Is Small Business Getting Discouraged?

Small businesses – defined by the Small Business Administration as those with 500 or fewerbigstockphoto_Employee_1344082 employees – have long proven to be heroes in our struggling economy. They account for almost two-thirds of all net new job creation according to an article published in the McKinsey Quarterly in November 2012 by John Horn and Darren Pleasance.

But, there are signs that these entrepreneurial entities are growing discouraged by the country’s weak economic recovery, and not generating nearly as high a percentage of jobs as they did back in 2007. To top it all, younger entrepreneurs are showing up in much fewer numbers, which doesn’t bode well for the next generation of serial entrepreneurs and risk-taking, startup venture leaders.

The good news is that although the majority may be struggling, a minority of small businesses are characterized by very high growth – some even doubling their revenues and employment every four years. They exist in every industry sector and across a broad geographic spectrum. Up until now it’s been almost impossible to predict which small businesses will end up as high growth entities, and which will fail – as a large number routinely do. There is several things that can help improve the mood and morale of small businesses:

  • Increase awareness of how larger companies in the private sector can support and nurture smaller businesses – many already do, it’s not just that well known.
  • Use effective tools that predict business growth and improve performance, such as the Growth Curve Strategy model with it’s Growth X-Ray Process. If properly understood, and implemented at an early stage, this model can indeed predict which small businesses are most likely to succeed.
  • Spread the word about mentoring – sharing the skills, expertise and knowledge that older entrepreneurs have gained with those starting out.
  • Encourage the inclusion of small high-growth businesses in traditional supply chain activities.
  • Re-orient venture capital to the earlier stage businesses that are finding it harder to access avenues of capital.

If we really put our minds to it – and why wouldn’t we want to find ways to strengthen our economy – there are so many ways to help.

 

We wear trousers, so why don’t we wear power?

What is finally going to make us women get the message that we are, as a gender, squeamish about the subject of power? We don’t seem to be clear about whether we admire it or hate it in other women, we’re not sure if we want it for ourselves (but of course many do), and to top it all off, we don’t even seem to know how to talk about it. Although we’ve become very comfortable wearing trousers – once the exclusive dress for men – we have nowhere near reached the same level of comfort in wearing power – another once-exclusive male domain.

When I saw Sheryl Sandberg interviewed on 60 Minutes recently, I instantly knew a firestorm would ensue – and it has. Sandberg, the avowedly feminist author of “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,” stirred a veritable hornet’s nest. And. Good. For. Her. As far as I’m concerned, there are not enough Sheryl Sandbergs in existence. She’s being chastised for having enough money to become powerful while other capable women raise her children, clean her house, and otherwise make life manageable for her. Does that sound familiar? Sounds like me when raising my three daughters, going to school full time to get two degrees, working part time, and loving it all. I relied upon, from time to time, amazing young women to care for my children. I relied upon my husband – also working hard to keep us solvent – to partner with me throughout the years. Many, many women I know do, or did, exactly the same. Is it the amount of money she makes that brings such wrath? Let’s be honest now.

However, I can look back now from my perch as a woman in her late 50s, and see how my gender – and the messages I bought into about women and power – gave me an excuse to hold myself back in my early career. Luckily I have found my power over the ensuing years, and life and work are even more enjoyable now. Men are no longer the “enemy”, but the peers that so willingly and graciously walk the path of life with me.

Here’s the shocker: I think it all boils down to our own sense of esteem and confidence. We are our own worst enemies when wanting or needing to be seen as powerful. Nobody puts us down quite as exquisitely as we do ourselves. Nobody intimidates us quite like the image in the mirror. Isn’t it easier to point the finger outward instead of inward? Instead of lashing out at the Sheryl Sandbergs of the world, perhaps we should see them for the blessings they are: incredibly brave women who ask us to step up, to raise the bar, to make something of ourselves, and to model that bravery for our children and our grandchildren. And to do it all unapologetically!

Must we wait for permission? If so, we’ve just received it loud and clear from Sheryl Sandberg.

Adversity can be a Friend

I consider myself lucky to have led a rather charmed life, with very few major downs and many major ups. That is until my mother died in 2011 from cancer. That was a game-changer for me. It wasn’t that it was so hard for me to go through (after all she was the one bearing all the pain and indignity), in fact even at the worst moments there was a feeling of “right” to it all. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December of 2010 and was dead by April 2011. The decline was so quick and violent I think it left us all stunned and operating on autopilot until it was all over. Then I realized I had no clue how to live my life without her in it.

I’ve learned how to do that in the almost two years since her passing, but my life has changed in ways I never would have imagined when she was alive. My mother, father, sisters and I lived an ocean apart for most of my adult life – they in England and me in the US – and I spent many air miles in the last months of her life to be with her as much as possible in the time she had left. I’m so glad I put my life on hold to do that – I have no regrets.

What that particular life lesson taught me was to become more spiritual, compassionate, and tolerant. It taught me to live my life fully, to not shy away from my potential, to do the things I’d always wanted to do but now realize life is short and precious and I’d better get on with it. It taught me to quiet those hurdles I’d put in front of myself – those hurdles that said things like “you can’t do that, you don’t have the time/money/talent/fill in the blank”. One of the changes I’ve made as a result is that I’ve actually moved the central focus of my coaching practice to helping others identify and then live their lives to their fullest potential and abundance.

Through the years as a therapist, consultant and coach, I’ve seen time and time again how adversity can propel people into living lives they never thought possible. I’m not surprised that it happened to me, just grateful.

In the coming months I’d like to interview people who have experienced achieving their dreams through recovering from pain and misfortune. I’ll show through their stories how courage and fearlessness can spring into action. These videos are a must-see. Some will be interactive on Google+ Hangouts and YouTube, and all of them will be available on my website and blog to download at your convenience.

Stay tuned for previews! By the way, nothing would make me happier than having you contribute your story – contact me at fcattermole@catt-alyst.com.