How you, as a business owner, can maintain your sanity in tough times

When Craig Ford first bought into Bugs & Sparks, a well-known Cape Town-based local business, it came with its fair share of difficulties.

Having felt the weight of a then struggling business on his shoulders, Craig is all too aware that running a company can take its toll on sole business owners mentally and emotionally.

But with the help of his friend and business coach, Ian Brown, Craig is now able to keep his head and relish the highs that also come from running a now growing, thriving business.

Together they discuss maintaining your sanity by dealing with failure, learning from 2016 and identifying ways to move forward in business.

Dealing with failure

When it comes to business, you won’t always get it right the first time, but failure is usually part of the package at some point. “Being the sole owner of a business, it’s often a lonely place to be,” says Craig. “All the decisions rest on your shoulders, good or bad.”

Ian agreed and explains how essential it is that failure is dealt with and learnt from in order to move forward. “Running a business is not for the faint of heart. Failure often results in bankruptcy and misery – there are often no retakes allowed,” he says. “But there are always things to implement and change in order to improve the situation. Identifying those things will help you keep your sanity under pressure.”

Moving forward

Craig believes in the value that a business coach can bring to the table. ”I was ready to pull my hair out before I realised I needed someone to share the burden,” he reflects.

“Before I could go any further, I enlisted the help of a business coach (Ian) to assess and ensure that our current business structures, policies and procedures are up to scratch. Anything that needed to change was dealt with almost immediately,” he says.

Ian says that in order to achieve your desired end, you need to put in the time in the beginning: “Together we documented short targets and medium term goals with specific action dates. Some weeks I had to keep Craig on track and actually kick his butt to stick with the program. As your coach I made sure you stayed on track.”

Staying sane in 2016

Aside from the highs and lows that any business is bound to face, Craig and Ian both agree that 2016 brought perspective.

“To be completely honest, the biggest change I encountered was within myself,” explains Craig. “As Ian began asking important questions, I realised that I had been focussing on all the negatives and drawbacks of being a sole business owner.”

He quickly realised that he had to change his mind-set if he wanted to stay sane. “I had to take a more positive and focussed approach. This had an immediate impact on me personally and on my business. As the captain of the ship, I set the tone and the scene for the business – and my team takes their cue from me.”

Learnings for 2017

The self-reflective journey had had a significant impact on the day-to-day running of Craig’s business. “I now know that I need to track and trust the data,” he explains. “We have put together very informative worksheets that track cash flow, sales, debtor’s analysis – everything we can track, we have.”

These systems have given him the confidence to make informed decisions on whether to spend, employ or invest in the business. “Knowing that you are going to be able to pay yourself before the end of the month is a huge relief. The information has eliminated the nail-biting situations around the 25th of every month.”

Ian goes further to say that as a business owner, you should have your finger on the pulse of your business at all times. “It’s about finding control in the chaos. Businesses shouldn’t have to lurch from one chaotic thing to another,” he says. “Burnout is an indication of the sanity (or rather lack thereof) of your business.”

New year, new focus

Ian asks Craig for his main focus for the year, to which he replies, “I plan on becoming a single figure handicapped golfer again.”

“That’s great, I was actually referring to your business,” laughs Ian.

“I know, I’m just kidding. We are mainly focussing on our service delivery and speeding up our response time to improve customer satisfaction. Even though we’re a trade company, we’ve always been about service,” says Craig. “Service is paramount, and our customers are the ones who keep our doors open.”

About Craig Ford

When Craig, CEO of Bugs & Sparks, first bought into the brand seven years ago it had its fair share of both problems and opportunities. His business journey has been marked by many mistakes and lessons learned as he worked to build a now thriving local business.

Today, Craig is proud to say that he only works an eight hour day. The rest of his time he spends networking on the golf course and brewing his own craft beer.

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