Solo: A Small Business Coach?

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far away…”

As a Star Wars fan since seeing The Empire Strikes Back on the big screen in 1980 (I was in primary school and begged my mum for a Princess Leia lunchbox), I am super excited about the new episode, Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Han Solo: anti-hero pilot turned reluctant leader of the Rebellion. He’s the consummate loner, trusting no-one but himself (save only his main “fuzzball”, Chewbacca). He gets by on his wits, good instincts and an uncanny sense of timing.

Setting aside his ability to save the galaxy while making a leather vest look cool, you may have more in common with everyone’s favourite space cowboy than you think: in lots of ways, Han Solo is a small business owner/sole trader. Ok, his industry (smuggling) may be a bit shady, but he displays a lot of natural business acumen and a level of self-confidence most can only aspire to.

I was musing over some of his most memorable quips and decided that Han Solo may even make a decent business coach. If he joined the Tenfold team, his coaching sessions might sound a bit like this:

“Never tell me the odds”
Han knows to never let negativity in. Even if the odds are 3270 to 1 (yeah, thanks for that, C3PO!), someone gets to be the 1, right?

Less supportive people may have thrown the stats at you when you were starting out: they might have chastised you, “don’t you know that 60% of small businesses in Australia fail within the first three years?” Sure, but that also means 40% do well enough to keep operating. Not to mention that if you succeed, your personal chance of failure was 0%.

What Han means is this: numbers don’t always tell the full story. Skill, experience and a great action plan can stack the odds in your favour. If you’ve done your research and your gut is telling you that your business decisions are taking you in the right direction, make like Han and follow it!

When asked the question “Is that possible?”
Han Solo: “I never ask that question until after we’ve done it”.

Most entrepreneurs admit that there is a fine line between their moments of success and failure.  Often the only way to tell if an idea is genius or insanity is to test it and see if it works out.

You must be prepared to take risks in business to kick the biggest goals. Of course, your objectives should always be achievable, but no one ever accomplished extraordinary things by having ‘reasonable expectations’ of themselves. This takes a lot of courage, but just the fact that you struck out on your own and started a business (something most people only dream about) should tell you something about yourself: you’ve got guts!

“Bring ‘em on. I’d prefer a straight fight to all this sneaking around”
Han is nothing if not direct. His instincts tell him that if you keep your communication style honest and to the point, you will never go wrong.

For example, tough conversations are necessary for any small business owner from time to time, whether it’s with your team, your suppliers or even your customers. By playing with a ‘straight bat’ (being honest and respectful), you leave less room for interpretation, so everyone knows where they stand. Often this means that issues are resolved more quickly and your relationships stay intact.

“It’s not wise to upset a Wookie”
Sometimes you have to pick your battles. Trying to win every disagreement will only leave you exhausted and may even erode the trust in your business relationships. Knowing when to push back and when to stand aside is one of the key skills for great leadership.

If a difficult client or supplier is making decisions based on anything other than logic, you won’t win the argument. If you can’t find a way to work with or around them, it may be time to let it (or them) go. You’re a small business owner – you don’t have time to muck around!

“Ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”
Technology can make all the difference to small business owners, allowing you to outsource functions without hiring more staff. This frees up time and energy for relationship management and core business activity. (Stay tuned for our upcoming blog on mobile device apps gives some examples of how you can leverage tech in your small business.)

Related article: The Best 14 Apps for Australian Small Business Owners 

“Great, kid. Don’t get cocky”
You can’t dine out forever on a single win. Celebrate, but don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. Be really clear about your big picture is, whether that’s defeating the imperial forces or by 2022 the business will be turning over $7M and I will have a management team and 20 employees. Then map out the path from here to there by chunking it into smaller business goals with realistic timeframes. And like Han says, don’t get cocky. An experienced mentor can help you forecast the dips and prepare for them.

May the (2)4th be with you
There’s probably a snappy Han Solo one-liner for every situation, so I am excited to get some new material from the latest film. I’m ready to make Han Solo an honorary member of our coaching team. Now, to convince  my esteemed colleagues…