The 3 lies of small business owners
More than a few years back, when I was involved in student politics, us sophisticated hacks had a phrase called the ‘the three biggest lies’. The most prominent statement was that ‘the payment is in the post’ – a line that could never be proved and thus ensured a few extra days of financial credit were secured.
Today, as a business coach and mentor, I have come to learn that I am faced by a similar ritual, only this time played out by my clients, typically those who are owners of small or medium sized enterprises. They set themselves tasks – call them homework assignments – but I know that there are never going to be completed.
As of old, there are three tales that frequently repeat themselves. Here’s what I mean.
Lie no’ 1: I am going to create a budget.
Everyone (just about) accepts the need for a budget. Far fewer understand what that means. In one sentence, a budget centralises on one page all the assumptions of both revenues and expenses over a future fixed period of time.
This challenge comes with two requirements: First, the effort forces leaders to ask questions about what they really want to do and to prioritise. Second, they need to verify their numbers.
Some people have these skills, and patience. Many a CEO does not, but refuses to recognise the fact, until it is too late.
Lie no’ 2: I am going to create the content for my website
Similar story here. In a small set up, typically the CEO is the founder. So he or she wants to be the one to describe the operation for the website or Facebook page and in their own way. Fair enough.
This implies that they know what they want to write and also how to write it. It assumes that they have set aside the time to write it. All three conditions apply in parallel. Appreciating this fact – that writing content is a talent that not everyone possesses – is evidently not so easy for people to internalise.
And the result is that as inertia. Actually, it is worse. A poor social media presence often implies lost sales.
Lie no’ 3: I am sure that they – the potential target – will buy once they have heard my pitch
Like every other part of a business, selling is an art form. It can be learnt. However, it is not that simple. Many a CEO seem to feel that their targets will just fall into place. Sales will happen, growing slowly but surely.
I find it staggering to consider the number of clients who come to my office in Jerusalem, explaining that for them, a sales meeting is a chance to talk and show off. It is the very opposite. It is session where they should spend most of their time listening.
To rephrase: Before you educate somebody about your own game – i.e. try to sell them something – you yourself are required to undergo a learning process conducted by the potential customer.
So, why the lies? Why do people not want to own up to what they do not know?
There is no simple explanation. Partly arrogance. Many of us are taught, incorrectly, that it is wrong to seek help. And another reason is that the business owner is trying to save time and, more importantly, money.
And with most other cases, if you lie, it costs you in the end.