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No Excuses, Not Even in this Economy

Don't be like your teenager. Take responsibility for your business' ups and downs.
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Teenagers tend to have excuses—many of them perfectly logical—for everything. They can’t finish their homework because they’re busy with sports or other activities. They had to run up the cellphone bill to help a friend in need of support. They couldn’t do their chores around the house because of all their homework.

It occurred to me recently, when trying to teach my teenager about taking responsibility, that excuses can get in the way of trying to build your small business too: The economy is too tough. The government is taking too much in taxes. The banks are being too strict with lending. You don’t have the technology you need, and on and on and on.

As an enterprising entrepreneur starting or running your own small business, you knew there would be challenges. Some of them are out of your control, but many you can change. You’re able to face difficult situations with understanding and adaptability, making the most out of what you have to work with.

Now. Imagine all the problems that arise in business are excuses coming from your teenager. You’re not going to let your teen off the hook. No matter how vehemently he or she argues for why something didn’t get done, or tries to deny responsibility, you have to teach your children to take ownership of their actions. You're chief executive of your family. 

You probably interact with people who already embody the "no excuses" mentality. Think of the five most successful people you know. They're the ones you look forward to meeting with, be it socially or professionally. What kind of attitude do they bring to their lives and businesses? Do they take responsibility when things go wrong? Do they admit the occasional failure? My guess is that they do, but they are also always motivated to take control of these situations, learn from them, and eventually profit. And when you spend time with these people, you leave feeling inspired. 

This is the kind of entrepreneur you want to become and it’s undoubtedly part of who you are already if you’ve decided to become your own CEO. 

It can be tough to find bright spots in this environment, but the alternative is falling into the trap of the excuse maker’s malaise, as opposed to capturing the successful person’s innovative spirit. That’s why, as a small business entrepreneur, you start each day expecting the next great opportunity to come along rather than waiting for a shoe to drop. 

Here are three ways to position yourself and your business for success:

• Take charge of your business. Blaming others is simply not productive. It won’t help you get more done, refine your business model, or trim excess costs. Remember, entrepreneurship was your choice. Embrace the risks and reap the rewards. 

• Be the person you want to work with. Take cues from those five most successful people you know. When you have your next chance to network, incorporate their attitudes, perspective, and even way of speaking. You will gain more referrals, which will turn into new business, because you’re the type of person other people want to be around.

• Stay realistic. Your business will go through many ups and downs before it becomes what you envisioned. Understanding this will keep you from getting too excited during good times or too pessimistic at low points. It will also help you make use of the feedback you get along the way, because you know your business model can always improve. 

When your teenager tells you there was a perfectly good reason to send more than 1,000 text messages last month or not get home until two in the morning, you probably find yourself saying, "There’s no excuse." You can do the same in business. Compared to keeping teenagers off their cellphones, it might even seem easy.  

 

Last updated: Nov 17, 2011

MICHAEL ALTER | Columnist | President of SurePayroll

Michael Alter is president of SurePayroll, America?s leading online payroll service. He received an MBA from the Harvard Business School and holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Northwestern University.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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