Small Business Mentoring (Part 2)

There is no time when small business owners aren’t busy solving a problem of one sort or another. The owner is the business, and vice versa. Even at rest, the businessperson is very likely thinking of their business.  This leads to an interesting contradiction: on one hand the small business owner is the boss-both operationally and legally the highest ranking individual in their very small universe-and conversely, profoundly aware that a single unintentional misstep could spell financial disaster and the end to all their efforts.

The entrepreneur’s own personality and circumstance will determine how they deal with this reality. A lot depends on what motivated the entrepreneur to become an entrepreneur in the first place. Traditionally, these have been identified as:

•  Self-Reliance: the opportunity to minimize the decisions and judgments of others; to be more in charge of life direction
  and path.
•  Poverty / Lack of Education:  The path to a viable, satisfying career path is blocked.
•  Financial Gain: An opportunity to realize profit from individual hard work and creativity.
•  Self-fulfillment: Converting self-gratifying skills and abilities into a career path and source of income.
•  Independence: An opportunity to participate in critical business decision-making.
•  Personal Satisfaction: An opportunity to do something different; to choose a self-defined career path.
•  Creativity: The ability to see opportunities and connections, whose existence is either unidentified or rejected by others.

Psychologists have struggled mightily with the concept of creativity. They generally distinguish between “creativity” and “Creativity”- little-c and big-C.  Little-c creativity is often used as an indicator of mental health.  It includes everyday problem-solving and the ability to adapt to change. Big-C creativity occurs when individuals solve problems or create an artifact that has a major influence on how other people think, feel and live their lives. Intuitively, they appear to be interconnected, but psychologists are uncertain how that interconnection actually works.

However, with creativity, there is also ego. I mention unacknowledged creativity and ego because-aside from being important psychological issues from a human development point-of-view-in my own mind they pose a vital area of self-examination that should impact any individual’s personal decision to get into-or to remain in-a small business.  While we all have an ego-and we all have had our individual creativity rejected, perhaps repeatedly rejected-for anyone to step into the world of business to alleviate this psychological pain is to almost literally jump from the frying pan into the fire. Being in business requires the ability to negotiate competing areas of self-interest, with both customers and employees, alike. The individual unable-or unwilling-to learn this vital social skill will never be successful in the business world. Or for that matter anywhere else.

I highly recommend to all: “Getting to Yes” (Fisher & Ury, 1981), and “Getting Together” (Fisher & Brown, 1989).

Whatever the individual motivations may be, most individuals-and certainly most small business people-recognize that they don’t have all the answers. A helping hand, another point-of-view looking at the same problem, is absolutely necessary to succeed in business.

Initially, the obvious choice for help is to go to friends and family. They are more accessible. We may know someone who seems to know something about business, and we ask for advice.  But even when that advice is useful, it soon peters out.  Unless someone is on a similar life path, with similar interests, our friends and family are not useful beyond an initial point as sources of business insight. Moreover, people have their own lives to lead.  Generally, the only way any business owner has at their disposal to guarantee interest in business problem-solving support is through the tried-and-true social mechanism of self-interest.

© Mark Lefcowitz 2014 - 2018
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