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In small professional service businesses, there are options for choosing the services to provide. This is generally divided into camps — services you can provide based on previous skill and expertise and those services you’re most passionate to deliver.

What may seem like a clear-cut choice for some is really quite agonizing for a small business owner. This is particularly tormenting in the early stages of business growth and development when cash — or lack thereof — dictates decisions.

The Struggle of the Small Business Startup

This was certainly the dilemma experienced by one of my clients…

They left the safety of a well-paying, albeit boring and unchallenging job, to spread their wings in the unrestrained and exciting world of entrepreneurship. They have dreams. They long to be involved in work that flipped their switch, got them excited to get up every morning, and fed their soul.

Yet, they found themselves at the intersection of a very important decision.

Past employment allowed them to hone skills involved in services they can provide. Yet, the work choked the life force from their being.

Do they “play it safe” and focus on providing the services they can even though it makes them a bit queasy? Or, do they “take a risk” and deliver on their passion?

Safety and Security vs. Risk and Vulnerability

Risks are scary. They create fear and anxiety, which most like to sweep under the rug. Who doesn’t love a good “out of sight/out of mind” phenomenon?

Starting a business opens a world of uncertainty. There is unpredictability associated with revenue generation, client acquisition, and industry competition. There is also a danger of events that pose a risk, such as an unforeseen economic turndown or a weather calamity. (OMG, I’m scaring myself now!)

Yet, it’s only when one is willing to take calculated risks is the satisfaction of success experienced. Until we’re willing to discuss the fears standing in the way of delivering the kind of work we’re passionate about, we continue to live beneath our dreams, desires, and potential.

So, have the discussion. Get your fears out on the table. Sort through them. Find solutions that reduce exposure so you can face the fear and take the risk.

Starting a business requires trade offs — particularly in the early stage of business development.

There’s a give-and-take between that which is comfortable and that which is awkward, annoying, and downright tortuous to put into action. Like a tug of war, it’s the unspoken agreement we make with business startup success.

These concessions, although not always pleasant to the palate, create a strong core for your business.

You Can’t Always Choose Comfort

The desire to avoid discomfort is one of the biggest challenge amidst the small business startup. It’s particularly apparent among the millennial generation.

This is not to knock this particular generation. However, it’s been my experience that boomer business launchers appear more willing to do what it takes. They choose to do things they don’t like — temporarily. It’s part of what business success requires.

I don’t want this to come across as though I’m generation bashing. (Is there an echo in here?) One size doesn’t fit all — every member of a particular generation doesn’t fit the stereotype.

What I am saying is different generations adopt different work styles and attitudes. In fact, differences between the millennial and “older” business owners are well documented. (Hey, who are you calling “old?”)

The biggest difference, in my humble opinion, is “time in the saddle.” We (i.e., “older” business owners) were once young, dumb, and wet behind the ears. Thank goodness wisdom comes with experience for most — but not all — of us.

Of course, some would say with business longevity comes rigid thinking, limited creativity, resistance to change, and defunct innovation. Imagine “this is how we’ve always done things” bellowing from the dingy office of the older business owner.

And they would be right…

For instance, 68% of millennial small business owners rely on social media for brand promotion compared to 14% of older business owners. (Get with the program, Grandpa! Facebook, albeit a slacker, is here to stay.)

Some millennial business owners make respectable choices that could/would have served the boomer well — like intentionally carving out quality time with family.

The challenge arises when one, regardless of generation, choose something other than the hustle — particularly in the early days of business.

Do The Hustle

What does it mean to choose the hustle? To the melody of the 1975 Van McCoy song, The Hustle, playing in the background…

Hustle is not…

  • working 24 hours per day
  • missing your kid’s little league games
  • responding to customers requests at the dinner table
  • working through sick days and vacations
  • …fill in the blank with your belief about hustle

Hustle is…

  • doing what success requires
  • taking calculated risks
  • coming out of the closet to your strengths and passion
  • not surrendering to your fears
  • adapting gracefully and graciously to changing trends
  • willingness to briefly be uncomfortable

Hustle is blogging — even when the thought of it makes you queasy — if that’s how your buyer persona locates your services.

Hustle is attending networking events — even when you think they’re lame — if that’s how you expand your network.

Hustle is sending emails to potential clients — even when you’re convinced they’ll say no — if that’s how to inform your audience.

Hustle is experiencing the discomfort — even when it’s a hassle — if that’s what is required to succeed.

And when you’ve been in business for a while and have done the hustle to succeed — to build your reputation, to create awareness, to reach out to others, to hone your expertise in your skills and rework your services time and time again — then, and only then, are you empowered to be selective.

Until then, put your big girl/boy panties on and let’s hustle.

Core Business Assessment


Brooke Billingsley

Vice President
Perception Strategies

Synnovatia is a strategic coaching firm that is detailed and knowledgeable about business. i have a small business that grew from $150K to $750K because of the goal setting and resources that Synnovatia provided. It saves me years of learning on my own.

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