Having looked at Ikigai in your business, Sales Masters Guild Mentor, Mike Ainsworth asks “what if it isn’t enough?”.

In a previous article I wrote about Ikigai (Japanese for “a reason for being”) and speculated on the benefits to your business of finding your own Ikigai.

It’s logical to think that:

  • If your business is also you passion
  • If there’s a market for your goods,
  • If people are willing to pay for them and
  • If you’re good at something
  • Then this is the recipe for long-term success.

But it doesn’t always work like that…

About three years ago I met a lady who was keen to sell her business. She was actually keen to sell her business very quickly and the reason for this came out as she recounted her business history in our first meeting.

June had initially set up a fledgling online business selling children’s clothes about 15 years previously. She had a passion for the business and a knack of choosing items that proved popular with buyers and the business quickly moved from being a side hobby to a full time and profitable home-based job.

As her business continued to grow June took on a small retail unit and expanded her range. No longer a solopreneur as she employed two part time assistants but June continued to be hands-on in every aspect of the business and her passion for the market and attention to detail resulted in a build-up of a loyal customer base, most of whom went on to refer the shop to their friends.

The business continued to grow under the enthusiastic leadership of June and soon a move to a large two storey premises followed, as well as development of an online shop, which June saw as the long-term aim for the business.

June took on a manager to run the retail store but the cracks soon began to show. The Business sales had plateaued and June had a conversation with a long-standing customer whom she met in the town centre and who quietly mentioned that the new store manager had upset a number of customers. Unwilling to see the business that she had started up suffer June promptly sacked the manager and took back control. Meanwhile the online project was shelved due to lack of time.

After three years working 60 hours a week with no holidays June was at her wit’s end. Sales and profits were static or in decline and her passion for the sector had long since been crushed. As a result she decided to exit, quickly and at whatever price she could achieve.

We found a buyer for the business, albeit not at a fantastic price, but there was no-one happier than June when the sale was completed. I had a long conversation with her later and I doubt whether she will venture into business on her own again.

So what went wrong?

June was a classic example of the core message of Michael Gerber’s E-Myth book, written more than 30 years ago but still providing lessons that are valid today.

The assumption in the book, written after many years studying small businesses, is that businesses are often not started by people with tangible business skills but are more often started by technicians, who may be expert in their own field but who have little or no business management skills.

The problem for a technician is that as a business grows different skills are required, notably management and entrepreneur skills. Entrepreneurs in particular take a broader view of the business than a technician, who is more likely to be focussed on the detail.

Technicians are typically skilled in their own area of expertise and there’s no doubt that June knew her industry, its products and customers very well. As a solopreneur she was able to handle the business but as it grew rapidly the lack of systems and June’s inability to delegate meant that she remained responsible for nearly every part of the business.

June had trouble letting go of any part of the business and in truth this was partly because this was where she felt most comfortable. In the end though she became over-extended and frustrated and the business suffered.

What could June have done better?

It’s easy for me to say as part of a mentoring organisation but I’ve seen hundreds – possibly even thousands – of businesses like June’s over the years and what she needed was an experienced head to share problems with and who could guide her in her early years as a business owner.

A lot of business owners feel isolated and have no-one to turn to in order to talk through and overcome problems. Consequently problems that could otherwise be resolved can seem insurmountable.

To return to the E-Myth illustration then in the early years June needed to learn a balance between being the original technician in the business and then a manager and an entrepreneur. That balance between the visionary, creative entrepreneur living in the future and the details-focussed living-in-the-present technician can be a challenge. Add then the pragmatic, living-in-the-past manager skills and it’s easy to see why business owners struggle.

In due course as a business grows sufficiently a team can be put in place to handle all the areas but until that’s possible then the business owner needs to adopt all three roles.

Some people argue that the E-Myth concept gas been overtaken in the current information age but in my experience this is definitely not the case.

The Sales Masters Guild aims to support business owners not only as a mentor but also by educating business owners in the skills of entrepreneurship, as well as selling and other business skills.


If you would like to discuss Mike’s training courses and how they could make an impact on your business, you can contact him directly through his Mentors profile page.

Mike Ainsworth

Mike Ainsworth

Mike Ainsworth is a Sales Masters Guild Personal Business Mentor.

Mike lists his three main strengths as: Having an analytical approach to problem solving, being commercial and understanding value, having compassion and deriving real pleasure in being able to help other people (or other people’s businesses)

Find out more about Mike on his Sales Masters Guild profile page.

Read more blogs from Mike.

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