The other day a small business owner who has followed me for several years decided to work with me one-on-one. She has an existing business that she needs to rebrand and refresh. In the application form she filled out I spotted a response that warned me she was an “if only” entrepreneur. In our follow-up phone call to select an open spot for a private, VIP half-day business retreat I heard language that confirmed she is an “if-only” business owner.
If-only's act to support their businesses only if certain criteria are first met. The problem with this is that they put themselves in such a small box that they then can't step up and out when their business needs them to. In this particular situation, the women was willing to put time and effort into her business if only:
- She didn't have to take on any debt.
- Her husband didn't get nervous that she was eroding their financial base.
- It didn't interfere with her husband's outside appointments.
- She had plenty of time to meet the social and school schedule for 2 children.
- She didn't have to go to any networking meetings that happened early in the morning or after work hours.
- She could rebrand her business without having to pay for changes to her existing website.
While you might read this list and see right away that there's a problem, if-only's almost never see the boxes they put themselves in as problems. In fact, if they are asked about their “if-only” list they will tend to get defensive and explain at great lengths why their “if-onlys” have to remain. Usually, resistance to acknowledging the limitations a person has placed on herself comes from fear of change.
To own and be successful in business takes a willingness to change the existing structure of one's life. It also requires family members to line up in support of the new business activity, so it means changes there, too. Change can be uncomfortable. It's especially uncomfortable for women who have been very acommodating to every need within a family. In fact, part of the resistance to considering other options can stem from an unwillingness to admit just how much of her own life and her own dreams she's given up.
Because of my awareness of this small business owner's if-only status, I was not surprised that absolutely none of the open dates to work with me were convenient (due to her husband's schedule, not her own). Of course, her choice to forego building her business is entirely her own. What usually happens is that if-only's keep themselves in a dream state of “I would so love to have a business, but it just doesn't ever seem to work out.” They firmly believe that the reasons things have not happened have nothing to do with them. That's often sad to me because I see the fabulous talents and ideas that many if-only's have.
Do you wonder if you are an if-only business owner? You can download my application, answer the questions, and see what it tells you – or contact me for a One And Done hour and we'll figure it out together.