Thrive or Survive? It’s Up to You

“It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.”
– e.e. cummings

The dictionary says that to survive is to remain alive or in existence, to carry on despite hardships, or to persevere. In contrast, the definition of the word thrive is to prosper, to grow vigorously, and to flourish.

Which one of these words best describes your current business condition? Are you surviving, or thriving?

An impressive track record, quality products and services, and years of experience do not always add up to a prospering business with a thriving team. Demanding clients, stiff competition, intense pricing models and many other factors can create tremendous pressure for business owners (and their teams) to keep working harder just to survive. When combined with challenging market factors, most professionals and business owners feel a tremendous sense of responsibility towards their customers, their employees and their reputations. They want to do whatever it takes to keep it all under control – but trying to control it all can create chaos and stagnate your business.

Perhaps you (or someone you know) can relate to the following:

  • “I should be focusing on strategy and new business development, but I am spending all of my time just making sure the work gets out correctly.”
  • “No one else is really willing to step up to the plate. If I am not personally involved, things fall through the cracks. Mistakes are costly, so I need to be involved in every decision.”
  • “The business is stuck and I can’t even find time to read my email or clear off my desk.”
  • “Time for planning — you must be kidding? I haven’t gotten home before nine this week!”

The pressure to hold everything together single-handily is huge, and if you succumb to the “if I want it done right I need to do it myself” mentality then not only will yousuffer, but so will those around you and so will the business.

When you are fighting to survive, it is critical to find time to step back and gain perspective. Working harder, but without the benefit of perspective and a solid strategy, will probably not change the situation. And it certainly won’t get you out of “survival mode”.

Step Back and Move Forward

“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.”
– Henry David Thoreau

If you are ready to start thriving, it is time to stop dreaming and do something about it.

For the moment, stop worrying about “how” to thrive. Pull out your calendar and schedule a 30 minute meeting with yourself (no one else needs to know who this meeting is with; label it as “business development” time). In that meeting your task is to think about YOU and about whom you are being when you are at your best. What is it that makes you thrive? Think about the following questions and jot down your ideas.

If you could incorporate more of what makes you thrive into your business:

  • WHAT would you be doing?
  • WHAT would you be feeling?
  • WHAT impact would you be making on others?
  • WHAT impact would it have on the success of your business?

The “how” will become easier to tackle when you are really clear on WHAT is important. There are always obstacles and challenges in figuring out how, but if you start there you will quickly get stuck. There are always possible solutions when it is important enough. By first identifying what matters most to you, it will be easier to then determine the specific actions you need to take in order to make it happen.

Enlist Help

Being perpetually “busy” doesn’t mean you’re being productive. Many people, when they do this exercise, discover that they have been spending the majority of their time on the “wrong” things, i.e. activities that are not moving them closer to what really matters most. If you have discovered the same thing about yourself, but can’t figure how to change the situation, enlist support!

Keep in mind that individuals on a team (employees, subcontractors, business partners, etc.) will only begin to take ownership when there is an environment that welcomes input, encourages participation, and rewards risk-taking. Relinquishing control is scary for a business owner, but it is even more frightening to think of the potential impact on the business when everything falls on the shoulders of one person. Can any business grow and thrive when one person is trying to do it all?

Here are a few ways to get your team involved in creating a thriving business, starting right now:

  • Ask for their ideas, and then listen. Never automatically reject any idea just because it wasn’t your own. It might have merit “as is” or at least be a starting point to a great solution.
  • Delegate, and then let them learn. Implement a system of checks and balances to give yourself a sense of control over what’s happening, even if you’re not the one doing all the work and making all the decisions.
  • Empower others to take risks, and then reward them when they succeed.
  • Give them ownership, and then measure their accomplishment.

Business owners and professionals need personal support as well. Everyone needs a safe place to think, problem-solve and innovate. Engage a coach, a mentor or a peer group as a sounding board and guide to help you determine an optimal course of action. It is impossible to thrive if the weight of the world is sitting on your shoulders.

With clarity, purpose and a game plan you can still be in the driver’s seat, and have less stress and more peace of mind. Your business will thrive, and so will you. Isn’t it time you started to flourish?