Many years ago I attended a presentation by Michael Gerber (author of “The E-Myth” and related books).  During the presentation he made a number of comments about small businesses and their owners some of which you would expect and many which you would not (at least at that time).

One of his unexpected comments was that owning a small business was an “opportunity to confront your demons”.  At the time this was somewhat “out there” for many of us in the room which perhaps only highlighted how ignorant or naive we were (or both).  Nevertheless I’ve never forgotten this comment and as I’ve gained more experience I’ve become less ignorant or naive (or both) about what it really means.

I’ve met many small business owners over more than 30 years of advising.  Some of these have been very successful, others very unsuccessful and others everywhere in between these two extremes.  Regardless of their degree of success all have their demons.

The demons can include insecurity, arrogance, stubbornness, foolish optimism, crippling pessimism, ongoing procrastination, an amazing ability to distract themselves from the important issues, an inability to see any form of the “big picture”, an ability to get bogged down in detail and we could keep this list going for pages with all sorts of other demons.  I’m sure you get the point.  We all have them and for those of us with spouses these demons may drive them mad.

So the issue is how do you “confront the demons” and achieve the success you’re looking for?  While there may be any number of solutions (perhaps therapy for some!!) generally there are three main confrontation solutions.

1. An ability to clearly understand one’s own strengths and weaknesses.
Whilst this may sound obvious, it’s amazing how few people
understand this clearly.  What is required is a high degree of self
awareness.  Often this will require (only) a trusted advisor or sounding
board (and never anyone whose opinion you don’t trust or value).
Such a person for a sportsperson would be their coach.
2. An ability to maximise the value to be attained from their strengths.
That is, they build on their strengths.  This has the benefit of
maximising the return from the time and money invested in this area.
3. An ability to minimise the impact of their weaknesses (or demons).
In my experience, actually confronting the demons in the sense of
attempting to completely overcome them is a long, costly, exhausting
and perhaps ultimately, futile process.  Whilst it’s important to be
aware of them (this is where the trusted advisor is important),
rather than confronting them a better solution is often to work around
them.  So for example, the business owner may ensure that someone
on his team has a strength to offset the owner’s weakness.  A “big
picture” owner may have a trusted assistant to deal with the detailed
follow up.  A “details enthusiast” owner may require an advisor to
assist them in working through a process to understand the big picture.

The bottom line is the “demons” don’t have to deny you success – unless you let them.  Doing nothing and / or blaming everything or everyone else is how the demons succeed (and you don’t).