No business owner has ever said, ‘I am so glad I hesitated’. Which is why ‘I wish I did it sooner’ is something we hear a lot from owners as they join The Icehouse community.
Strange then, because when entrepreneurs start out, they are the courageous ones, the innovative, fearless and creative barrier pushers. Do owners become more cautious as they progress – shackled by the responsibilities of the livelihood of others (colleagues, peers and family) or simply too immersed in the business to see the value in their own personal and professional development (no time, no spare cash, it’s not the right time)?
In our experience, ‘I Wish I Did It Sooner’ is ok, because it points to a new direction, a new way of thinking which invariably enables businesses, and their owners, to solve previously insurmountable challenges, to be more comfortable in making decisions for change, to create new opportunities and to set up new ways of doing things which ultimately contribute to a better business – one filled with growth and opportunity.
“When business owners tell me they don’t have time, but then do sign up for something like the Owner Manager Programme, for example, within a few months of completion they tell me they wish they did it sooner,” says Anthony Gold, Customer Growth Partner for Auckland City and North Harbour at The Icehouse.
“To help them get over that line, two takeaway phrases keep cropping up: ‘What's the cost of not doing it?’ and ‘What’s the outcome of not doing it?’ When you go down that parallel universe, it's pretty ugly.”
That’s because the ownership road is long, arduous and lonely, with many owners fighting silent personal and professional battles to make it work.
“I also ask potential ‘OMPers’, when is the right time that you deserve to focus on yourself?” says Anthony. “This can trigger something which propels owners to come back and say, ‘I think you're right. I want to try and shift things around.’ On an emotional level, often the pay-off is that the owner gets their life back.”
The results are transformative. ‘I Wish I Did It Sooner’ comes with a wealth of benefits – stabilisation, delegation, management support, superior role definition, a clearer purpose on short and long-term goals, and more efficient systems and processes.
James Galloway, Manager of O’Donnell Park Barging is an OMP and Leadership Development Programme alumni. “[I heard about] this Icehouse thing and how going on a course would be better for me. I thought, ‘Well I don't really need it’ but looking at it now… I wouldn't change it for the world. If I had my time again, I wish I’d signed up way earlier.
“It had been a long time since I sat down to learn anything. I was a little bit hesitant about what the value was going to be. But I could see that if I wanted to contribute to the business, I needed to know more about how the business runs,” says Shane Forward from Wingate Architects and an OMP alumni.
“You think you know how a business runs; you pay bills, you are seeing the invoices, those sorts of things. But, it is like filling in these blurry bits that were there between the bits of knowledge. While you are by no means an expert, in the end, you have a more holistic view of the whole business.”
So many alumni tells us that it was those “quieter” moments, when the business was in reset and cruise control mode (often the case for seasonal businesses) or where the owner was at their most hesitant, that they shifted their mindset to one of self-professional development and training.
“At present, owners in certain industries and regions are being a bit cautious, which is understandable. They know they have to do the mahi but it can be difficult to find the time to work on where the business is going to be in a few years,” says Maryse Dinan, Icehouse Customer Growth Partner for Auckland South and the Waikato regions.
“But, ultimately, what they need to be doing now is future-proofing themselves in those quieter moments so they are best-placed to take full advantage when the markets and opportunities do pick up.”
Are you the owner working 80 hours a week on the business and not affecting change? The owner who feels they are on their own and can’t ask or get help? This is not a sustainable existence and help is out there.
Hesitation isn’t an immovable hurdle, just something to move off the road. But it is an obstacle to growth, and, best of all, can be cleared risk-free. Owners know the value of upskilling for their business's sustainability and success and this can often begin with small steps, by reaching out and discovering what organisations like The Icehouse can do for them.
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