The business practice they don’t teach you in business school
I was recently enjoying a day of window-shopping along Sacramento Street in San Francisco when I walked into one of my favorite boutiques. The owner recognized me, and during the course of our conversation I asked her how her business was doing. She told me her business was so strong that she was going to open up a second store. As much as I was thrilled to hear of a small business doing well in this economy, my first reaction was, â€œReally?â€ I asked if she was ready take on more risk during such a rough time. She looked at me as if I had snuck into the deep recesses of her brain, and then settled in to tell me the whole story.
She hadnâ€™t been actively thinking about expanding, but a few months ago some prime retail space became available in another great shopping area in the city. The commercial real estate broker said the property was in demand and, if she wanted it, she needed to jump, and fast. So the boutique owner put in an offer.
Just a few hours before I arrived, she had gotten the call that the new space was hers. Great news! So why was her face so full of stress and her voice so leaden with fear? I realized what she really needed from me was advice, not just a sale.
I asked what her family thought about her plan to expand. She said her husband and her mother were supportive and excited when she opened her current store, but they were not cheerleading at all this time around. Her husband wasnâ€™t merely unenthusiastic; he had clearly voiced his fear that this was too big a risk for them to take.
I knew right then that now was not the time for her to expand. What I explained to her is the same advice I would share with any entrepreneur who wants to remain on a path to long-term success.
From a business standpoint, there was no question this woman had the financial base to expand. But this isnâ€™t just about money, or about what she can do. We all can do plenty. That doesnâ€™t mean we should. Or must.
This savvy business owner needed to be reminded of two crucially important rules they do not teach in business school.
Rule No. 1: Your gut is one of your best business tools.
When you are sick with worry, your body is screaming to you to slow down. If you are nauseous, be cautious. Listen to what your body is telling you to do. I am not talking about the nervous but excited energy that comes from contemplating a big move or deal. Thatâ€™s good nervous. But moving forward with fear or dread is a recipe for disaster. Donâ€™t apologize for saying no. You owe no apology for being satisfied with what you have today, rather than reaching for more.
Rule No. 2: Fear is the main internal obstacle to wealth.
Not just your fears, but also the fears of those you love. You must honor the emotional and financial needs of your spouse or life partner. If opening the new store was so unsettling to her husband, it would not only impact their emotional connection, but it could even impact his ability to excel in his own career. When there is a valid fear present, use it as a signal that you need to say no.
I know it sounds blasphemous to suggest business success may come from saying no to growth. But timing is everything. I am not suggesting the boutique owner should never expand. I fully expect her to have multiple stores in the future. My point is that now is not the time. If it does not feel right, to her and her husband, then it is not right. For now.
She knew that deep down. What she struggled with is common for striving entrepreneurs: the pressure to conform to what you think you should be doing. The pressure to impress. The pressure to expand. The pressure to move fast or be left behind.
You may have accountants, attorneys and advisors to run the numbers for you and offer their best financial advice on your business. Thatâ€™s all extremely valuable. But your gut feeling is equally important. Step back, think hard and determine what you feel about a decision, deep down. It is your business. Your future. Your life that will be impacted by the decision. You should be your most trusted advisor. If it doesnâ€™t feel right to you and your loved ones, stop in your tracks. My trusted guidepost is to always remember: People First. Then Money. Then Things. Never let the pursuit of money trump the feelings you and your loved ones have.
Honor your personal truth. Being connected to the truth is what made you successful; donâ€™t ever turn your back on it. If you are not truthful, you ultimately will not be happy with the decision. The truth creates wealth. Lies destroy it. Going against your gut is indeed a lie.
I consider my success to be as much about what I have turned down in business as about what I have said yes to. I have had many opportunities to grow through new ventures and new partnerships. I have learned to check my initial excitement and move slowly. I have had many offers that made perfect sense financiallyâ€”and in theory could have made me a lot of moneyâ€”but that I ultimately I declined. They did not feel right, honest and authentic to my needs at that moment. Sometimes it is difficult in the moment, but I have never, ever, regretted any decision to say no.
This is my most trusted business practice: The minute I say yes to something that is not honest and true for me is the minute I stop being a good businesswoman. I have never been led astray by my commitment to listening to my gut. I am confident it will help you stay on your successful path as well.
By the way, if you are wondering if the business owner decided to open up that second store or not, well, all I know is what she said as I was walking out the door: â€œThanks, Suze, I feel a million times better now.â€ Which I think translates into, no, she did not. Only time will tell if she is strong and smart enough to listen to her gut.