Why most businesses fail to thrive (& what to do about it)

Written by Joel Gerschman

By  Joel Gerschman  Uncategorized 

Allow me to be blunt. 

Chances are you haven’t yet achieved the kind of business – and lifestyle – you’d hoped for. Chances are you’re working too hard for not enough money, feeling stressed and frustrated by a business that’s not truly serving your life. 

Am I right?

If that’s true for you, then the next question is “Why?” You’re skilled at what you do, aren’t you? So what’s the problem?

The right mindset and skill set

While there are many reasons that businesses don’t thrive, perhaps the most common is this: you haven’t developed the right mindset and skill-set.

You see, most new businesses are formed by ‘technicians’ – that is, people who are genuinely skilled in a certain technical field and decide they’d rather work for themselves than for someone else.

Take Howard for instance. He’s the protagonist in the bestselling book we recently co-wrote, The Mindful Entrepreneur. He was using an early form of e-learning to help his former employer to launch a successful B2B website and community. So he thought: “Why can’t I do it for myself? That way, I could control my destiny, make my own decisions, choose when I want to work, earn more money and even make an impact on the world.” Well, that was the dream, but it didn’t exactly pan out that way – at least not until he learned a new mindset and skill-set.

And that’s exactly the plight of so many business owners. Their new business takes off with lots of energy; yet despite their skills and experience, they struggle to make their businesses work.

Does that sound familiar? Why does it happen to so many of us?

Understanding the cause of the problem is often the key to finding the solution.

The technician’s mindset

In this case, the problem starts in your mind. It stems from a fatal assumption that people make: that because you’re good at doing the work of your business, you can therefore create a business that works. Unfortunately, it’s untrue. It’s a myth. World-leading business guru and someone I consider of one my own mentors, Michael Gerber, calls it the ‘Entrepreneurial Myth’ or E-myth – and it’s the central reason that most businesses fail to thrive.

For example,  shortly after starting his business, Howard realised that there were many areas with which he was unfamiliar – such as creating a marketing strategy, raising funds, bookkeeping, collections, and managing staff, both onsite and remote. Here’s how he describes it:

‘Yeah, I figured it out by trial and error. I learned how to do some of it by my own effort. But the truth is, I probably just ignored certain things because I wasn’t sure what to do – like marketing strategy and financial management. I struggle to get my head around the financial side – bookkeeping, accounting, spreadsheets, taxes, depreciation and all of that. So I focused on what I knew I was good at – the hands-on work of designing, developing, and selling our core e-learning services to customers.’

And to his credit, Howard’s business grew on the back of his passion and energy and experience and skill in doing that work. But at some point, he reached a plateau. Or ‘the edge of cliff’, as he put it at the time. Here’s Howard again:

“I was so busy and stressed just doing the technical work that I had no time for thinking about growth. There were fires to put out. Complaints to deal with. Urgent administrative work to do. And, truth be told, I wasn’t entirely sure how to grow the business even if I did have the time. What was even worse was that I wasn’t even happy doing what I was doing any more. I wondered what it was all for. And that’s when I realised: To move my business and my life forward, I needed a fundamentally different mindset and skill-set.”

To use the terminology that Michael Gerber uses in his classic book, The Emyth Revisited, you can’t just be a great technician; you need to be a great manager and entrepreneur too.  

Become a great entrepreneur

And therein lies your challenge: to be successful, you must effectively balance three distinct ‘roles’. At times, you’ll need to be a technician, doing the operational work of the business – the work that actually delivers value to customers. At other times, you’ll need to be a manager, overseeing, planning, organising and supervising others to ensure they get the work done effectively. But, perhaps most critically, you’ll need to think and act like an entrepreneur, doing the strategic work of building the business itself – clarifying your vision, innovating new ways of doing things, identifying new markets and opportunities.

The problem is that most business owners are so focused on the day-to-day technical work that they never even begin thinking about how to better manage or build their business. That’s the ‘technician’ mindset at work.

Technicians spend their time working in their business, hoping that things will eventually change and they won’t have to work so hard for so little in return. But the reality is that things won’t change. Not until you change the way your business runs. And that requires a new way of thinking and acting:  the capacity to work on your business, not just in your business.

Working ON your business

Working on your business requires you to step outside of your day-to-day technical work. It means looking at your business objectively, as if it were something independent of you. Imagine you’re 5000 feet above your business, looking down on it, critically. That’s what entrepreneurs do, because only from that perspective can you truly begin designing your business to grow and to operate as smoothly, efficiently and profitably as possible.

How exactly should you begin working ON your business? It depends on your priorities.  

Here are three common areas that you can use to spark your thinking about where to focus your energies first.

Rapid Growth

If you’re either just starting your business, or perhaps you’ve been in business a while but you’re struggling to grow your customer base, start by:

1. Developing your business strategy. Without an underlying growth strategy, you’re flying in the dark. Check out this post or for general advice on creating your business strategy or this post for advice on differentiating your business. 

2. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to focus on sales and marketing strategies to grow your customer base, your revenue and your profit

Break Free

What if your primary concern is having more freedom? Let’s say you already have a solid customer base, but the business is dependent on you, saps all your time, and stresses you out. If that’s the case, then I suggest you start by:

1. Developing your business strategy. That’s the foundation for your business, and you can’t skip it.

2. But then, rather than focusing on growth, concentrate on organising and systemising your business to run smoothly and efficiently, so you have the infrastructure to grow further. If you try to grow without the systems in place, it can all fall apart too easily. Check out this post for more on how to systemise your business.

Focus and fulfillment

While growth and freedom are important, it’s equally critical to stay sane, focused & fulfilled while building your business. In fact, your ability to run a successful business depends on your ability to remain balanced and motivated. The state of your business and your state of mind are more closely intertwined than you might think.

In my experience, many business owners are facing urgent issues in their business – like cashflow problems or production and delivery fires. And therefore they want to get stuck into either growing their business or setting it up to run without them. And that’s fine. But don’t ignore the need to remain focused and fulfilled. Check out this post for strategies that you can implement today.

Where to next?

So there you have it – three areas to choose from to begin working ON your business. Why not begin focusing on one of those areas today? 

And if you’d like more guidance on how to develop these three areas, you can grab the step-by-step Growth System program for free right here. 

All the best,


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