configuration management

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!

Tim Knox

About the Author

Online Entrepreneur Q&A is written by veteran entrepreneur and 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 outlets.

Tim is also the Ebusiness Startup and Design Expert for, 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.


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