We Have To Close Our Doors… Why Struggling Businesses Create Struggling Businesses, and Why Push Ups Won’t Be Enough To Save Them.
It’s a house of cards that I have been on the end of multiple times. A business is not doing so well, they can’t talk about it openly because, frankly, not doing well in business is bad for business.
Customers don’t want to be involved with businesses that aren’t doing well, clients don’t engage you, and debtors can apply pressure to get money out of you, believing sometimes correctly, that they might not get a chance to recoup the money they are owed.
There are a million ways for businesses to fall on hard times. You can have personal issues, financial issues (cash flow is king), you might not be working that hard, you might not be working that smart. Perhaps clients are late on paying the bills, or maybe you don’t have enough clients.
There are so many ways that times can be tough.
Starting off with big dreams, many people invest big… I mean, you can see your vision, so everyone else will right? Before you know it, there are a whole bunch of competitors, copy cats, under cutters and noise surrounding your vision, through no fault of your own and the competitive landscape you thought you would be navigating has changed completely, before you even got a chance to establish a foothold.
Then there is the ugly side of business, the part where occasionally you just get f*%ked over. You can be f*#ked over on purpose by unscrupulous businesses, suppliers or customers, and you can be inadvertently f*#ked over by people who themselves have fallen on hard times, or strung you along without realising what an impact that will have on your business.
No one ever really talks about it in a practical sense. I have seen people complain on the internet that ‘So and so did such and such and that’s so bad for me’ etc., practically however, there is a reason why business owners don’t ask for help, and then just suddenly fold.
Usually people open businesses in areas where they know people, know the community, engage and interact with the community. The people they know might be doing similar things, if you open a Physiotherapy clinic in St Kilda, and you grew up there, chances are you know at least some of the other physios in St Kilda. They are unlikely to share trade secrets with you, or information about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to running a practice.
Sure, there are business coaches, and there are some really great ones, but, frankly, there are a lot of bullshit artists out there too, who don’t really know what they are talking about and won’t give you great value for your limited dollars.
In my travels for work, I meet dozens of business all over the country who are having similar problems. Retail businesses with cash flow problems, gyms having dramas with high rents and member retentions, non-profit organisations who have no idea how to scale and maintain their operations. The problem is, when your network of support are your customers, or geographically, your competitors, it makes it hard to be open and honest about the aspects of your business that are causing you grief. Look like you are failing and you risk driving away customers/suppliers etc, look like you are having a tough time and your competitors may smell blood in the water.
The compounding of problems gets worse and worse, with the stress of not going so well impacting work and your motivation, not being able to talk to anyone, getting the blinkers on, making bad decisions etc etc.
Your clients notice that you are stressed, your family notice it, you feel it in the anxious nights awake, and it certainly doesn’t just get easier.
I have seen and helped many people through tough times in business, simply by being an ear and discussing what I have seen, maybe what I would do, or what others are doing. Sometimes just a simple ‘Yeah, its bloody tough going, plenty of people in the same boat’ can calm people down a little bit.
I have also been that guy, through what was a very tough, very long period of business I had a number of disruptive and expensive incidents that made work very stressful. Money was very tight, the days were very, very long and I probably took a few years off my life navigating through those times.
It meant a lot to have the love and support of my friends and family, but in those situations it can also mean more to have the opportunity to rectify the situation. Asking for help in business is rarely about asking for handouts, and it shouldn't be. It's asking for opportunities, connections, strategy or structure. Having a sounding board from someone who understands those situations can be invaluable when you are getting swamped in the stress of your own mind. It breaks many, many people.
Unfortunately though, the understanding friend who has no real idea what you are going through, is not the most practical help. All the good will in the world won’t help you, if you don’t get some information and steps to take to work your way to a more successful enterprise.
I have set up, through the JBNProject, the opportunity to connect businesses that are similar in nature, but geographically separate, so that business owners can discuss the ups and downs of what they are experiencing with someone in the same boat who is
This isn’t a lead into business coaching. This isn’t a service that you have to pay for, it is simply being able to put people together so that you can learn and discuss business in a practical way. Finding someone who has been where you are in your journey, or someone who can help. This isn’t a mastermind, or a complete business overhaul. If you are looking for something of that nature, by all means let me know, there are some great opportunities for business development from a range of really great practitioners.
This isn’t about lunches and meetups, where everyone talks about what they are going to do, or has to polish their lives up to look like they are doing well to get business. There are plenty of those around already. This isn’t about 6-steps to 7 figures, or posing in front of expensive leased cars. No spam emails promising the world, or giving you the 'keys to living the life you deserve'.
This is about real-life business owners and entrepreneurs, who need a bit of a leg up, who need a relevant and experienced ear to talk to. People with rent and mortgages to pay, families to feed and kids to keep in school. Between these contacts you can remain anonymous, it is no problem. We just want to create an environment that allows business owners to be themselves, be honest and be vulnerable for a moment, so that a plan of attack can be formed and you can get on with getting it done.
There is no shortcut to success, and I am yet to see a struggling business just magic their way out of a tough time. You will have to work hard, no doubt, but better to do it with the help of people in the know, than blindly pushing forward in the wrong, upsetting direction. You aren’t alone, you aren’t the only one, and it happens to the best of us, even when we are working hard all the time.
A great chance for entrepreneurs who have come through it to help out, and a great chance for people who could use the help, to get it. The link is provided below.
Keep working hard, and remember, Just Be Nice.
For those who are doing it tough, rest assured you are not the first, not the last and you are not alone. If you are in a really bad way and need someone to talk to urgently, don't hesitate to call the crew at Lifeline - 13 11 14
I believe that you are what you do. Not what happens to you. Good or bad, one man’s dream life is another man’s disaster. I know people who think I am insane for what I do, and I look at other people’s lives sometimes and know that it is 100% not for me.
Similarly you may have had what you consider to be a rough upbringing, a rough day, a rough life in general. Your version of a rough life may be someone else worst nightmare, or they may consider it to be an outstanding improvement on their own lives.
We can all subjectively feel bad for a million reasons, sometimes we feel bad for things that we might call ‘first world problems’… Waiting too long for a coffee to be brought out, having you plane delayed by 10 minutes, a restaurant not having the steak option that you wanted to eat.
My point is, regardless of what happens to you, your only option to move forward is to be tougher than your life is. I don’t care if your problems are my worst nightmare or greatest dream, you are responsible for your happiness and while it can be a difficult journey, it is one that ultimately you have to take in order to be your best and overcome your own adversity.
One of the best things you can do is to turn your attention inwards and decide on who, not what, but who you want to be. By deciding your ‘who’, you allow yourself more time to get to what you want to be. If you decide that you want to be a person who is going to improve the lives of a million people, start by being a person that just improves people’s lives. If you tie your success/happiness/toughness to your ‘what’ you want to be, delays can make your life seem even tougher to you.
If you are that person, you can go on a journey and explore the avenues that work best for you on your way to achieving your ‘what’.
“But what if I don’t know what, why or how I want to do anything?”
Great question. The answer then is to practice being YOUR best.
At every single thing that you do. Full stop.
Trying your hardest and being your best at anything is one of the hardest skills to pick up when you are already overwhelmed by a goal or outcome. It is something that takes a lot of practice to become a habit. If you are putting out the bins, do the best job of it you can, put them on the street properly, if a bit blows off, grab it and put it in the bin. Do your work to the best of your ability every day. You might start off only being your best at work in 5 minute bursts, but try your best in that time, when you realise you are slipping/losing focus. Stop, breathe, and start again, making sure to do your very best work, every time.
I don’t do everything at my very best, at all times. What I do try to do, however, is recognise when I am not concentrating enough, working hard enough, being productive enough, training hard enough, looking after myself enough and to take a breath, and have a go at being MY best.
As you develop the skills of being your best, you might find that in some things that you do, you could be really, really good at them with time and application. You can focus on being that person, who is good at THAT thing.
When you are focused on that, focused on being good at THAT thing, focused on the little things you can do each day to be YOUR best in every moment, you build resilience. You get the myriad of little wins every week/day/hour that you need to stay mentally strong and happy. You begin the journey towards taking your happiness out of the hands of others, and start to weaken your jealous inclinations.
Some people will be better than you at everything, but no-one will ever actually be you. Just be the best version of what you can possibly be and you will be tougher than your life is. Despite how bad external circumstances get, they are always external. Sometimes auditing yourself can be difficult, but there is nothing wrong with asking a trusted colleague or friend if they think you are doing your best.
Life is not Instagram quotes, fleeting moments of motivation or inspiration, photos in front of expensive cars. It’s not dreamy moments on holiday, or likes on Facebook. Life is what you do everyday. Life is you and who you are in every moment of every day. Your life isn’t what everyone else thinks or says. Being your best in every moment helps to remove dissonance from what you’d like to be, what you say you are, and what you are, and by having a mission to be a kind of person, it doesn’t matter what you are, you will always be that person.
I haven’t mastered the art of being my best in every minute of every day, I get hangry, tired, distracted, vague, sleepy, annoyed, impatient and many other things, but I am hoping to master the art of always trying to be my best, and it helps to make me tougher than my life is.
This is my family.
By birth and by the sheer luck of the universe I have had all of these amazing humans in my life for at least the last 26 of my 30 years. Some of them were born into my family, and some of them fell into my life as family in a seemingly random way.
My own father was not a good one, but there are far worse stories than mine and the point of this is not to talk about the varying degrees in which fathers can be bad, or bad examples to their sons. The point is, there are bad fathers, and men of all ages have been through subjectively bad times on many levels.
Navigating the role of being a man can be a tough one, in a conversation I had last week I had a thought that it is often the case that men seem to base their definition of manliness collectively. If you spend time with a group of men that believe certain behaviour is acceptable, you tend to adopt those same views. It’s one of the reasons ‘culture’ at a football club, or in a workplace is so important. When a football club has a toxic culture, everyone tends to adopt it, when bigotry is the norm at a workplace it can be difficult to go against it. On the contrary, being brought into a great culture, like the All Blacks, or Melbourne Storm can help men thrive and excel.
This is Greg and Nina. Greg is the dad of my best mate Nick, who I met on day one of prep as a 4 year old. Greg is married to Nina, and they are my bonus family parents. Really, Greg is everything that my own father was not. He is a kind and generous man, with a big heart. He is strong, intelligent and full of respect and empathy. You would struggle to find a better example of a grown man who has led a life full of integrity. He is a fantastic dad and a wonderful husband and I respect and love him immensely.
I write this because I believe that we can still raise good men, even if we are missing good fathers.... But we do still need good men.
This is my Mum! She is one of the great ones :) but of course, I am very biased. Like many in the same situation, as a teenager, it wasn’t easy for us.
From an understanding point of view, Mum went to an all girls school from prep to Year 12, and has two sisters. Her own father wasn’t around all that much as a fantastic role model, so dealing with a growing, hormonal teenage boy was uncharted territory. Juggling being a single parent, economic difficulty and trying to prevent your oldest son from turning out like his Dad is a rough road to navigate and we butted heads often and I spent a lot of my high school years grounded.
I was convinced that I was a misunderstood, slightly angry teenage boy, who would never turn out like my father, but Mum had never really been around that situation and disciplined me hard. In the end, it is funny to look back, but playing the role of support, disciplinarian, mum, cook, taxi, breadwinner and everything else under the sun makes it hard, and in the end, even though I eventually ended up getting asked to leave the family home, we have the most amazing relationship and I could have done nothing without Mum’s love and support right to this day. Mum ran herself into the ground for us and remains my biggest support.
Because the absence of a good dad more often than not means a single mother, it can be difficult to provide the same kind of back patting, ‘You’re doing well mate’ moments to a young man. For some reason, managing being the supporting mother, the ‘I’m proud of you’ moments from mum are more often than not met with a smile, an eye roll and a little ‘of course you are’. On the contrary, the same moments from the men in your life that you respect, can really give you a big chest pump moment.
At the same time, being told you are acting like an idiot by mum can be brushed off easier than the same thing being said to you by a man, or group of men you respect. Some of my most embarrassing moments are from being called out by men I respected for rubbish behaviour.
When I was 14 I did my first deb, it was a bit of a big deal and I was young in my year level bu almost two years, so everyone was a bit older than I was. I did it, and went in with my date, and you guessed it, Nick…. And weren’t we quite the lady killers back then!
Mum wasn’t rapt about the idea of me going to an after party with everyone, and staying out for the night, but Greg did me a solid and vouched that we were sensible young men and we’ll be ok… I got the pass, and we went to the after party for a couple of Carlton Colds. Now I wasn’t supposed to be drinking, Mum didn’t care for it, but boys will be boys, and we didn't do anything too crazy. We had a great night, were well behaved and got picked up the next day by Greg.
I doubt that Greg remembers this part of the trip at all. But in the back of the old Ford Fairlane that day as we were being driven home, perhaps experiencing my first ever hangover, Greg simply said that we did a great job the night before (At the Deb) and that he was ‘Proud of me’.
I nearly cried in the back seat right then…. But I didn’t. I don't remember another time in my life that someone being proud of me has made me feel so emotional.
Perhaps it was because at the time I was an angry, fatherless teenager, who was constantly arguing with Mum at home. I have never doubted Mums love for me, ever, but her concern about me turning out like my own father had become my concern too… After all why would it be an issue if it wasn’t possible
Hearing from a man of few emotive words, who I respect more than I could ever say, tell me he was proud of me made such a big difference. I’ve never really talked about it since, but it was a moment of someone I respected believing that I was the good person that I had always tried to be, even as an angry teenager.
Years later, around the dinner table, when I was at University and completing a trade, Greg gave me another piece of sage advice that made a bigger difference than he will perhaps ever know. He told me that no matter what I was doing, if I was very busy and getting things done, the people that matter and really love you will always understand if you don’t have heaps of spare time. That little piece of advice has enabled me to go on to do the variety things that I have been able to do in my short time here on earth.
In a conversation with a friend this week, speaking about her husband, we discussed the importance of male-peer approval and guidance. As a kid, the best thing that could happen would be when the older boys who wanted to kick the footy with me, even if it was only three kicks. The friendly banter with the older kids in High School while on the tours to decide where to go, the games with the older boys, where I would play a few age groups up and get to hang with the older guys. These things matter over and above just proving that you are pretty good at footy, and they help shape who you become.
It is the reason I started working with at-risk kids many years ago. Just to be one of the older guys that would go out and play basketball with the younger guys and have a bit of a laugh. I had initially thought I might wait until I made my millions to engage with programs to change the world, before realising, the most important thing was just to be around and to want to involve these kids.
People would love to go out and inspire people in a moment of clarity, however It is rare to be able to drop into someone’s’ life and say something like “you’re proud of them” and change their lives on the spot.
If you are around for a long time, days and months and years, through good times and bad. If you are a man of integrity, worthy of respect and with a big heart. You earn the opportunity to have those moments, and in a couple of words, you can help shape the life of another young man for the better.
The great news is it doesn’t end for boys when they become men. We can spend time building better men by encouraging and looking after one another even after we are all 'grown up'. Be someone worthy of respect and don’t be afraid to let your mates know that you love them and you are proud of them when they are out there being great men. If we are better to each other as men, then we will be better to everyone as people. Be a gentleman, and encourage others to be as well. If we can change the culture of a football club for the better, we can change our culture generally to be one of respect and support.
If you are a man who knows a single Mum with young boys, be an example and don't be afraid to put your hand up to be there for them. You don’t have to be there every day, but be positive, be available and encourage them to grow up to be good men. Who knows, one day something you say might change their lives, and the lives of others down the chain. Greg believing in me allowed me to be a better man to my younger brother, who grew into being an outstanding example of a man himself, and Izzy then going on to positively mentor dozens of young men from there.
I’ve since had many great moments with my large and amazing family, but in the end it is the enduring love and support that makes all the difference. I hope that over time I can be the Greg for someone else, because if the world had more Gregs in it, it would undoubtedly be a better place.
We can raise good men without good fathers, we shouldn't have to raise them without good men.
Just Be Nice.
*A small tear or two may have been shed in the writing of this post.
Josh Reid Jones - Founder of The Just Be Nice Project and Odin Sports