Long hours, stress, too little sleep, stress, no money in the bank, stress, no boss but a 100 bosses called customers, stress… There are times as a small business owner when I wonder why on earth anyone wants to start their own business. It’s hard and frustrating and it’s a really nasty thing to do to one’s colon!
Despite the many advantages - the freedom, the challenge and the reward of seeing your ‘baby’ start to grow; the disadvantages are significant and draining, both mentally and financially. In fact, the sleepless nights and unrelenting demands are very reminiscent of early parenthood. Everyone has an opinion but only you can make the decision.
It can be a very lonely place at times.
This is why it is so important to tap into the resources and networks that are available to support small business. Instead of lying awake at night worrying, rather log onto the laptop and do some research. Doing something pro-active and informative ultimately encourages a sense of being in charge, rather than feeling a victim and may even allow you to catch some shut-eye. A typical reaction to worry and stress is a ‘frozen brain’. We become hostages to our fears therefore incapable of creative problem-solving. Pressing the defrost button may be as simple as taking the time to read and consider. There is no shortage of articles and free webinars addressing common issues. Knowledge is power and it is no longer purely the domain of those with an MBA.
“Networking is planting the seed of a tree under whose shade you may never lie.” (Author unknown) Other people have faced or are facing the same or similar challenges. Business networks provide the opportunity to share and learn. Collaboration and unlikely alliances are the key to a future where change and instability are the only constants. Personal networks are also an underrated source of support and inspiration. In my early days as a consultant, I worked for an international firm that insisted on a weekly ‘Take Ten’. We were all expected to phone or visit ten people a week, be they a customer, a potential customer, a supplier or a colleague. I am still in touch with some of those people twenty years later. Some have been a source of business, others have acted as mentors and a few I have been able to help in turn.
Involve your staff and other stakeholders in problem-solving. Staff can be a genuine help and not just a responsibility. Entrepreneurs are generally unused to asking for help and tend to believe only they can ‘do it’. The reality is we cannot do everything well, all the time and when staff are involved in problem-solving they can surprise with simple but effective ideas. More importantly, they become more empowered and invested in the company. A truly successful business owner is one who can confidently go on leave and know that the business will be just fine.
It is important to remember our physical well-being, as well as mental. The body is often neglected when we are under pressure. Eating badly and on the fly, insufficient sleep and Jim is a buddy not a place we visit regularly… when we least have the time or headspace to look after ourselves, is when we need to do it most. Just as we see the bank account taking strain under too many withdrawals, so does the body take a battering when it is running on empty. Take the time to eat, breathe and move so that you can continue to perform.
Running a business is not for the faint-hearted but it does not have to be quite so hard or isolated. Developing a few simple good habits will allow you to manage your business and your stress levels, more effectively.
Take the road less travelled but ask for help along the way.