Over the last 25 years, I have worked with and coached thousands of business owners across the country to help them grow and scale their businesses. And along the way I have had my fair share of business owners who struggled with anxiety, control issues and fear of the future. 

There is another mental hurdle however, that I see at an alarmingly high rate and one that can have catastrophic effects on a business owner, particularly when it comes time to retire or sell their company.

When Your Business Defines You

Most entrepreneurs don't like to admit it, but the fact is that the majority of small business owners have a hard time seeing themselves as separate from their businesses.

It is as if their business defines them.

If their business is successful, they too see themselves as successful. If they have a bad month...or a bad year, they will begin to internalize those failures and see themselves as lacking as a leader. 

They may dream of the day when they are no longer needed at the office, but at the same time they have no clear vision of what this would actually look like in the real world. And how they would feel when they could no longer pin their self worth on that of their business. What would they do if they didn't work for the business each day? How would they feel if the business were truly independent of them?

Many business owners would be lost, like the empty nesters whose teenage children have grown up and moved out into the world. I have seen this time and again, and it is particularly prevalent when a business owner retires or sells their business. 

Let's be clear--you are not your business.

Your business is a wonderful place to create value in the world, to challenge yourself and grow, but it cannot be the sum total of who you are.

The clearer you can detail out your vision of what your life will be like when you successfully scale your company and are no longer needed to oversee every aspect of its operations, the more compelling that the future will be. And you will be less likely to let your business define you. 

Getting Started 

When a new client joins our business coaching program here at Maui Mastermind, one of the first things we start working on is building a key leadership team and growing their strategic depth. Over time the goal is to start removing the business owner out of the day-to-day operations allowing the company to scale without the constant input from the owner. This gradual approach of doing a little less within the business every month...every quarter...or every year helps the owner realize that they are not defined by the business, and it is yet another aspect of their lives that when handled properly can do great things. 

Do you struggle with letting your business define you? How have you gone about lessening the mental roadblock and redefining your definition of success? 

Published on: Oct 15, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.