When I was in my late 20s, a lot of my friends dreamed about becoming an entrepreneur or business owner. They talked about the freedom of setting their own hours; of leaving behind uninspiring supervisors and back-stabby colleagues; of telling others what to do and how do it just right; and, ultimately, having complete autonomy in all decision-making.
Me? I NEVER wanted to run my own shop. I liked the convenience of a weekly paycheck, the certainty of healthcare and the thought of leaving work behind me as I headed home for the day. But life happened, as it does, and I’m now a business coach and business development consultant with a range of clients, vendors, speaking engagements and a fantastic virtual assistant who helps me keep it all on track.
As I was launching one business several years ago, and then growing and expanding my coaching practice to where it is today, I remembered that I never heard my friends mention the other side of being a business owner. That in addition to the autonomy there’s a sense of isolation; along with the freedom of self-determination comes the lack of freedom because there’s no “off” switch when you’re responsible for everyone and everything. And most of all the notion of making all of the decisions means you’re the alpha and omega for all parts of your business— from marketing to manpower, and lights on to lights out. Along with so much responsibility there’s a range of emotions, anxiety gremlins and nibbling bits of insecurity that, if you’re not careful, can undermine your progress:
“OMG, can we pay our bills this month?”
“Did I make the right decision?”
“I know I forgot to do something – but what?”
I believe that the nature of being a business owner means having those “OMG” moments from time to time, yet there are some simple steps before and after those heart-pounding minutes that will help you stay focused, on track and help keep those gremlins at bay.
BEFORE YOUR NEXT INSECURE MOMENT
- Talk to people — Holding all of your stress and anxiety inside can create higher blood levels of cortisol aka “the stress hormone.” This can lead to poorer memory, depression, weight gain, sleep problems and so many other negative health problems.* One solution to releasing some of the stress is to speak with someone. It could be a mental health professional or just sharing a cup of coffee with a friend. Saying, “I’m worried about…” is a clear acknowledgement of what’s on your mind, and articulating it can be the first step to confronting it and finding a solution. Important: ensure that the person you’re speaking with is in your “flame” — someone who supports what you’re doing and has your back.
- Find a mentor — Speaking regularly with a business mentor whom you admire and can learn from is another way to feel less isolated, especially since they’ll probably say these four magical words: “I’ve been there too.”
- Write it down — Millions of years ago, the only thoughts contained in the human brain were, “Eat, drink, sleep, survive, repeat.” Now we have dozens of passwords we have to remember daily, plus hundreds of details that go into running a successful business. Go ahead and take out a notepad and write down all of your to-do’s. Next, prioritize them and create a plan to finish each task. Also buy a planner to help you prioritize tasks, keep appointments, set goals and stay on schedule. There are also scores of software programs, such as Evernote and Asana, to help with project and team management.
AFTER YOUR LAST INSECURE MOMENT
If you want to make your last sleepless night your last sleepless night, take a moment and write down what’s triggering your anxiety and then take action:
- Money Anxiety — What’s your system for tracking sales income? What are you doing to generate more sales conversations? Are you networking? Are you cold calling or getting warm introductions? If these questions are causing anxiety it may be that you don’t know the answers to one or more of them, and that’s okay. Now you have a starting point for setting a goal so you can answer them positively in the near future.
- “Too Much to Do” — Once you’ve written down all of your “to-do’s,” review and then delegate whichever tasks you can. If you don’t have an assistant or need specific help, say from a graphic designer or web developer, try Upwork or see if you can find someone in your network who’s looking for a part-time office job. They can help you relieve some of the unrelenting overwhelm.
- What do I do next?” — If you’re still reeling with all that you have to do and unsure of your next steps I suggest you hire a business coach, or check out local or online time management, goal setting or project management workshops.
The overwhelm and anxiety won’t disappear on it’s own, but you can help it on its way out the door. Be proactive, don’t give up, ask for help and know you’re not alone.