To stay or go in business? Your values will help you find the answer

Eight years ago, Julie launched into the world of small business excited about the prospect of running her own legal practice. Sold on the idea of being her boss and the flexibility that comes with it, Julie also knew that when she started a family, there would be space to be a mum without the pressure of working fulltime in the city.

Eight years on, with three staff on the payroll, her love for business dissipated under the pressure of managing staff and a growing client base. The lure of sick pay, holiday pay and the other perks of being an employee beckoned…until she remembered WHY she went into business for herself.

While the money was good, it was not her primary motivator. For Julie, her highest values are family. Working for someone else would take that flexibility from her.

Being in business reveals a lot about us – all our flaws, weaknesses and strengths – and the peaks and valleys can make or break us. There are many reasons to shut up shop: 

  • lack of cashflow
  • work/life imbalance
  • conflict with business partners
  • retirement
  • ill health
  • loss of business mojo.

When confronted with a decision about whether to stick at it or move on, it is time to explore what is really important to you.  The questions you should ask first are: do I still love what I do? What truly makes my heart sing? What brings a sense of purpose and meaning to my life? Knowing these will give you clear direction and focus. 

To answer these questions honestly, go back to the basics – your values.  What would you stand up for and defend? What are the non-negotiable personal qualities you operate from? 

Your values provide the framework for the way you live your life. They influence your decisions, your behaviour, your goals and interactions with others. In business, your values are critical. They guide the direction and decisions in your business. Getting clear on your values will guarantee alignment between your head and heart, so you won’t be second guessing your decision.

If you can’t answer yes to the question do I love what I do, you can reinvent your business into one that you love. This could mean:

  • Devising and implementing a strategy that will result in greater cashflow.
  • Redesigning processes or hire of more staff/better delegation to free up time.
  • Finding a way to resolve the conflict with a business partner. Is buying them out an option?
  • Putting a plan in place to transition from your business on your terms, if you are thinking of retirement but not yet ready.
  • Redesigning your business so that it is not reliant on you, if you suffer from ill health.
  • Reconnect with your purpose for going into business if you have lost your mojo. What changes could you make that would let you love your business all over again?

Or, go to work on your exit strategy, which may be the easier option. The decision to stay may mean you have a lot of hard work ahead of you and changes will have to be made. This is where being fully committed comes into play; if you’re not, the business will be an uphill battle.

Being values focused when committing to the change means that you will be more likely to succeed.

Sonia Gibson, Founding Director, Accounting Heart Chartered Accountants