What Makes a Good Business Owner?

This charming photo of the Collie Little Bear looking at a rabbit is by Barrett Sharpe of Ancaster. Can you make out the well-hidden rabbit?

First, I have good news about my friend’s surgery: everything has gone well. This may be another sign that slowly, things are improving in our hospitals and elsewhere.

As we’re wrestling with changes in our expectations for the magazine, I’ve been realizing that the sign of a good small business owner is not simply doing your main work well. You could be a good plumber, pub owner or writer or event planner. You could be good at the main skill that you turned into a business. But I’ve come to believe that it’s really when things go wrong that will show whether you’re a good business owner.

When things go wrong, can you be nimble and flexible with your reaction, instead of freaking out? Can you show patience and sympathy when you get complaints or criticisms? How do you handle requests for refunds or exchanges? Do you remain gracious without hurting your business? What do you do when you get the wrong materials or supplies? Are you swift and firm but polite when pointing out errors? If clients or customers are late in paying, can you be calm yet persistent while pursuing what you’re owed? If you suffer existential threats like robbery, fraud or a lawsuit, are you able to recover and continue?

We’ve noticed that in successful businesses, it’s often the owners who do the “dirty work.” In bars and restaurants, we’ve seen that it’s the owners who are clearing dirty tables, doing the dishes, taking out the garbage and returnables, cleaning washrooms. Diving in and quickly getting done what needs to be done, is the sign of success.

But in this time of quarantine I’ve found it difficult to be productive. I realized that it’s because things are slow right now. When things are super busy, I get a rush of adrenalin that gives me a lot of energy.

To get something achieved even when there seems to be no reason to, I find I have to do something, anything, preferable small and manageable, and just chip away at it. Lowering my expectations helps me be realistic about what I can achieve. Finding a small way to move the business forward, even slightly, can boost morale and keep you on track. And perhaps one day soon, when things keep improving, we’ll be back to growing and improving our businesses.

These days the successful business owners are taking things one day at a time.

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