Feeling overwhelmed and uncertain at times is a common side effect of running your own business. Your original vision, so clear in the past, can feel muddled when unexpected challenges impact the future of your venture and demand attention. Finding solutions to stay focused can be all-consuming, especially when working in a pandemic environment.
It's tempting to keep concerns to yourself and to present a stoic public front. Meanwhile, inner turmoil and worry can rob us of sleep, patience, and the ability to develop creative solutions.
Many of us were raised to take full responsibility for whatever happens in life. "Stop feeling sorry for yourself! Others have it worse than you, so quit complaining! You're the one who decided to start a business, not me!" Sometimes, these words reflect the speaker's fear and frustration and likely are not said with mean intention. They do, however, remind us that finding the right tools and support system is needed.
Building resilience and staying strong in tough times are tools that can help us through to better days. Unfortunately, pretending all is okay is the false front that often skips alongside these two wise strategies. The concept of "fake it 'til you make it" isn't always our best move, especially when the health of our business is at stake.
The next time you find yourself pasting on a cheerful mask when you don't feel that way, stop and think about it. What's so bad about admitting you feel overwhelmed and need some help?
Absolutely nothing. It's an intelligent thing to do. Hitting a low point in business and recognizing you must take action or lose everything gives you a starting point from which to move forward. Conventional wait-and-see approaches might not be an option. You may need a more creative solution, and that can be hard to develop on your own. Tap into the strength and experience of others and increase your ability to handle challenging situations.
Here are three ways to get started.
Find a mentor
The best mentors are business owners with years of successful business experience. They've lived through business cycles, faced adversity, have a community presence, a reputation for getting things done, and run their operations with honesty and integrity. Think of business owners you admire, then call and ask for a few minutes of their time to discuss a possible mentoring relationship. A word of advice: look locally and avoid asking high-profile dragons – they tend to be inundated with requests and are likely to say no. It's more effective to meet with someone who lives and works in your community, even if you run a virtual business.
Develop an advisory team
An advisory team is a group of experts you can call on for input and opinion. Create your own by first identifying the areas where you know the experience of others and professional guidance will benefit you most. This will be different for each of us, depending on our skill sets, needs, and time. Likely candidates include a financial expert, a human resources professional, a marketing guru, and a social media expert.
Some advisory team members may offer input and advice at no charge or in exchange for services, while others expect a professional fee. Just remember, it takes years of experience to develop expertise in all areas, so paying for expert advice when needed is an intelligent investment.
Talk to your local Community Futures advisor
Supporting rural economic development is the primary goal of the 27 Community Futures offices located throughout Alberta. That includes you and your business, regardless of what stage you are in: start-up, growth, or selling it. Call your local office and know before they even answer that they have knowledge, information, and resources to help you.
The fundamental strategy in times of trouble is to reach out for help. And the sooner you do, the better you'll sleep.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness; it's a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don't know something and to learn something new. ~ Barack Obama