcome these negative feelings. This is much harder, not as effective and certainly doesn’t feel as good as taking action from love. It’s like driving down the road with one foot on the gas and one on the break. Your progress is slow, you create a lot of friction and wear out the parts. It’s the difference between feeling impatient as you rush through an employee review because you are running late and being grateful that you have an employee to review in the first place.
Signs that your relationship with your business is in trouble:
Neglect: you try to escape from the pressure by avoiding your business and abdicating your responsibilities; you mentally check out
Disconnection: you don’t know the vibe of your team, not sure about the level of customer satisfaction
Inflexibility: you are sure you know the “right” way to do things and don’t listen to suggestions; you are quick to judge or criticize
Lack of commitment: you haven’t created specific goals with numbers and dates, and received buy-in from your team, you daydream about “quitting”
Vagueness: you don’t know where you are in relation to your financial and performance targets and don’t communicate your expectations clearly to the team or your clients; your position in the market is also unclear
Negative feelings: you feel frustrated, resentful, impatient, worried, anxious
Love is just a concept until you believe in it and you feel it into existence.
Try this exercise: think of your business like it is a person. How does it look and feel when you have a loving relationship with another person? You want to spend time with them, you pay attention and listen to them, you are committed and willing to be open. That’s exactly what you must do to grow your business. The way to love your business is to create an intentional daily practice to do these things:
- Prioritize your business: the quality of the time you spend with your business matters more than the amount of time. Are you really interested in what your clients and your team are doing, what they think and how they feel, or are you just going through the motions? Is your business important to you because it pays your bills or because you genuinely care about it? Schedule time to work on your business, not just in it. Show up for your business fully present.
- Be intimate with your business: love it, nurture it, treasure it. Imagine a relationship with your partner – it’s ridiculous to think you would not know important details about their life, like the names of their parents, what they love to do, where they work, their favorite food. When you are in an intimate relationship you know these things. Understanding your financials and performance metrics is like knowing these important pieces of information! If you care about something, you pay careful attention to it.
- Be committed to your business: don’t give up when things are hard or there are setbacks. Don’t require outside evidence to keep going. Create a strong internal belief that doesn’t shift when something goes wrong. Don’t allow thoughts of, “This will never work, I can’t do it, I don’t know how.” Instead, create a new belief that you practice frequently, “I can do it and I will figure it out.” Both are stories you tell yourself. One just feels a lot better and will get you the results you want because your feelings fuel your actions.
- Be vulnerable: be willing to admit to yourself when you don’t know something and be OK with it. Instead of feeling like a fraud, just get ready to learn. If you are afraid, know that it is because of a thought you are thinking. We think circumstances cause us to feel a certain way but that is never the case. It is always our thoughts about circumstances that cause feelings. Look at the thoughts that make you feel uncomfortable and either change them or accept them and then do the thing you were afraid of anyway. Being vulnerable also means being open to feedback and other ways of doing things.
- Communicate expectations clearly of your business: create goals, timelines and expectations for everyone on your team. Measure progress, visualize it, talk about it. Clarity is kindness. It’s not knowing that makes people uncomfortable.
- Appreciate your business – be grateful that you have it! Practice feeling good about it. Remember why you started it. If you don’t intentionally practice treasuring your business, the daily pressures of running it will leave you feeling exhausted instead of excited. Choose to feel amazed at how far you have come and excited for the incredible experience of being an entrepreneur. Appreciate yourself for having the courage to build a business and appreciate your team and your clients for being on the journey with you.
For your business to flourish you must love it.
Love your business: spend time with it, take care of it, be patient with it, show up for it, set boundaries for it, nurture it, be vulnerable with it. Be open to receive, honor your commitments, listen, and have fun. It simply feels good to love and as you improve your relationship with your business, the other relationships in your life will improve as well.