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Get Out of Your Own Way: 5 Common Self-Inflicted Wounds to Small Business Success

It isn’t a secret that I have a slight obsession with the rate at which small businesses fail in this country.  I study it constantly.  I speak about it often.  I write about it even more.  And it was this unacceptable failure rate that was the driving force behind the founding of The BluRoket Branding Co.  Simply put, I believe the reasons that feed this high rate of failure are all ‘self-inflicted’ wounds – most based in a knowledge gap that exists for many SBOs (small business owners).


Let me be clear – not all small businesses will survive.  Some companies will fall in part because of bad luck. It’s hard to imagine or even consider, but when enough things come against you, you may not find a way out in time. Most companies, however, fall apart simply because of ‘self-inflicted’ wounds – their owners could not overcome themselves.


Last week I was putting the final touches on a client’s website.  And in full disclosure, she has been a dear friend for many years.  She is an inspiring personality and she has a noble mission for herself and her company.  I needed some additional content that fully captured the essence of the company’s powerful and aspirational goals.  That’s when I came across a quote by the late, great Maya Angelou.

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.

Thinking about the failure rate of small businesses and SBOs, this quote makes so much sense to me.  This is the fight I’ve entered – to bring SBOs more insight, more knowledge and broader perspectives.  If we as SBOs know more about how we avoid the pitfalls and how we expand the opportunities – well the result must be that we will ultimately ‘Do Better’!

Here are a few common mental barriers that will keep you from making your company a success:

1. The Urge to Wing It

Running a small business can feel overwhelming. There’s so much to do, so much on the line, and so much that can go wrong. It’s the kind of overwhelming that can push you into mentally quitting. You don’t literally quit, but instead glaze over and stop thinking. Instead of putting in the effort to study, you just go with what feels right.


Unfortunately, feelings aren’t enough to make a company work. You need plans and research. You need to know what’s going on to make the right decisions. If you find yourself being pushed into thoughtlessness, take a break. Even a five-minute break can jumpstart your brain into usefulness again.

2. Dreams are Easier Than Action

Thinking about how great things would be if certain things went your way is far easier than actually making things go your way. More than one small business owner has gotten stuck in their own heads. Instead of taking action, they just sit around, thinking of what could be. Sometimes it’s inspiring, but more often than not, it’s useless.


Taking action has costs, and those costs can be scary. No one will blame you or think less of you for being a little hesitant to put your future on the line for a small business. However, if it’s something you want to do, you have to take the risk. You have to give up certain luxuries in an effort to make a brighter tomorrow.

3. Getting Caught Up in the Grind

No will is strong enough to resist the bore of the grind forever – and that’s what your business will eventually become. While there will be exciting moments, the time between each event will grow as the months and years go on. You might even find the company stagnating at times. This is when you get caught up in the grind, forget why you’re doing this, and push in the wrong direction. It’s easy to recover when an employee does it. When the owner of the company does it, it can spell doom.


Never forget why you’re doing this. The moment you lose that focus is the moment the company starts changing from your dream to just another job. And when that happens, you will also lose the drive required to succeed.

4. Insecurity

Everyone has had that little voice inside them says they’re not good enough, that they’ll never make it. It is relatively easy to ignore that, compared to the more common voice that says that what you’re doing is enough, that you can’t go beyond what you’ve done already. It’ll even tell you that you should be happy you got this far in the first place, that compared to others, you’re doing fine.


While you should be happy that you’ve achieved something, the problem lies in how that voice angles the argument. Being happy with what you’ve done doesn’t mean you can’t go further. This self-limitation may not be the death of your company, but it will keep it from becoming what you want it to be.

5. The Impact of Fear

Generally speaking, people aren’t afraid of failure. They’re willing to try a lot of things if it doesn’t cost them anything. However, failing at a small business is different. There’s a lot on the line, personally and publicly. And that’s a scary thought. It can paralyze the brave if they’re under enough stress.


How you deal with your fear is up to you. Some people just power through, while others meditate to calm themselves. What’s important is you choose something that works for you.


Running a small business is difficult enough without having to fight your own mind. It’ll conjure up reasons for you to fail if you let it. Managing your own thoughts is critical. It’s difficult, but your small business with be all the better for it.

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