Most business articles will advise you on ways to improve sales, cut costs, hire the right personal, raise capital and a host of other formal topics of interest. In this article, however, we take a look at a different aspect of entrepreneurship. We look at how to cope with being in the trenches of entrepreneurship.
The Stresses Of Entrepreneurship
Welcome to Entrepreneurship 101. After years of dreaming, you have finally come up with a killer idea, raised some “friends and family” money, opened an office, printed business cards and hired your first seven employees. You are ready to fly, to become the next Bill Gates.
But wait, things aren’t going quite exactly as you planned. You’re understaffed and overworked. Product development is behind schedule. Sales are short of plan. Costs are too high. Suppliers are calling for payment. Your employees need your assistance. You’re running out of space. You have problems getting product shipped.. Your accounting system needs an upgrade. You need to go on more sales calls. You have a trade show to get ready for in a month. You’re running out of money, and you need to spend more time raising capital, and your business plan isn’t even done. Your wife and kids are complaining that they don’t see enough of you, and you feel like you have to do everything yourself. You are completely overwhelmed, and you don’t know where to begin.
You are not alone. Founders of early stage companies typically work very hard and long hours, and they never feel as though they can get every thing done. They feel responsible for every project, every sale and every employee. It can be very frustrating and scary and can hurt your productivity.
Why It’s Important To Cope
You can’t afford to lose your productive drive. You cannot afford to allow a feeling of being overwhelmed to halt you in your tracks. You need to make progress, and you need to provide leadership to your employees. When you show up to work, they are looking toward you. If you are down or stressed or overwhelmed…if you are constantly worried, then that negativity will be conveyed to your staff, and it will affect their productivity as well.
You need to remain positive and upbeat, and you need to maintain and convey a high level of energy that is critical to the success of your business. But, how?
Worry Is A Poor Investment
There are lots of things in which you can invest your time that will yield a high rate of return, but worry is not one of them. Worrying will not pay your bills. Worrying will not finish your product development. WORRYING WILL NOT CHANGE ANYTHING. Worry is, simply put, a very poor investment, one that will never yield a positive return. It is a waste of time, and it is a drain on your positive attitude.
So, as hard as it may be, stop worrying NOW!
Just Do It And Say “Screw It”
You can only do what you can do, and you can’t worry about that which you can’t change. Remember at all times that you are not an all powerful being in complete control of your environment. Stuff happens, and when it doesn’t go your way, you will gain nothing by worrying about it or by blaming yourself. You cannot undo the past. The only thing you can do is move forward. Accordingly, move forward.
When things aren’t going your way, there are two words that you need to remember, “Screw It!” Just say these words and keep going. Don’t blame yourself. Don’t blame others. Just say, “Screw It,” and get back to work. This may seem funny to you, but I advise my clients to make a “Screw It!” sign to hang in their office, tape to their wall or use as wallpaper on their computers.
Of course, you can use whatever phrase works for you, but the bottom line is that you should make yourself a reminder to not stress over those things that stress you and refer to it often. Then, sit down, make a list of the things that you CAN do. Prioritize it and get to work. Know that you won’t accomplish it all, but do something.
You Are Not Alone
As an entrepreneur, you feel the entire weight of the world on your shoulders. You have the largest share of your company. You have the most to lose. You have invested more of yourself and your assets than anyone else. You’re the one who takes the business home with you. This doesn’t mean that you’re the only one who cares about the business or that you are the only one with all of the answers.
You have resources to tap. You have employees, advisors, friends and family. Use them. Your situation is not new, and you are not the only one who has business problems. Surround yourself with experienced advisors and people you can trust, and call them when you are stuck.
Share your issues with your employees. Meet with them frequently and let them know the obstacles you are facing. You never know which one of them will have the solution to your problems or the willingness to help you solve them. Knowing about the problems you face will not scare them; it will motivate them. They are not stupid. They see and feel what you are going through. They are part of your team, and they want to help. Let them.
Complaining Won’t Help Either
You need to keep your positive attitude at all times, and you need that to be an example to others in the organization. The best way to undermine your morale in difficult times is to complain. Complaining, unless done with a specific positive outcome in mind and in a positive manner, only creates more negativity, and like worrying, is a total waste of time. By complaining, you will bring down yourself and your organization. Instead of complaining about a situation, do something positive. Get to work on a plan to make things better.
Remember what John Wooden, great coach of UCLA’s ten national championship teams, said: “Worrying is a waste of time. When you complain, you waste others’ time as well.”
Humor Is The Best Medicine
In the final analysis, humor may be your best weapon against stress and the feeling of being overwhelmed. I am not going to go into all the medical and physiological reasons why laughter helps, but it is common knowledge that humor reduces tension and improves working relationships. Try to find the humor in your stressful situation, and it will lead you to better results.
In 1984, I was CFO for Monolithic Microsystems, and Joe Lee was CEO. He was a great leader, a wonderful boss and a man who I loved working for. He was a hard worker and an experienced manager, but perhaps his greatest contribution was his ability to laugh in the face of extreme adversity.
Monolithic Microsystems had serious problems with sales and cash flow, and it was a potentially very stressful situation for all of us. Joe had a number of great, funny expressions that we lovingly referred to as “Lee-isms” that constantly kept our spirits high. It wasn’t uncommon for Joe to walk out of his office and announce, “There must be a pony under all of this horse (bleep),” or some other patented expression designed to give us all a bit of perspective. Believe me, it made it a much better place to work.
Humor surrounds you. Humor can be found in every situation. Find it, and you’ll find a better way to cope.
Entrepreneurship is not only about having a great management team, a great product and enough cash to pull it off. In order to succeed, you need to preserve your entrepreneurial spirit. To keep your wits and keep your employees motivated, make generous use of humor and don’t worry. Worry is a poor investment.
© Copyright 2001 by Eli Eisenberg and Straight Line Management
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