How can small business owners find happiness as well as success?

How can small business owners find happiness as well as success?
Mike Ferguson
Mike FergusonDeveloping Professionals International

Posted: Wed 10th Feb 2021

There is very little in life as exciting and fulfilling as starting a business. I've spent most of my life working around the world with 'big corporates', so it has been huge fun - and a privilege - to be able to support the Enterprise Nation community these last 12 months.

Small business is fundamentally different. It's not just a job. We become part of the business, and the business becomes part of us. So the success of one determines the success of the other - and you might reasonably expect that success is going to lead to happiness!

Why is happiness so elusive?

Over many years, our studies into the lives and work of around 150 top professionals have revealed that happiness is surprisingly elusive. How disappointing to have worked so hard - yet be miserable.

Of course, there are many happy business owners, but it turns out that the secret does not lie in hard work - it lies in being able to maintain balance across the many areas of life we experience as a human being.

Eight areas turn out to be particularly significant: health, home, family, work, spirituality, recreation, love, money. Yes, all the most successful and happy professionals we've interviewed acknowledged all of these - without exception.

So if hard work isn't the answer, what must happen for us to orientate ourselves to be ready for success? The answer to this lies in two specific areas.

First, we have to understand our needs

These are different from our wants!

Think of it like this - when we wake up in the morning, we are driven through the day by a set of nine 'engines'. In my line of work we call these our Key Internal Drivers. They have names like Material Rewards, Security, Status, and Autonomy. And our purpose, often quite unconsciously, is to fulfil our own unique set of needs.

So we seek out those opportunities and activities which help us do that, and the many, many decisions we make throughout the day work best if they take us in the direction of meeting those needs.

It turns out that many of us start businesses partly because we have a high need for the Autonomy driver, which is about being in charge of our own time and destiny.

But really understanding our own set of drivers - and we have developed a tool for measuring these - is essential to getting what we want from our business. Unsurprisingly, most of the coaching work I have been doing with Enterprise Nation members recently has been about helping them measure their own Key Internal Drivers. Because once you know what they are, making decisions in life and work becomes pretty easy.

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Second, we must believe in our ability

I suggested that there are two factors which play out in our success journey. Knowing our needs is important, but equally vital is our total belief in our ability to achieve them. In other words, this is about confidence. That's a word we hear quite a lot - and can be defined as "the positive expectancy of achieving our goals".

See - often 'we get in our own way' of success because of deeply held beliefs that we are not good enough. Often, those beliefs were installed in us way back, perhaps by somebody who meant well, but just didn't see that bright light of unlimited potential burning within us.

This is also where a masterful coach can be transformational - actually working with us to change our belief system - so that what once seemed 'impossible' becomes just a normal part of our everyday expectation.

I've worked with some amazing people. And it is my heartfelt belief - I know this to be true - that, from whatever our starting point (and my own was not great!) - amazing success and happiness is available to all of us. We just have to orient our heads in the right way.

Mike Ferguson is a trusted Enterprise Nation adviser and business psychologist who has spent three decades studying 'successful' people. Discover the services he offers exclusively to small business owners.

Mike Ferguson
Mike FergusonDeveloping Professionals International
"Prof Mike" is widely known as the Success Speaker - although he originally qualified as a Chartered Engineer, working in electronics and telecoms. His relatively early transition into management convinced him that the success of organisations depends above all on our ability to get the very best from ourselves and our people - and that the level of possible performance is generally way more than we - or they - typically realise. In March 2019, Mike was presented with the Risen Star award for his work with Vistage, the world’s largest Executive Coaching organisation.   "Most of us walk around the planet thinking that we're pretty ordinary - but we all have the potential to be GIANTS!" For the last 30 years Mike has worked as a psychologist, teacher, trainer and coach, sharing his time between academia and supporting real-world challenges in business, government, the NHS and the voluntary sector. With a background in engineering, all of his work has a sense of practical purpose and tangible outcomes, a desire to help people to make a difference and get things done. Some of his most significant projects include the development and implementation of the performance appraisal systems for GMC-registered medical doctors across the UK, and the selection process for the London 2012 Olympics Gamesmakers. He regularly co-presents The Confident Leader programmes for the NHS. Mike likes to make work fun and is a keen presenter, having trained with the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He is regularly described as an inspiring speaker and speaks around the world, notably for the elite Academy for Chief Executives. He holds a Masters degree in Management, is a graduate of the Pacific Institute in Seattle and is a Master Practitioner and Coach in Neuro-linguistic Programming. He is also a Registered Hypnotherapist. In addition to his commercial work, Mike held senior posts at leading UK University Business School for many years, and continues to supervise research and deliver work as a Visiting Professor at Business Schools both in the UK and overseas.

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