2020 has been an especially difficult year for small business. Sadly, many businesses have been forced to shut down permanently, due to the plethora of difficulties encountered. Still, there are others whom have successfully navigated the storm that is COVID, overcoming an uncommon and at times overwhelming mix of hurdles; forced closures, decreased consumer spending, employee shortages, reduced revenue and tapped cash reserves. For those businesses still fighting to keep their entrepreneurial dreams alive, know there is hope.
Wikipedia defines hope as:
“Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large”.
I would add that hope is not the denial of, nor ignorance about the challenges one faces, but rather, it is the willingness to look at the bigger picture and actively choose to focus on potential solutions instead of the problems at hand.
These entrepreneurial fighters are the captains of their business vessels. It is their duty to successfully navigate the seas of change and to also bare the burden and pleasure of their success or failure. Of these captains, some have successfully optimized or pivoted their business models, arising from the storm as a stronger, leaner more savvy organization. Others have been less fortunate and are still experiencing the turbulence of the crashing waves while trying to steer their ship to clearer waters. These particular captains still believe for and envision a bright future ahead, but fear they don’t possess the needed capital nor qualify for the business loans needed to ride out the remainder of the storm. This needed capital is required to fund business pivots, marketing efforts or new talent acquisitions. These business owners are living with the constant angst of potential closure and despite their overwhelming hope, cannot see the path to move forward in success. For those whose future is uncertain, I would like to postulate the following:
Seek out alternative means of capital.
Typically, entrepreneurs fund their ventures with bank loans or second mortgages on their homes. Although these are relevant options for those that qualify, they are not the only options. Some alternatives to consider:
- Independent Lenders. With interest rates at an all time low, savvy investors will look for alternative means to improve their interest yield. You would be surprised how many people within your community would potential lend, given the right yield.
- Angel Investors. An angel investor (also known as a private investor, seed investor or angel funder) is a high-net-worth individual who provides financial backing for small startups or entrepreneurs, typically in exchange for ownership equity in the company. Often, angel investors are found among an entrepreneur’s family and friends (Google).
- Take on Investors. An Investor is a person or organization that puts money into financial plans, property, etc. with the expectation of achieving a profit. These investors can function as an independent lender or expect ownership shares of your company (Google).
- Crowd Funding. Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet. Crowdfunding is a form of crowdsourcing and alternative finance. In 2015, over US$34 billion was raised worldwide by crowdfunding (Wikipedia). Popular platforms are: KickStarter.com, Indiegogo.com, etc.
- Take on a Partner. Before accepting defeat and the closure of your business, consider taking on a business partner. Yes, you will have to give up some ownership shares and a bit of control, but access to needed capital and experience can pay off in dividend overtime.
Hire an Executive Coach
Why would you hire an executive coach when your business is struggling? Hiring the right executive coach can help your business to flourish in many ways, especially in times of difficulty. Here are just a few of the ways the right coach can add value:
They lend an experienced ear. The right executive coach will act as a neutral sounding board for brainstorming sessions and can draw on their vast experience to council on potential strategies. Further, they are not blinded by the passion of starting and raising a business. This allows them clear sight to better assess the current challenge and potential solutions. Their sole focus is serving their clients needs.
Access to Wisdom. The right coach will have the knowledge, wisdom, experience and business acumen necessary to point out and advise to possible options you have not yet considered. These coaches have likely encountered similar situations in their career and can help steer your organization through the mine field allowing you to come out the other side intact and stronger than before.
They Lend Focus. Your coach can help you to sift through the plethora of entrepreneurial ideas and focus on those ideas with the highest probability of success.
Drive Accountability. They help to foster an environment of accountability. The right coach will achieve this through regular communication and scheduled follow up calls at predetermined intervals; daily, weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.
An Affordable Investment. The right service focused coach will offer different finical options to meet most budgets. These investments are typically more affordable than one would think and generally, the return on investment for you can be substantial. In fact, most offer a FREE consultation to determine fit.
What to Look for in a Coach. Selecting the right executive coach is a very personal process. However, there are a few key points to consider:
Have they successfully founded and scaled a prior business outside of consulting?
How large was the business they scaled and thus, can they advise you through the differing stages of growing pains associated with a high growth company?
Are they limited to one specific industry, say manufacturing, or are they experienced in multiple industries?
Have they demonstrated a pattern of success across multiple business verticals?
Have they personally ever successfully navigated a business pivot, added aligned verticals and/or saved a company through strategic planning and action?
Have they won awards for their exceptional abilities in business or sales?
- Have they built and led large teams? If so, how large and were they operationally focused or sales focused?
- Have they built and led remote teams? If so, how large were the teams?
- Have they successfully implemented key technological pushes and/or are they familiar with leveraging technology for better process efficiencies and positive outcomes?
- Are they familiar with a startup environment in addition to large corporate structures ( each requires a different skillset)?
- Have they ever created a USP (Universal Sales Position) and can they give examples of its success?
- Do they appear both competent and easy to work with?
- Do they appear to have a service minded approach with a teaching spirit?
Don't be afraid to create a temporary bridge.
If you sense your business is viable, but are in need of personal earnings to keep going, in addition to your business’s needs, consider:
- Become an Independent Contractor. If you have marketable services that can add value to other business owners, being an independent is a wonderful way to maximize your income, control your time and help your client gain valuable insight and cost savings over time.
- Fractional Leadership. If you have leadership experience and are talented at driving accountability, and fostering alignment, consider offering fractional leadership services. In other words, sell your leadership talent in time blocks. This allows smaller companies to benefit from the experience and talent of someone seasoned, that they may not need full-time or currently cannot afford. It also allows you to only work part-time for someone else while freeing you to pursue your personal business endeavors.
- Accept a Job. Although I am a huge advocate and proponent for entrepreneurship, there is nothing wrong with working for someone else while you regroup and rebuild your business. In order to do this successfully, one should:
- Add Value. Look for an organization they can add value to as an employee, aka, an “intrapreneur”(an entrepreneur who takes ownership of their role within another organization)
- Be Dedicated. Commit to help them for as long as it take to ensure they are positioned well for success, even if your business begins to take off; it is the right thing to do and it ensures you build a stellar reputation.
- Think Differently. Think in terms of adding a second career versus taking a temporary job to bandaid your present situation.
- Become hyper vigilant at remaining organized. You will need to properly portion your time in such a manner that allows you to add value to the company you are working for, while also dedicating time to build your dreams. If Elon Musk can run two large companies simultaneously, then why can’t you?
- Remember. Many an entrepreneur leveraged a day job to fund their dream job. There is no reason one cannot take a step backward to move forward. After all, an arrow cannot be launched without first being pulled back.
Do you have what it takes?
Regardless of the sector your business serves, the universal function of an entrepreneur is to solve the problems others cannot, or the problems others are not willing to sit with long enough to see the solution. Remember, for every hurdle and every obstacle that is thrown in your path, there is always a solution; a hidden opportunity if you will. The challenge is that sometimes the opportunities are hidden so well, or the obstacle is so large, that one must act creatively to move forward. In business, as in life, it is ok to stumble, to falter, to fail. It is through trying, failing and challenging oneself that we learn and grow both personally and professionally. But one only truly fails if they quit.
My challenge to you? Seek out alternatives to keep your dream alive; be it alternative lending, taking on partners or investors, hiring an executive coach or even creating a bridge by helping build someone else’s dream. In the game of business, creativity, consistency and an indomitable spirit are the true champions of success. Commit to never, never, never give up and remember, “You cannot beat someone who never quits”...
About the author.
Robert Mitchell is an award winning serial entrepreneur, executive coach, strategy consultant and the founder of ExecHero, SafeHarbour and Safe Harbour Wellness. When he isn’t leading his organizations, he is passionately coaching other entrepreneurs on how to position their business and personal lives for massive success. Rob enjoys spending time with his family, working out, martial arts, writing, traveling and acting. If you are ready to begin your journey towards your optimal self, email the ExecHero Team at: CS@ExecHero.com .
"Challenge the ordinary, seek the extraordinary and live unapologetically outside of the box."-Rob Mitchell