Math problemThe notion that business problems are personal problems in disguise I believe can be traced to Thomas Leonard, the father of modern life and business coaching. It’s simple.  Businesses are run by people. And as you know, people have problems from time to time. On the surface, it is easy to accept that some business problems are personal problems but all business problems???

Before you dismiss this idea out of hand, put yourself is this business owner’s shoes and explore with me some examples.

The hypothetical scenario:

You are a 40 year old owner of CityBike, a retail operation in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, that is about to expand to online sales of custom manufactured urban bikes.

Obvious connection between business problem and personal problem:

You hired a Director of Marketing a year ago to help you grow. He is going through a marriage breakup. Your company repositioning/ website revamp, slated for end of March to launch your new line of custom manufactured urban bikes, is now slipping into late May (if you are lucky). In this case, his big personal problem= your big business problem.

Less obvious connection between business problem and personal problem:

In 2002, you predicted a huge upswing in bicycle commuting in cities and this vision compelled you to start your company five years ago…a retail bicycle store. After four years of steady growth, you pressed go on manufacturing your own urban bikes to sell online and in your retail operation. This was your original vision but it took you four years to truly commit to it. In the meantime, a much bigger competitor has just come out with an urban bike that is selling like hotcakes, even during the recession. Your fear of committing to your business vision= your current business problem.

Downright subtle connection between business problem and personal problem:

Early on, there were some issues with the accuracy of the bike production samples from your Chinese manufacturer. This added frustration, time and expense that you didn’t anticipate. Surely I won’t try to make this a personal problem too? Well, I might. After all, your Chinese suppliers are people too! Who knows what was happening with your Chinese engineer and her team when she was developing your prototype.


You’ve built a very solid business. You are employing people. You are contributing to the economy and what’s more, you are helping protect the environment and improve people’s health with your urban bikes. Certainly, you cannot predict or prevent all personal problems (yours and those of your employees, suppliers, customers etc.) from impacting your business but you can learn to spot them earlier and learn to coach yourself and your people through them.

As we increasing makes links to personal life in the business world, one day I will be able to write a post entitled Business Success= Personal Success in Disguise!


  1. tanyablog on May 22, 2009 at 3:30 am

    I’d agree. And one huge pervasive connection is such a rookie mistake: trying to be all things to all people (customers) = wanting to be liked by everyone in life. Sometimes, you’ve simply got to draw the line. Who’s worthy and who’s just work?

    • lisablog52 on May 22, 2009 at 8:11 am

      Sounds like a nice topic for a blog post! Thanks TG.

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