Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Top Five Surprisingly Necessary Qualities For Small Business Owners

(Note from Tara: This post is by Mark Silver, and appears on his Heart of Business blog. Used with the author's permission.)

It’s no joke, many small businesses end at a young age. Their owners, burnt out, broke, or simply preoccupied, give them up for good.

It can be a long, winding, rough path to get a business going. I’ve heard the same stories you have about the overnight sensations. But, for the vast majority of small business owners, it can take a lot of elbow grease and a lot of time before there seems to be any solidity.

When someone does move the sewing machine back into their home office, dusts off the resume, and heads back out into the job market, sometimes my heart aches for the missed opportunity and broken dreams. Other times I just nod, thinking it’s the best choice.

When is it which? And, more personally, how do you know whether you should stick it out and keep pushing, or give up?

A baseline assumption before we begin.

There are obvious questions: Are you providing a quality product or service? Do people need, use, and pay for things similar to what you’re offering? I’m going to start with the assumption that these are already established.

The real issue is that business comes, but not easily. You’ve been working really hard at it, and you’re exhausted and wondering if you should give up.

What does it really take to raise a business?

It doesn’t take an MBA from Harvard, or anywhere else. It doesn’t take spiritual enlightenment (although a grounded spiritual practice helps tremendously). And, it certainly doesn’t take a once-in-a-era miracle.

But it does take certain qualities. Five of them, in fact.

The Top Five Qualities

Everyone I’ve seen who’s gone from struggling to successful in business has been able to access these qualities, perhaps imperfectly and inconsistently, but they’ve got ‘em, and they cultivated them. And it pays off.

1. Vulnerability.
It’s okay to take off that armor, Lancelot. It’s too heavy and hot, anyway. Vulnerability is when you are open to letting things in. Want more money? You need to be vulnerable. Need help from others? Vulnerability. Learning about your blind spots, or something new about marketing… yup, vulnerability.

It’s the ability to say “I don’t know.” It’s the willingness to risk falling in love, and opening your heart. It’s when you say: “I can’t do it on my own. Can you help me?”

On this entire list, I rate vulnerability as the single most important success indicator for small business owners. Without it, you’re alone in the world, and can’t receive what you need. And, it’s hard to access the other four qualities without it.

2. Creativity.
Here’s how I define creativity: the ability to see how unlike things go together. Kinda like Sufism and Business, right? Creativity isn’t the power to create something out of nothing- it’s the insight to see what odd, strange, unlike things can be combined to be useful.

This helps in creating unique offers. This helps in finding a place to fit your home office when there isn’t a spare bedroom. This helps in spotting opportunities and niches.

It’s actually a poetic quality- and successful business owners cultivate this ability to fit odd pieces together in (sometimes) useful ways.

3. Trust. (or Faith.)
The stereotype is working seven days a week, late into the night, getting it all done. Yet, you can’t work ten to twelve hours every day and be truly productive. Things start to break down. You miss opportunities, fall blind to miracles. You need spaciousness.

And to get that spaciousness, you have to have trust. Without the deep trust in your heart that you are going to be okay, you can’t wrestle your to-do list to the ground and leave things, sometimes important things, undone, so you can access your creativity and aliveness.

4. Sovereignty.
You are in charge. It’s important, with vulnerability, to get advice, to learn, to let other sources of wisdom and experience guide you. But, when it comes down to it, you set the course.

Your business is a precious being, a vehicle for hopes, dreams, and transformative work in the world. It can provide a living for you, and perhaps others, and can help many people with some problem that’s creating struggle for them.

Finding inside yourself the willingness to act, sometimes with less care and more boldness. To take actions and make decisions, even if they are at times messy and imperfect. To be the captain of your ship. Without Sovereignty, you don’t have a business, you have a job.

5. Patience.
Wait for it… wait for it… Actually, the quality of Patience isn’t about waiting for your ship to come in. Patience is described by Sufi author and scholar Neil Douglas Klotz, in his book The Sufi Book of Life, as a pathway:

“This pathway can also help us work with projects or relationships where
progress is likely to be slow, over a long period of time. The heat of patience
and discomfort may, like a cooking compost pile, produce amazing future effects,
ones we couldn’t dream of…”

You aren’t going to make (six figures, a million, insert your lofty goal here) by New Year’s. Or by next New Year’s. But maybe three or five New Year’s hence, you just might. If you have Patience.

Can you order these Qualities on Amazon?

Uh… no. You can’t. That’s the troubling thing with these kinds of intangibles, you can’t buy them, you can’t create them, you can’t quantify them.

So, how do you get them? Let’s do the quick one-two-three.

Finish reading this article at Mark’s blog...go.

Mark Silver is founder of Heart of Business, a business consulting and healing practice that incorporates the Divine into work. He’s a Sufi healer and successful independent business owner in Portland, Oregon. Read more about Mark at Heart of Business.

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