I have started and run four businesses now and one of things I often come across in healthcare is the phrase, “We need to be more business-like.” This seems to be a catch-all for managers who want staff and teams to operate on a more formal footing and often to think finance before anything else. But is that how a business really thinks?
Some of the most successful businesses in the world are based not on making a profit but on doing something different, usually with passion; translating a hobby into something which will make enough money to keep doing the hobby. Rather than working for someone else on a project which does not satisfy mind, body and soul, a great business idea means working on something where you are in control and can affect change.
Innovation and change are key to a great business and finance is useful only in keeping the project afloat in the first instance.
I am a business mentor for start ups and growing businesses and in my experience, if the premise for the business is solely profit, then 9 times out of 10 it does not succeed. The driving force in starting a business must be, “I could do this better, quicker, more efficiently, with a greater focus on customers, or differently.” “I could make a shed load of money” is usually secondary and often unimaginable for the first three years or so.
Having a great idea and translating it into a business means incredibly hard work, waking up at three in the morning wondering how you are going to pay the rent or the mortgage and unrelenting focus. Success is rare and failure is frequent but the drive to persevere and make it work is all consuming.
There are many stories out there of people who have been successful, and for most the path to success included failure and hardship. Success in business is rarely instant or overnight; patience, resilience and perseverance are needed.
Success often means doing things you really hate like bookkeeping, sales, form-filling or, for some, talking to a room full of strangers who are not in the mood to invest in your wonderful idea. Running a business is stressful and I have seen people have all sorts of stress related illness including depression, skin problems and asthma as a result of starting on the path to independence.
If managers really want staff to have a business focus, they need to relinquish control and allow people to rekindle their passion, stop talking about work/life balance, stop focussing on finance, and free staff up to innovate and change practice.