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Red flags quiz - how do you know when it's time to get help?

Recently I've been out and about attending seminars, meeting businesses and talking with other professional advisers about trends in the market.

One of the overriding themes that has really struck me is the number of SME owners that have struggled to overcome their internal barriers to accessing help and progressing their business.

Issues range from the classic "I saw the signs, but I just didn't want them to be true" along to "I had no idea things were going wrong, it was just outside my expertise so how could I have known?"

It got me thinking that it really is incumbent on professional advisers to help SMEs spot the signs but that also every business is different, so owners need guidance and principles, not rules to live by...

So take our quick quiz below and see how healthy your red flags are!

Read the following 5 statements and count how many you answer 'No':

  1. I have enough time to do everything I need to in the business

  2. I have a good work-life balance

  3. I’m rarely dragged down in to the day-to-day management problems

  4. I have enough time to focus and deliver on the strategy of what we’re doing

  5. I am confident in our future plans


0 - 1 : The Zen Master

You're either so chilled out that you can't even see the chaos, or you're genuinely on top of things. Either way you don't need much assistance because you've got it covered.

Whether you've built a solid team around you to deliver on the perfect strategy, or you have an innate understanding of when and how to use your professional advisers effectively, the business is ticking over nicely and you're cool, calm and collected.

Zen masters often find themselves helping out their peers with advice, troubleshooting the problems of others and just generally solving the world's issues over a hot beverage of their choice. Not much will phase a Zen Master and they're usually experts in their field.

How other types feel about you:

Ostriches and Headless Chickens range in their respect/envy of you. One minute they're full of admiration for how exceptionally talented you are holding it all together, but when experienci their largest crisis they can't help but feel jealous towards you or frustrated at their own perceived lack of ability. Headless Chickens will welcome your advice and support with open arms, but Ostriches may be less receptive.

Things to watch for:

When circumstances push you in to the other categories you're the one most likely to seek assistance without question. The danger for a Zen master is that sometimes you own sense of self can make you feel more comfortable than the situation actually is... so whilst you feel confident, the reality is that the point to seek help is already here. This is particularly important when it's outside of your area of expertise. It has potential to fall in to your blind spot: you can't know, what you don't know.

2 - 3 : The Ostrich

Things aren't that bad... your answers just highlight how challenging it is to run a business and to you this is a perfectly normal and acceptable level of discontent. There will always be more work to do, and there will never be enough time to do it.

Your answers often shift, so whilst today the problem is being dragged in to the day-to-day management tomorrow it might be one of the others. You feel comfortable that this is part and parcel of managing the business but it doesn't feel totally out of control.

Ostriches often find themselves torn between priorities. Given the shifting nature of your answers your stress is usually elevated as you are constantly moving between fires, putting them out one by one only to find that some have hot embers that eventually reignite.

How other types feel about you:

Zen Masters love how you hold it together but lament how much easier your life could be if only you stopped ignoring the signs. Sometimes they'll give you help, but usually they leave you to it because they know you'll only bury your head in the sand and ignore them.

Headless Chickens just don't have time to even think about your problems in comparison to theirs. You don't seem to realise how easy you've got it, and how obvious it is to them that you are in a position to get the right assistance...unlike them.

Things to watch for:

Running a business isn't perfect, but your approach to ignoring the signs means that you are at a high risk of escalating in to Headless Chicken territory without realising it. You have the makings of a Zen Master, you just need to acknowledge that (a) in order to get there you're going to need a little support and (b) just because this is a 'normal' level of difficulty, doesn't mean there aren't ways to make it easier.

4 - 5 : The Headless Chicken

You don't even have time to read this far down the article to know this is you, because your burning fires are out of control. Unlike the Ostrich, you see all the fires and burning embers piles for exactly what they are. Your issue is deciding which fires you actually allow to burn given that you don't have sufficient water or buckets to put them all out.

You feel exasperated and exhausted, you're in a downward spiral and you don't even have the time to look up to notice that actually it's not as bad as you might think. You're probably emotionally sensitive and looking at the other types makes you feel like you'll never get there because of your own self doubt.

Headless Chickens often feel like they have already passed the point of no return, or that they are beyond help. These types often think "where would you even start" so they don't ask for help, because either they don't believe anyone else could answer the question either, or they think that help is out of reach.

How other types feel about you:

Zen Masters probably feel like giving you a slap to get you to snap out of this funk. They understand that taking the time to breathe, reassess and step-back is actually worth it's weight in gold and that if you did this you can easily halt the downward spiral. They will offer help and support because they know a little help goes a long way for the headless chicken.

Ostriches have their head so far in the sand they don't see how you've managed to get to this point. They think you're making a big deal of things and are contributing to your own problems, when actually a certain level of this uncomfortableness is acceptable - you just need to arrest the descent.

Things to watch for:

Running a business is hard but Ostriches are right; your chaotic approach of trying to do everything is hampering your efforts and you don't need to be so hard on yourself. The biggest threat to your business is a guiding belief that you are beyond the reproach of help. Being successful in business isn't about doing everything yourself, it's about being a good leader and getting help at the right time.



Audeo Fortis offers free business reviews. So whether you are a Zen Master, an Ostrich or a Headless Chicken we can give you insight for free. It's up to you what you do with it!