Sunday 14 July 2013

Trapped In Small Business - How to Break Out

Burn-out in small business is a common ailment. The pressures are huge - long hours, multi-tasking, unpredictability of business, frustration - the list goes on. Yet making a decision to move out of small business into the normal job world can be even harder.

I once had a business partner and good friend who decided to leave our retail business and become an Australia Post employee. Our business had just gone through the recession of the early 1990's and the comparative calm of a structured day job where he had a few mates already working, proved very attractive. My friend lasted just one day, totally smothered by the restrictions and controls of the job, and realised that his entrepreneurial spirit just couldn't handle the transition.

One of the characteristics of small business operators is that they constantly challenge the way things are done because that's what you do when your money is tied up in your business. It is a natural reaction but not always a good fit for larger corporations or a business where somebody else holds the purse strings.

As small business operators we like to think we have a good cross-section of general management skills, and that is usually true, but outside jobs often require specialist skills or expertise in focused areas that can add to the overall business. A common complaint is that small business entrepreneurs are over qualified for base jobs but lack focussed expertise for high level jobs. That doesn't mean that there aren't jobs where a broad range of skills is desirable and where entrepreneurship is an important element. It is a matter of carefully selecting what roles you apply for.

An important part of making the transition to outside jobs is education. Many small business owners have become very adapt at running their business but some form the view that "nobody else can tell me how to run my business" How often have you heard that said at QVM? Keeping up with change is an essential element, not only in keeping your business relevant, but ensuring you have the skills for moving into the outside business world. You only have to look at the dramatic changes brought on by this digital age to realise that adapting to change and learning from others is critical. If you have kept up with business education programs you could have a very desirable mix of experience and education for prospective employers. 

Is this article an argument for moving out of your market business? Not really. Moving on will be an option for some but questioning our role as retailers and reinforcing the benefits can be equally productive. The day after leaving his Australia Post job my friend started building a toy shop business that became one of Melbourne's most successful independent educational toy retailers. Long live small business entrepreneurship!