If you do some research on this subject you find a huge amount of information available on how to deal with emotions in your business, i.e., those who work for you who may be experiencing emotional difficulties. But there is a real lack of information or advice for business owners who are probably, at some stage, going through difficult periods within their business and their emotions are being extensively and regularly challenged on a daily basis.
As business owners, we have huge amounts of responsibility and manage our stress levels continually. We have obligations to our employees, our families and the security of the business. We are in control and our decisions can impact and change other people’s lives. We may not consciously reveal that to ourselves but buried deep within our subconscious is a huge sense of responsibility.
WHAT ARE OUR EMOTIONAL CHALLENGES?
As human beings, it is natural for us to feel emotion in whatever we do within our lives and to try and control and deal with our emotions. Staying motivated and focused can be difficult for those who run businesses as emotional instability can lead to irrational thoughts and behaviour, which can have a direct and sometimes instantly negative effect on the productivity of a business. We are in a unique position, as business owners, and open to all forms of positive and negative feelings that have the ability to affect how we make those decisions.
There is, of course, plenty of room for emotion in business but equally, it is important to keep those emotions real and not let them spiral out of control. As a long-time associate, one I have coached and still work with regularly said to me… “you have to keep your emotions around the horizon line. If you descend or ascend too much or too fast, you can lose your control on reality. It is about regulating euphoria and fear in equal measure”.
As a coach, I very much focus with my clients on the inevitable negative emotions of running a business and they are inevitable! I look to introduce a strong degree of rationalisation within the business owner. Everyone at some point will experience isolation, stress, fear, loneliness, resentment, frustration, money worries, family pressures, staffing pressures and many other examples that will impact on our decision making. This can affect our direction, induce procrastination and, indeed, make us feel the grass is greener on the other side. We can lose control if we don’t have the mechanisms to bring us back to realisation.
I like to help business owners relieve their burdens and they find, by sharing those burdens, the original concerns they had are greatly reduced. Every problem in business has a solution; it may not be particularly nice to deal with it at the time but, when you do deal with it, you can move on very quickly with a renewed focus on the important activity of running and building a strong business.
FALLING OUT OF LOVE WITH YOUR BUSINESS OR THE GRASS IS GREENER ON THE OTHER SIDE
If you procrastinate too much and bury your head or find ways of distracting you away from the pressures, you aren’t necessarily dealing with the problem or getting to the root cause. This could mean a business failing when the issues could have been dealt with, or the business owner falling out of love with the business.
As entrepreneurs, we are by our very nature people that need to be continually stimulated. We need challenges and to feel that sense of progression. Falling out of love with a business, I believe, has two very succinct differences… you either want to explore new challenges, creating a new lifestyle existence or, secondly, you are running away from the business because you let your fear take control. The first is totally rational and we will all get to a point where we either want that new challenge, as entrepreneurs, or we reach an age or stage in our lives where we feel it is our time to use the fruits of our hard work to slow down and enjoy life outside of running a business. Letting fear take control which, in turn, creates a dislike of our business, is completely irrational and can be a dangerous and continually deteriorating association.
HOW CAN WE CONTROL OUR EMOTIONS?
I personally find this absolutely fascinating and will use something we can all relate to as business owners. Statistically, 50% of businesses will fail in their first year and this percentage reduces as the businesses and, more importantly, the owners develop as experts in running a business. As the business grows, you grow as an owner and learn more and more how to run a successful business. Of course, we are all still continually learning our trade but we are all becoming more confident in our abilities. Every time I walk into an established business that has been trading for many years I am hugely impressed. I am impressed by the success, the skills and the knowledge each owner possesses and I believe every owner should give themselves a huge pat on their own backs for what they have achieved.
Ironically, the owners themselves have little or no concept of this or completely overlook their competence and skills as a business person. The fascinating aspect of this is that we lose that sense of perspective of what we have achieved and, yes, there is no one to pat us on the back. We are isolated as individuals in this respect and, through time, we lose the understanding of how we have surpassed numerous issues and problems in the past and continued to make our business a success.
My role is to make business owners fully appreciate what they have truly achieved. Yes, there is always a great deal of hard work ahead but to reach this point you are statistically unique, given that approximately 4% of the UK’s adult population run businesses (many being sole traders) and only half of these survive beyond the first year. You have done what most people would never try to do and you have created for yourself a successful business career.
RECOGNITION, RATIONALISATION, UNDERSTANDING AND DOGGED DETERMINATION
It is important for business owners to fully appreciate what they have achieved and memorise succinctly the adverse and euphoria moments that got them there. The challenges they have faced make us tougher individuals and we should use this as momentum to deal with what lays ahead and to deal with any issues rationally. Business owners are certainly not failures and shouldn’t fear failure. Each and every business owner has stepped into a world where uncertainty is part of the process, it’s natural and something we have to deal with rationally, but we have the tools to do so.
Every business owner has the challenge of creating growth and making a profit. It is not about survival, it is about opportunity and pure hard facts and figures, fully appreciating the opportunities that lay ahead. A combination of regular pats on the back, rationalising every decision and looking at any emotional turmoil or issues as a distraction you need to move on quickly from is how we as business owners should deal with the inevitable emotional challenges that face us every day.
We should recognise who we are, what we have achieved and what we are about to achieve in our future business careers!
Stuart Allan is a business consultant and growth specialist based in Colchester, Essex and works with companies throughout the South-East.
Stuart founded Essex-based premium dessert company Indulgence Patisserie Ltd in 1987, turning it into a multi-million pound international operation by the time of its sale in 2013.
Accredited to the Government’s Growth Accelerator Programme, Stuart is a Business Mentor with the British Army, and has been appointed as the on-site business coach at the Essex CEME Campus.