Simplifying your business should be a priority.

Because apart from being a contributor to business owner burnout, complexity also contributes to business instability and an inability to bounce back from change.

And since stability and resilience are keys to a healthy, sustainable business, complexity — a thing that works against stability and resilience — is not your friend.

Complexity is the enemy of stability

The more complicated you make things, the more moving pieces there are in your business.

More moving pieces means more places where things can break down.

More places where things can break down means more overhead (financial, mental, and emotional) for you, both in proactive problem prevention, and in inevitable troubleshooting and problem solving.

Every time you add another layer of complexity, things get a little less stable. If the complexity is necessary, then the tradeoff in stability is warranted. But when was the last time you asked whether the complexity really was necessary, and whether it warranted the tradeoff in stability?

Complexity is the enemy of resiliency

The more complicated your business, the less resilient it becomes.

All of the moving pieces in your business have to be able to respond to changes. That’s why lean businesses tend to be agile and able to adapt fluidly.

Complex business hit changes like a car without shocks goes over a big pothole: it’s rough, stuff jostles all out of place, and there’s a good chance you wind up immobile for a period of time while you try to get all the pieces back into place enough to keep going.

As before, if a layer of complexity is necessary, then a tradeoff in resiliency might be warranted. But unless you’ve taken the time to consider whether it’s necessary, and whether the tradeoff is warranted, you ought not be complicating things on a whim.

Simplifying is knowing what matters and eliminating the rest

You can’t just decide you want to get rid of complexity in your business and start chucking staff and software.

The first step is vital: you must identify what’s necessary and what matters.

Only then do you know what to eliminate.

If you jump to the elimination first, you risk getting rid of things that you needed, that mattered, but you just didn’t realize it.

Always be willing to challenge your assumptions about what you need, what matters, and what can (and should) be eliminated

This is why it helps to have data handy, so you have something against which you can check your assumptions.

It also helps to have a trusted advisor who will speak clearly, honestly, and educatedly about your business with you, to challenge your assumptions with different perspectives and hard questions.

Hard Truth #1: You’re probably making your business more complicated than it needs to be.

Hard Truth #2: You probably won’t see all of the ways you’re making your business more complicated than it needs to be without being willing to push back hard against your reflexive assumptions.

Know that. Come prepared.

Here’s a tip for figuring out what really matters and what’s just a “Matter Mirage”

A “Matter Mirage” is something that appears as though it matters — right up until you really give it a clear, close look, and then what seemed to matter about it… vanishes. Just like a mirage.

You’ll come across some things in your business that will be sticky, and you’ll have a tough time getting perspective on whether they matter, or they’re just a Matter Mirage. (And these “things” might include more than things — they might be team members, coaching groups, conferences, social networks, events, etc.)

Here’s a quick (and damn near foolproof) way to tell the difference between what really matters, and the Matter Mirages:

Ask, “Why is this in my business?” and give your most honest response to that question.

If your answer is something like:

  • It reduces my expenses.
  • It saves me time.
  • It increases my profits.
  • It is required by law.

Then it probably really matters. Keeping it and focusing on it is probably warranted.

If your answer is a justification, you’re dealing with a Matter Mirage. It only looks (and feels) like it matters because you’re looking at it through the justification.

You’ll know it’s a justification because:

  • Your answer will be laced with guilt, fear, shame, or envy. (That’s a dead giveaway right there.)
  • You’ll either feel the urge to explain a whole lot to convince yourself of why The Something belongs, or…
  • You’ll feel a petulant teenager “I don’t have to answer this, this whole thing is stupid!” level of resistance.

Bottom line: If it’s something that really matters, it won’t require a justification.

If you can clearly and succinctly articulate the reason something is in your business, it probably actually matters.

If you wind up trying to “justify” its presence, it’s probably a Matter Mirage, and it’s likely to vanish as soon as you let go of the justification.

So will simplifying your business by getting rid of all of the excess make it easy? No.

“Easy” and “run your own business” do not go hand-in-hand. (Anyone who tells you differently is selling you something that will not live up to its sales pitch.)

But simplifying your business will make it more stable and more resilient, which reduces the amount of fires for you to put out, and which reduces the amount of overhead: financial, mental, and emotional.

And all of that can make it feel easier, because you’ve taken back some space and control.