Your customers don’t matter.
The number and happiness of your employees doesn’t matter.
Having nice shelving and a freshly-waxed floor doesn’t matter.
Having clean bathrooms doesn’t matter.
Being satisfied with your business doesn’t matter.
Your health doesn’t matter.
What kind of car you drive doesn’t matter.
Your great location doesn’t matter.
Your store’s community doesn’t matter.
Your house doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter how often your kids get to see you.
Your gross sales figure doesn’t matter.
Nobody gives a flying flip whether you’re doing what you love.
The number of your peers that want to talk to you at a trade show doesn’t matter.
Your charitable contributions don’t matter.
How much cash you have in the bank doesn’t matter.
Your products don’t matter.
Your Point of Sale system doesn’t matter.
How many locations you operate doesn’t matter.
The only thing that matters is net income.
Until you have sorted out your net income, none of the other stuff matters, because you will lose that anyway. If you think that you might have to pick something–anything–over net income, then you need to get out of your business and get a real job. At a real job there’s work-life balance, and your employer is nominally prohibited from taking away whatever that thing is that you think is more important than your current business’s generation of net income.
As it is, you can’t have two number-one priorities. Choose this day whom you will serve. All of the things in the list above are awesome and super-important, but if you’re in business for yourself then the first and only question must be: What is your take after all expenses have been met, and what can you do to get that net income number to an acceptable level?
If you’re carrying the products you love and only those products, but you’re not making money, you’re not going to be carrying any products soon.
If you’re building a great community in your store but you’re not making money, that community will soon be gone.
If you’ve got lots of clever ideas and get featured on websites but you’re not making money, you’re going to lose your store. Not very clever.
If you’re able to take off whenever you want and spend lots of weekends with your kids, but you’re not making money, then you’re going to lose that control over your life when your store goes out of business and your personal bills start coming due.
Only after your net income is present and accounted for can you start asking what else might matter. This is a tough thing to require of yourself, and it wouldn’t be wrong to shrug it off and go get a jobby-job. Business ownership is a tough racket (NSFW). There is no net. You have no employer to be understanding when you phone it in for a month because of something else that’s going on in your life.
Let’s review. What’s important? Net income.
Say it with me: Net income.
I know that you just read that instead of saying it out loud. Try again, even under your breath. Come on. Ready? Net income.
It’s ten o’clock. Do you know what your net income is this month? What are you going to do about it?
(Acknowledgement: When this post was a draft at about 60% completion and languishing far down on my to-do list, Gary at Black Diamond Games did something similar but different.)