Who’s In Charge, You Or The Business?

At times, small business owners feel a loss of control in their business; the same happens to providers in their own practices. Periodically they feel controlled by the business instead of actively controlling the business.

Ironically, most providers started their practice because they wanted more control over their professional and personal lives. For many, it was one of the main drivers behind stepping out on their own.

But all too many and too often feel a loss of control in their own practice.

So what’s going on here? What’s the reason behind it?

While there are many reasons, I’ve identified three core areas responsible for leaving small business and practice owners prone to experiencing a lack of control. 

Lack of Clear Goals

A lack of clarity, resulting in fuzzy goals is a key contributing factor. Unfortunately, lack of clarity is frequently overlooked and discounted as unimportant.

Let me tell you a story.

Picture this…

A family of five arrives at the airport. Wrestling with their luggage and the crowd, they finally make their way to the ticket counter. It’s their turn to talk to the agent. Here is part of their conversation.

Agent: “Hi, how can I help you?”

Couple: ”We’d like five tickets please.”

Agent: “Sure. Where to?”

Couple: “We’d like to go to a nice place, where it’s warm, the sun is shining. We just want to have a good time, relax.”

Agent: “That’s great, but you need to tell me where you want to go. I can’t sell you a ticket if you don’t tell me where to!”

Couple: “We just told you we want to go to a nice place…

Ridiculousness, isn’t it?

Yet that’s exactly what most of us do at one time or another; yours truly included.

We want to accomplish “something,” go somewhere, but we’re not clear on what that something is. We have fuzzy goals and hence lack clear direction.

And that’s a problem. Because if you’re not clear about what you want to accomplish you can’t:

  • Measure your progress
  • Measure your results
  • Determine when you’ve reached your goal.

This alone may have you thinking you’re not making any progress, even though you’re working all the time. You may feel overwhelmed and that you’re not getting anywhere.

Develop goal setting skills and get in the habit of defining what you want to accomplish. Make your goals measurable, so you know when you’ve reached a milestone or accomplished your goal. 

Lack of Education

Depending on the type of business, getting started can be super easy. Many businesses have a low barrier to entry.

Anyone with the resources to rent space, hire employees, buy equipment, or purchase inventory can get started in business at once.

And for the average self-employed professional, it may take even less to get started: little or no inventory and often no employees.

All that’s needed is money for a license, rent for an office and to buy advertising. That’s all it takes, and they are in business.

But just because it’s easy to get started, doesn’t mean it’s also easy to run the business. It’s all too common to get overwhelmed by everything that needs to get done from day-to-day.

Unfortunately, many new business owners neglect to get even basic business education before jumping in. The simply start their business by hanging out their shingle.

Now imagine…

  • A nurse without formal training
  • A Nurse Practitioner without formal training
  • An attorney without formal training
  • A teacher without formal training

It just doesn’t happen. Every one of these professions requires education and licensing before the individual can practice or start working in their respective field.

But not so with business!

Anyone with the resources to rent space, hire employees, buy equipment, or purchase inventory can get started at once. Of course, one of the reasons behind licensing requirements is the mandate to protect the public.

But there is no mandate to protect individuals from themselves. And please don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that there should be such mandate! It’s up to the individual to recognize the need for business education and to act accordingly.

I think I would be wise for anyone wanting to start a business to get some basic education before they hand out their business cards. It will increase the likeliness of success, give greater confidence to the new business owner, and increase the sense of control over the business.

I’m a strong advocate for getting at least basic business education. Ideally, you’d get the education either before starting your business.

And today, that’s so easy to do. You can educate yourself by reading books, reading blogs, or by taking some courses.

There is a wealth of choices available to you so you can learn all you want and need to know about business. 

Lack of Systems

Will acquiring business education keep you from having problems in your business, feeling the loss of control or overwhelm?

Well, you know the answer to that. Of course not!

Having business knowledge won’t prevent you from running into problems. However, knowledge equips you to deal with problems more effectively.

Let’s face it when you own a small business or practice you’re often the “chief cook and bottle washer” and the “buck stops with you.”

There is a lot to do, every day. Not only are you the person delivering the service, but frequently you’re also the one running the business.

And often, you’re running frantically, trying to keep all your plates spinning. And it can be exhausting!

However, once all your plates are spinning and humming along, you get to take a step back and enjoy what you’ve created. But you have to get there first!

How do you get there? You get there by implementing systems in your business. It will take some time to put them in place, but it will be worth it.

Once your systems are in place, they allow you to work more efficiently, give you greater control, and help reduce day-to-day stress.

Systems also allow you to extract feedback about the performance of your practice. They will tell you if your business is on track and what you need to change to get it back on track. Of course, you’ll only get that information if you set any measurable goals, to begin with.


In summary, focus your attention on identifying clear objectives for your business. Always keep your bigger goals in the back of your mind. Don’t allow yourself to get swept up in the never-ending details day-to-day business.

Work on implementing systems in your business. And even though the process can be tedious, the long-term payoff will be huge.

Keep educating yourself about business, keep learning. While business education is not a formal requirement for you, make it part of your professional development.

We’d love to hear from you… leave a comment below. Tell us what you think about setting goals, implementing systems, and learning about business.


By Johanna Hofmann, MBA; regular contributor to the NPBusiness blog and author of “Smart Business Planning for Clinicians.”



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