Endings and new beginnings in business

Photo © Jenn Shallvey 2015
Photo © Jenn Shallvey 2015

The other day I found out that a favourite cafe closed down.  I was in shock. This place hosted breakfast and lunch for me and my family over the last 17 years. It was the place where I would escape to feel anonymous yet welcomed by the owner. It was the place I would sneak in a breakfast with my daughter before she was in school full time. It was a place I met friends and clients. It was the place I wrote many words.  It was the place where my sister and I used to grab a coffee or if she had time a bite to eat. It was also the place where this same sister told me she had breast cancer. It was the place I brought my family. It was the place where my kids as teenagers would agree to go out as a family and not be embarrassed being seen with their mom. This was a place with memories.

Being real

Yet beyond being a place for memories it also was a welcoming venue. I always loved the days when the owner was in the shop. He knew me well enough to endearingly address me ‘Miss Jenn’. We would exchange enough banter and stories to brighten up both our days. No matter what the weather - emotionally or physically - we were real.  He was part of our memories and knew my family, my sister, my kids. I do not know too many places where businesses connect with their customers in a real way these days for such a length of time.  

Because I once had this business cater a workshop for me I had the owner’s email. So I sent a note to find out what happened. He replied and then called. I won’t share the reasons for the business closing as I feel this is private. Yet I will reflect on what I notice in this experience because I see similar situations elsewhere.

Change happens  

We can stay static in change or we can adapt and adjust.  There are times when the change triggers us to take an action that is contrary to the direction we thought we were going.  For example the owner above decided to close his business based on his reasons.  One day all was business as usual and the next day nothing the same. This is how quickly change can take place.

Yet the lead up to a seemingly sudden external change is often precipitated by a much longer internal change.   This build up for most is unconscious. We get signs telling us to change.  It might be health, our moods, emotions, other people noticing shifts in our way of being. We hold onto a situation that no longer serves us without realising it. At some point when passion and joy are overcome by obligation and tenacity to dig in ones heels we know we have tipped the scales. We are out of balance.

Conscious change

What gets exciting is when a business owner makes a conscious change.  This type of change requires internal reflection, self awareness and courageous decision making.  Regularly reviewing and reflecting on where you are at and where you want to go in a business opens the door for new possibilities and new directions.  The aware business person notices when they are not in balance and the business is not right anymore. Decisions from this place may be challenging but empower.

There are so many reasons why a business owner stays in the game or decides to change.  Staying the same can be easier on the surface. But what happens when as a business owner YOU change? What happens when you outgrow the business? Usually it is time to shift gears. If you enjoy and are still committed to the business, then you evolve, innovate and change. If you don’t enjoy the business and interest wanes then it is time to change.

Evolving through change

So I step back and reflect on this situation and the broader perspective of leadership in business.  Leaders, business owners, entrepreneurs are at the forefront of change. Those who choose to lead and run business make decisions that affect the market, suppliers, customers and employees - ok everyone.  Yes there are pulls from these other directions. Yet the starting point is the leader stepping forward and responding with an offer through what this leader believes in and wants to do.  

Over time both the business and the leader evolve.  When a leader is no longer satisfied with the way things are going then only this person can make the change needed.  Fear gets in the way. Comfort grabs a hold and wraps her tight grips around the legs. Other people’s views weigh heavily on the shoulders. There are expectations and factors that stop a leader from taking action congruent for the leader.

The longer a leader puts off change, avoids or ignores then the more the world around shifts.  If a leader does not respond to these shifts the change will force an action.  Forced change often feels like it came out of nowhere but was really there all the time just not paid attention to.  

For me a truly thriving and dynamic business leader continuously changes. Mostly from the inside and then on the outside.  Change is inevitable. What matters is whether as an owner or leader in business you are continuously conscious about the change. If you are then you can respond as you go rather than all of the sudden.

Opportunity awaits

For this business owner that closed a business after almost two decades I applaud him.  Why? Because he made a powerful decision in response to change he faced in his whole world, not just the business. I am sure the experience leading to this change has not been easy. In the heart of such major transition there is opportunity.  I see this frequently with people who change careers, jobs, roles. Acceptance comes eventually. Learning comes later. If open to it then insight and inspiration for a new direction flows. Inevitably the entrepreneur spirit rebirths in a new form. So I look forward to the next installment wherever that may be.