Being a business owner is a little like being a mother and it’s judged just as harshly. Every mother (and yes, I speak from experience), at some point thinks she’s just not up to snuff – not as good as she ‘should’ be. Your child should be this or that and as a mother you should be better than you are – you should be a ‘good’ mother (a somewhat illusive thing – a bit like a unicorn).

Particularly when your kids are young, it is a constant battle with your worst inner demons. The ‘should’, however is based on myths perpetrated by media and other mothers desperately trying to make themselves feel better by putting another mother down. Too much ‘should’ for anyone’s liking. And frankly, I was thrilled to swap mothers’ group for work as soon as I could (and yes, I felt guilty about that too).

But, having a business baby isn’t that different.

Back in January, I sat with a group of friends, all business owners, supposedly having an ‘unvarnished’ conversation about how things were really going for us. Everyone had just returned from holidays and they were feeling refreshed and ready to go. Everything was on track, doing well, couldn’t be better – yada, yada, yada. Bluster and bravado.

Until one of the group shyly looked up and said, “um, actually, I’m having some cash flow issues”. And just like that, the conversation got real. Of the eight people in the conversation, six were in exactly the same spot. But no-one was actually going to readily admit to it.

Yup – three-quarters of the group were going to sit there in silence and inner turmoil thinking it was just them and indeed had already been thinking it was just them for a couple of weeks and beating themselves up for somehow not being as good as they ‘should’ be at being a ‘good business owner’.

It was Christmas for goodness sake – almost every business has cash flow issues (aside from retail) at Christmas. People forget to pay, go on holidays, invoices fall into a black hole, business owners are otherwise occupied, etc – read everything’s late being paid. Speak to any accountant or CFO and they’ll tell you the same thing.

It got me thinking how delicate a balance being a business owner can really be. That we feel the need to project our best game face all the time, even when it’s to our own detriment. That we in fact ‘should’ all over our business lives because we’re trying to live up to the image of some mythical creature called a ‘good business owner’.

You know the myths.

  • You should only be doing what you love;
  • if you’re doing what you love – the money should follow;
  • you should be building a highly leveraged business;
  • you should be rich;
  • you should be living the good life;
  • you should be aiming to retire at 55;
  • you should be reaching every forward;
  • you should be better than you are
  • failure is not acceptable, but if you do you should do it quickly and be a world-wide success next time.
  • And my favourite, you should be working only 4 hours a week.

Ugh!! Any wonder as business owners we’re all a bit tired. We’re all chasing a myth that doesn’t really exist. When in reality, most of us are just trying to deliver value to our customers.

Had that one lone voice not spoken up, six people would have continued to ‘should’ all over their business life.

Don’t be the one that didn’t speak up for fear you’re not good enough. So if you get that chance, be that one lone voice. You’ll never know who’s sanity you might be saving that day.

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