If It Was Easy, Everybody Would Do It
By Tim Knox
Q: How do I handle the stress of running my business?
A: Being an entrepreneur can be incredibly stressful and overwhelming.
There are times when you wonder if it's really worth it. I remember
complaining once about the stresses of business to an elder entrepreneur.
He just held up his weathered hand and said, "Son, if it was
easy, everybody would be doing it. Now suck it up and move on."
Suck it up and move on... quite the fortune cookie moment, if you
know what I mean. I get all warm and fuzzy just remembering it.
He was correct on the first part, though. Running a business is
never easy and always stressful. Even when things are going great
you know in your heart that Mr. Murphy is lying in wait just around
the corner. That's one of the things that makes being an entrepreneur
so exciting. It's like walking a tight rope... backward... with
your eyes shut... and your pants on fire...
Have you ever had what I call a "garbage truck moment?"
That's when the constant pressure finally catches up with you. The
debts are mounting, your staff is shrinking or growing, you get
that nauseous feeling in the pit of your stomach--and you long for
the apparent simplicity of driving a garbage truck.
OK, I know driving a garbage truck is not easy work, but humor
me for a moment, please.
I used to feel like that all the time, but not as much lately.
I've found that while stress is a part of everyday life and there
is no way to do anything important (like run a business) without
it, you can absolutely control how it affects you. I don't think
it's the big crisis that gets you, but the constant pecking of little
things every day, most of which you can't do anything about and
many of which will not come true. Mark Twain said it well: "I
am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of
them never happened."
If anyone knows what stress feels like, it's my friend, Greg,
a highly successful entrepreneur. Greg professes that he has spent
many nights sick with worry about his business problems. He could
see the effect it was having on him, both physically and mentally.
He talked to doctors, counselors and friends; He read books and
listened to tapes, but nothing really helped.
Greg would return from a week-long vacation in Hawaii feeling great,
but by noon on his first day back, it would be like he'd never left.
He tried back massages, exercise and meditation, and they all helped
a little. Eventually, Greg figured out that he was just treating
the symptoms and not the real problem.
Unfortunately, there's no magic way to deal with stress. My experience
is that you are going to feel it no matter what you are doing. There
are two basic ways to attack it. First, you can make yourself more
resistant to stress. Get in good physical shape; watch what you
eat; get some interests outside of work; take up calming exercise
such as tai chi or yoga. All these things will help, and you really
can't go wrong with any of them.
If you really want to put a serious dent in your stress, however,
you must understand what is causing it. For many of us, much of
our stress is caused by that unknown feeling about the future -
all the things that are "out there" that are going to
come in and mess us up. There is a straightforward way to combat
this - come up with a clear plan for your business.
Think about it for a second: When you are just zooming along (even
if things are going well) without a clear idea of where you are
going, you will feel stress in everything you do.
All this stress comes from the unknown, and you'd be amazed at
how much a clear vision of your business goals will sweep away much
of that unknown. When you have a plan, you are usually too busy
working on that vision to spend much time worrying. You tend to
see setbacks as minor events, and because you see what is coming
next in your plan, you are able to keep your imagination from blowing
things out of proportion.
The feeling of not being in control is the most stressful of all.
Remember that the more defined your plan, the less of that feeling
you'll have. So get organized, figure out what you are really trying
to do, and get busy doing it.
If you can throw yourself into that plan, you won't have time to
worry about all those little things, most of which you can't do
anything about anyway.
Now suck it up and move on, will ya. I've got a truck to catch.
Here's to your success!
About the Author
Online Entrepreneur Q&A is written by veteran entrepreneur
and OnlineProfits4U.com founder, Tim Knox. Tim serves as the president
and CEO of three successful technology companies: B2Secure Inc.,
a Web-based hiring management software company; Digital Graphiti
Inc., a software development company; and Sidebar Systems, a company
that creates-cutting edge convergence software for broadcast media
Tim is also the Ebusiness Startup and Design Expert for Entrepreneur.com,
the website of the national publication Entrepreneur Magazine. As
if that wasn't enough to keep him busy, Tim also writes the weekly
newspaper column "Small Business Q&A" which focuses
on small business startup and success.