By Glen Mellors
A few years ago, I was asked to speak on the topic of why businesses and partnerships fail. When it came time to put pen to paper, or rather fingers to keyboard, I was reminded of a comment made by Ronald Coleman (long-time shop management writer for Plumbing & HVAC magazine) — you can give business owners all the tools, but if they never come out of the box, they will remain floating in a sea of mediocrity.
What do business failures and partnership failures have in common? I hope this five-minute read will tie it together.
If you have been in business for more than three years, you have likely attended several business improvement seminars, webinars, and conferences. You might even say you’ve heard it all before. But if you haven’t already implemented what you’ve heard at these events, it is likely that you probably never will.
Commitment to implementation is like skydiving; either you’re going to make the jump or not. There is nothing in between. The implementation process itself is full of testing, learning, and applying. And then, it’s time to start the process all over again.
The reasoning behind why business owners tend not to implement new changes looks different depending on the individual. Oftentimes, the answers are usually what is expected — too short on time, not enough staff, or lack of funds. But the key to solving a lack of implementation is to strive for motivation. Ask anyone that has wanted to start working out at the gym. It is so easy to say that they’ll pick up again next Monday. But when that Monday rolls around, it is so easy to come up with an excuse.
The key to solving this is to maintain motivation. This is where the failure of success and partnerships start to share common ground. What I had failed to realize is that every business owner has a different measurement of success. To expect every business owner we coach to have the same level of motivation and desire to implement change is in itself the definition of insanity.
It is up to the business owner to take inventory of expectations concerning the level of desired success. This is where you decide to build a plan and act. Just like your staff becoming complacent, you too can become complacent if your desire to succeed has been accomplished.
Each business owner has their own measurement of success. I have clients who have reached the pinnacle of success by being debt-free, owning a nice home, and making a steady income of $40,000 to $60,000. No one can tell you that you’re wrong. Congratulations, you are successful!
I also have clients making more than $500,000 and are still striving for their pinnacle of success. I have clients that are building a legacy business to pass along to their children, and clients who are building money-making machines in hopes of gathering the highest possible dollar when implementing their exit strategy.
There are no wrong answers, but there is a wrong prescription. If the motivation is not there, it is called setting yourself up for failure. Conversely, if you are slow but steady in implementing change, you are still lapping those businesses sitting on the couch.
Reflect on what your key motivators are. Depending on where you are in life, this can change. No motivation equals no change. Life changes, lessons, or perhaps a life crisis can motivate change. It is those key motivators that will drive us to implement change.
My wife owned her own business for more than 20 years. Steady as she goes, consistent, predictable, and comfortable as an old pair of slippers. She asked me one day why I didn’t coach her like I did other companies. I took a chance and answered honestly — she is not coachable. Yes, we are still together. The point is that some business owners are just not coachable.
Fast forward three years and she became a grandmother to two sets of twins. The new grandma’s motivation changed, and she became coachable.
As a business coach, we have to be mindful of whether or not to lead or push the client. No one can dream your dream. Only the business owner can follow through on their dream end goal.
Like a bad dream, fear of failure can dampen motivation faster than any other factor. Are you afraid to step out of your comfort zone? Most of us are. Fear of failure, fear of taking chances or risks, fear of handling success, and worst of all, fear of losing control are all common in the business world.
But fear is the stories we make up in our heads when we fall prey to overthinking. We tell ourselves over and over again until we believe the fallacies are true.
For some, fear can be a driving force, while for others, it can lead to crippling anxiety. Fear is the number one reason people roadblock change or risk. In this case, fear may be standing in the way of someone else’s success. It can also dampen motivation faster than any other factor. Are you afraid to step out of your comfort zone? As the saying goes, “If you live in fear of the future because of the past, you may miss out on an opportunity in the present.”
Getting out of the way
So, what does fear have to do with motivation? Fear can be a root cause of partnership failures, as previously stated, fear blocks motivation. We can blame partnership breakdowns on any number of things — infidelity, abuse, laziness, but I will stand by my word: the root of every breakup in partnership is the inability to manage the indifferences in motivation.
Motivation is the engine that empowers people to achieve their dreams, and even if your partner shares your dream but has a lower level of motivation, then the partnership starts to break down. One will feel that they are burdened by the weight of the other. Left unattended, the weight will lead to making tough choices. This could look like one partner removing themself from certain day-to-day tasks, leaving the other partner feeling like they are carrying all of the weight alone. Perhaps it is your partner that is standing in the way of achievement. Standing in the way of your staff can also hinder motivation too.
The key to a successful partnership is simple — share the same dream, divvy up the work along the way, and remember to support one another through it all. Accept the past without regret, handle the present with confidence, and face success without fear. :