Michael Duncan, new regional consultant for the Longwood Small Business Development Center, has an addiction problem. But far from drugs or alcohol, Duncan is hooked on starting businesses. Before he worked as a full time consultant for the Longwood Small Business Development Center, Michael Duncan started seven businesses.
Of those, he considers 5 to be successes, one a failure and one he terms “an unmitigated disaster.”
These days, Michael gets the rush of start-up without the risk by offering his expertise free of charge to SBDC clients. Read on to find four of his top do’s and don’ts for small business owners from a man who’s well acquainted with the highs and lows of entrepreneurship.
1. DON’T Over Extend
As someone who once was juggling over five businesses at the same time, Duncan has learned a thing or two about stretching yourself too thin. For small business owners, the struggle to manage time effectively and make growth-producing decisions is real. When you’re pulled in too many directions, it is easy to be blind sided.
Duncan recalls what his own experience with attempting to do too much taught him: “I learned about the power of unintended consequences. Small business owners try to anticipate what needs to happen, what should happen or what will happen, and you often don’t get creative enough analyzing it. Hindsight is always perfect vision. But in hindsight, most of the time you’ve missed a signal.”
2. DO Talk to Others
For Duncan, listening to his wife was one thing he wishes he had done more. While fellow business partners may have a good understanding of the specifics of a certain problem, seeking counsel from someone whom you love and trust—who is outside of the situation—can be key. Their advice can be the difference between success and failure.
Duncan says during a particularly chaotic period, his wife offered some advice. According to Duncan, “She made a couple of nice remarks about me having too much going on and I think you’re losing focus. If I had stopped what I was doing, listened to her, I think I could have avoided a good degree of failure.”
3. DON’T Lose Focus
You’ve done the grunt work of carefully figuring exactly what your business will do and what services it will provide. You’ve painstakingly located your target market and you have a plan for growth. Don’t toss away those hours of work by losing the laser-like focus you’ve striven to attain.
“Once you figure out what it is you want to do and how you want to do it, you have to look at it carefully to figure what exactly you’re doing,” says Duncan. “There’s great joy when it all comes together and it works. There’s always great joy in hard work.”
The key is keeping your goal clear and your decisions intentional. According to Duncan, for better or worse, small business owners are going to make thousands of decisions a day and each one of those will have consequences.
4. Remember You Are in Control of You
“I made a pledge to myself many years ago that I would not be miserable for more than six weeks,” says Duncan. If something is not working, whether in your business or your life, don’t be shy about fixing it.
“All businesses are a reflection of their owners,” says Duncan. “Especially small businesses. Everything in life and business is interdependent. While you cannot control the world around you; you can control how you respond to it.”