You Are Not Alone: How to Find Your Strength in Numbers
It’s now the second quarter of the new year. As you take your first real deep breath from the grip of COVID-19 and how it has affected your business, I would like to remind you that you are not alone.
It is hard to find other people who understand what it is like not just to run their own business, but to run a business in the public space. Most “nine-to-five” folks simply don’t understand the stress and anxiety of being the final word, the risk taker and the decision maker.
Business owners don’t get to go to sleep and not worry about payroll, the impact of employee health insurance on profits and the pressure of having 10 people relying on you for their weekly paychecks.
Most people don’t generally understand the massive amount of work it takes to produce five cents on the dollar in profit - or if you’re focused, 10 cents. And typically, they aren’t open to learning about it. They think a business is a cash cow that can be milked at any time.
All too often, it feels as if there is no one who will listen when you need to vent your frustrations. Many times, even a spouse doesn’t understand why you could be so upset at something that happened within your business.
The good news is, there are people who understand. Maybe they only understand part of it or they understand it through a narrow lens, but there are people. The hard part is that you must spend time looking for them. And then you must commit to building those relationships.
There are small business groups in many areas of the country. They meet - recently, on a virtual basis - and share ideas. They may not be in your industry, but they have similar problems: customer count, HR issues, legal, regulatory - the whole gamut.
One of the nice things about these groups is there is usually a stipulation that there can be only one dry cleaner, one tire dealer and one restaurant owner in the group, so you don’t have to worry about competition. You can speak freely and cull advice from people who have a lot of experience being entrepreneurs. You may even get a few ideas that your industry is currently blind to seeing.
There are also tire dealer associations. In some parts of the country, these groups are more robust than in others. But for many, this is a viable option that can connect you to people who understand your struggles and can celebrate success with you.
20 Groups, such as Dealer Strategic Planning - the DSP Group, are another option. In a 20 Group, you are paired with 19 other independent tire dealers across the country and are given a protected space so that in your group, there will be no local competitors.
In a 20 Group, you can share your financials, plans and marketing ideas with people who have a deep understanding of your specific industry and face many of the same challenges.
There are also dealer and program groups, which not only help you reduce your cost of goods, but also can connect you with peers, either regionally or across the country.
With any of these options, there are a few factors that can make membership worthwhile - or a giant waste of time.
Primarily, if you go into one of these groups with the mentality of taking and not giving, your experience will be very short-lived. Every group member needs to balance the roles of getting help and giving help.
If your group requires that you bring a “best idea” to a meeting and your idea shows you have put very little effort or investment in helping the group, your colleagues will not tolerate it very long. These groups require a “we” mentality. They detest a “me” mentality.
Secondly, membership requires commitment. You need to commit to making at least 75% of all meetings. This is hard, as running a tire dealership often throws surprises at you at the very last minute and it’s very easy to allow those surprises to take priority. But if you commit and put forth the effort, I promise it will help your business and you, as a person.
Lastly, avoid what I like to call “the golf clubs.” These are groups that masquerade as networking and support groups, but are really just social groups.
It’s OK to belong to a social group of business people who provide a specific need and can help you unwind. Just don’t get involved in groups that pretend to be something they are not. Eventually, you will feel they are wasting your time. And that’s something you don’t want.
Dennis McCarron is a partner at Cardinal Brokers, one of the leading brokers in the tire and automotive industry (www.cardinalbrokers.com). To contact McCarron, email him at email@example.com.