There is something in business I like to call the two-year itch.
I find that 90% of people in business go through it. It can be either a positive or negative experience. I can tell you that I, myself, have gone through the two-year itch phase and it most certainly wasn’t easy.
The two-year itch is that moment when you find yourself actually having to pay tax for all the hard work you have been doing over the past couple of years. Not only that, but you’ve likely have also hired an employee or three, maybe have taken on a premises, leased some equipment, built a demanding network of clients, have several important suppliers and feel like you are talking to the bank every second day.
You find yourself very far from the business that you initially started. The one that one was small and agile. The one that you could easily make a decision and see the impact. The business that didn’t require too much stress to generate income. The business that had little to no expenses. The business that you dreamed would potentially make a difference.
At this stage, I generally see one of three things occur:
1 – It all gets too hard, so you decide to quit the business, get a job and let someone else deal with the pressure of running a business.
2 – You freak out a bit, but decide that you can handle it. However, you re-check how far you want to take your business and decide to quieten things down, perhaps let a staff member or two go, and be happy with a simple easy business model.
3 – You revel in the challenge and seek out bigger and better ways to do things (some of them may fail). You push through the pain and continue to build the business that you originally believed in.
In my opinion, there is no right or wrong option out of the three above. One person will have a different perspective than another, and they’re all designed around what we believe to be the best approach for ourselves and our families.
The role that we play as accountants and business advisors puts us in a wonderful space. We can directly impact the welfare of business owners as they struggle through these tough decision making times. It’s funny how many of my clients have spoken with me at the two-year mark and reflected on that original discussion we had when they started out, and really resonated with the stage in life they are in. Every one of them have a different view on what they believe to be the next step for them. It’s a privilege that we get to journey alongside them and be an encouragement, whilst also giving perspective.
For the business owners out there that are currently, about to, or already have experienced the two-year itch, know that you are not alone. There are people out there with skill sets designed to assist you through this stage of business, and that the decision you need to make will likely be different than the next person.
For the advisors that are journeying with these businesses, be kind, compassionate and remember the time that you went through the two-year itch. Being able to lean on your personal experience can be an amazing resource to your client. Empathy and transparency can develop a comfort level for your clients that will make them more likely to take your advice to heart when decision making.
So don’t despair the two-year itch – after all, “The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn’t matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark.” (Barbara Hall)