Business Owners Don’t Cry — Or Do They?
When I train new advisors, I clue them into something that they will inevitably witness: Business owners cry. Men. Women. Young. Old. All of them.
When you think about it, it makes sense why business owners are driven to tears on occasion. Here are four reasons why I think their crying is justified:
The stakes are high.
Our clients aren’t just working in some business – they are working in their business. This is their dream, their baby. As we work on improving the business, on accelerating the growth of that business, we talk about things that they have put hours and hours into thinking about. They have likely invested a good chunk of their personal wealth into the business – and in doing so, they may have put their remaining wealth at risk. Small business owners are all in.
Growing their business and having it succeed also means more than just financial investment. So much of their time, energy and passion are invested in the business. They ignored the good advice of so many people who told them that they were crazy to start a business. There have been countless missed vacations, rounds of golf, dinners with friends or family.
The stakes are high. They wonder, Did I do the right thing? Are all those decisions I made going to pay off? Should I never have embarked on this journey?
It’s not just “business” — it’s their life and who they are.
Our clients aren’t just risking their nest egg or embarrassment – being a small business owner means so much more. Being a small business owner becomes part of their identity. It’s a status.
It doesn’t just affect their external identity, it’s also part of how they view themselves. There’s a lot of freedom that comes with the job. It means having choices about when to work, what to do (or not do), who to work with and who not to. With that freedom comes accountability. Not accountability to a boss like in a regular job – accountability to themselves and to their families. It’s their fault if there is not enough money for vacation, a new car or their child’s education. When the business is a success, the business owner is seen as a success. If it is a failure, the business owner is seen as a failure.
They feel like no one cares … and then they find someone who cares.
Many people don’t know what it’s like to be a business owner – but that doesn’t keep them from making all kinds of assumptions. “It must be so great to have all that freedom and make your own decisions…” Sure, it’s great to be the one to decide which one your hardworking, loyal employees you should let go in order to save the jobs of all the other ones. And who wouldn’t love deciding whether to invest more of your personal money into your business? Those decisions are so much fun! But no one feels sorry for the boss. She’s the boss; it’s her job!
Because we have sat in that seat we can create a safe place for our clients – where they don’t feel so alone, they can talk about those hard choices with someone who does care (and cares about them). There aren’t a lot of places like that in most business owner’s life – and it can be such a relief to find one.
So our clients sometimes cry because they finally feel understood and that someone cares.
It’s a dream come true.
There is one other reason that we see clients get emotional – and this is the best one!
When the business starts to turn the corner and the cash-flow starts improving, the sales are growing, the clients and employees are happy and appreciative – we may see tears. But these are tears of joy! For most businesses this happens so gradually that there isn’t one day when you look back and say, “See, now things are good!” Most often it happens a little at a time, slowly getting better, less risky, more sure. The business owner slowly feels less exposed and more confident. They start taking some “chips off the table” by getting out of the personal guarantees on their credit so they can put some cash away and take more vacations. Then something happens that reminds them of how far things have come, of how different things are now than when they started, and the tears flow.
These are the best kind of tears.
Do you feel too exposed? Who do you have to talk to about that? Is there another business person that you can turn to who will double check your decisions? Who can help you to reduce risk, and increase rewards?
Photo credit: by lanier67