Some Days Owning a Business is Really Hard

When you own a business and almost anyone asks you how it’s going, your natural instinct is to say “Great” because:

  • That seems like the right answer
  • You don’t want to give the impression you are struggling in case they were about to give you a referral or new business
  • You don’t want word to get back to vendors or employees who might hear it and draw the wrong conclusion
  • It personally doesn’t feel good to admit things may not be going as well as they could

Part of the problem is a lot of your personal identity can get wrapped up in your business. Which means if the business is having a bad day, then you must be doing something wrong – you are failing in some fashion.

But nothing ever is always good. Nothing ever always goes up and to the right.

There are going to be hurdles and problems and headaches. There are going to be things you dwell on that make you mad or upset long after they should. That’s all normal.

Even if it’s normal though, it can get to you. It can start to feel pretty personal.

Especially when a bunch of things land on the same day:

  • An employee who you thought perfectly understood your request goes and does something completely wrong
  • A longtime customer blows up over nothing and quits
  • An employee unexpectedly gives notice – or just stops showing up
  • A delay happens – right after you promised someone a delivery date
  • A payment you were counting on doesn’t come in
  • A bill you weren’t expecting suddenly does
  • A sale you’ve been working on for weeks or months finally lets you know – they won’t be going with you
  • A new marketing push you were counting on goes live and delivers… crickets
  • A potential new hire who would be perfect that you were pretty confident you were going to land takes someone else’s offer

There is no way to avoid any of this if you’ve been in business for any length of time. And there is nothing you can do to take the sting out of it – in the moment.

But in my 24 years of experience, I have developed some coping mechanisms to help. They must be helping or I would have gotten off this rollercoaster a long time ago!

It’s easy to take the negatives that happen hard and let it really get to you. But here’s what I do to help get past it and keep moving forward:

  • Have the long-term goal in mind and remind yourself what it is and how far you have come and how much you still value getting there. This really helps put any short-term hiccup in perspective (you do have long-term goals, right?)
  • Remind yourself that what you are doing is hard, the course is uncharted and you are not going to always get it right. Give yourself some grace to make mistakes and be OK with it. This is not you being a failure, this is just how business goes sometimes.
  • Recognize what you can and can’t control. Then work on improving the things you can and ignore as much as possible the ones you couldn’t.
  • Take stock regularly and know where you are at financially. Flying blind makes everything seem scarier but if you know the cushion you have and the runway for cash flow you can put things in better perspective.
  • Try not to have too high of expectations for anything just starting – new marketing, new employees, new vendors – everything takes time to develop and some things won’t work despite your best efforts so pinning high hopes on anything is likely to lead to disappointment.
  • Remind yourself you can’t make everyone happy – some customers are bound to leave. As long as you acknowledge when you could have done better and fix those times you can safely ignore the times that were really about something else and you just got caught in it.
  • Most things aren’t as bad as they seem and the best way to deal with just about any problem is just to bite the bullet and face it now. Whether it’s a hard conversation with an employee or an angry customer – dealing with it now and being completely honest is the best way to get past it the fastest with the least fallout.
  • Have some people you can talk to honestly about how things are going who won’t judge you and who can give you honest advice and perspective. For most business owners, this is other business owners or trusted advisors, not employees, personal friends, spouses, or employees. Having no one to talk to makes it much, much harder to cope because you are literally doing it alone.

Here are the action items to take for this right now:

  1. Keep your long-term goals somewhere handy so you can more easily refer to them as you go. If you haven’t thought this through yet, start working on it now
  2. Review your financial runway right now and review how much cash and cushion you have for when things take a turn. If you have no idea about this – we should have a talk!
  3. Work on making a list of at least three people you can have an honest discussion with about how your business is going, who will listen and can give you some healthy feedback.

Bad days will happen. Being able to come out the other side quickly, positively, and without letting them get to you is the goal. Hopefully, these suggestions will help and fewer and fewer days will seem as bad as they used to!

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