Is Owning Your Business Worse Than a Minimum Wage Job?

25.08.17 10:24 AM By Rachel Klaver

As a small business owner, I’m always interested in the external views of business owners. Often the idea that we’re “milking it” and it’s all about “making the big bucks” can feel so very far from the truth. 

And there is a weird balance between truth and ego, perception versus reality. We don't want to look like we are under fire, but we also don't want to avoid calling in someone to put it out before it consumes us 

In reality, many business owners start off with great aspirations and plans to grow big, and get the windfall of success, but get stuck in a trap of growing the business without taking from it, or are paying themselves little more than minimum wage. 

Coupled with that are ongoing sixty or seventy-hour weeks, sleepless nights and poor work/life balance and it’s no wonder that we burn out, and get sick 

I’m a huge believer in work being a part of your life, rather than your whole life. There needs to be a balance, but the business needs to be profitable enough to get you there too! 

My current business has only been going for two and a half years, and even though I consult other businesses around how to grow and be profitable all the time, I quickly learnt that doing it yourself is sometimes easier said than done! When you are trying to grow, and you are having to focus on way more than you ever thought you’d need to sign up for, it’s very easy to start burning the midnight oil, stop paying yourself and lose sight of what you started the business for in the first place! 

We've gone through so much change at Identify - and sometimes it's exhausting. The hardest part for me was seeing costs creep up that wasn't needed when we first begun, but were necessary to get to the next part of our business journey. 

As we outwardly grew, it was easy to try and project an image that everything was AMAZING. But in reality, things were often pretty stressful! And this year there have been times where the balance has been completely off - and it's been exhausting to try and bring it all back in line. 

Getting external help in some areas that aren't in my skill set, being more courageous about looking at the harder bits, learning that change can sometimes be around things you can't control and most importantly - taking time away from my business to clear my head, exercise and invest in family time have all helped me move myself into a far better position than we were, say, six months ago. 

It's amazing how easy it is to fall into the drudgery of just making it keep going. But business doesn't and shouldn't be like that! 

As a business strategist who tries to live and breathe my own advice, here’s what has worked for both me and my clients
  1. Write down your overall goals including what your life is meant to look like and read it every day. It helps you stay on course
  2. Work out where, when and how you work best and stick to it. If you’re running several parts of your business, block out specific times to work on it
  3. Get your accountant (or a great book keeper) to help you understand the numbers in your business. You need to be able to know this – it’s a non-negotiable part of your business ownership. Don’t be tempted to let someone else completely run this.
  4. Take control of your email and only check it a few times a day.
  5. If you aren’t paying yourself at all or paying yourself way under what you should be, you need to fix this. You started this business for you – so if you are not getting paid there is something wrong. Take a small (to start with) percentage your weekly sales and put it into an account for you to be paid from – you’ll be amazing how fast it adds up!
  6. If the tax account is getting robbed to pay bills, rename it The Government’s Money (I got this from a book called Profit First and it’s a winning idea! You don’t want to steal from the government!) You'll just need to find another way....
  7. Take a hard look at what you sell and market – and make some hard decisions – stop selling anything that isn’t profitable and especially cut out anything that’s a loss leader. Your business can’t afford it
  8. Outsource the bits you know aren’t in your skill set. Your time is precious. Don’t use it on things you are terrible at.
  9. Carve out time for exercise, and eat right. No one wants a hangry, puffed out boss
  10. Take time out and away – at least every ninety days. Even if it’s just for a long weekend, get off the grid, turn off the work emails and just rest your brain. It helps you come back to work with a clear head, ready to grow your business.

One thing I've learned - it's WAY easier to see how to fix someone else's problems than your own! I'm so thankful that as we've worked with businesses to sort them out - we've been able to tap into support for ourselves too. Learning to get external help is a must for any business owner I reckon! And paying yourself better. That's super important too!