Many new business owners (and even established ones!) will find themselves prey to self-doubt and anxiety. Whilst it’s only natural to have moments like this, let it overcome you too much and it can have a crippling effect on your business.
Here are some ways you can respond to common anxiety-inducing scenarios.
“I’m not making as much money as I’d like.”
A common feeling for many entrepreneurs. Take a step back and review the possible reasons for this. Ask yourself:
Is my pricing strategy right? How did you come up with your prices originally? Do they take into consideration your business expenses, tax, any debt your business might have? And the salary you would like to take home as the business owner? Reverse engineer your prices rather than naming a figure that seems fair or basing it on what others are charging.
Is my product viable? While it might be a costing issue that’s putting customers off from purchasing, it could be that your product/services aren’t quite right. If you’re still not making a profit after restructuring your pricing, and you can validate a better business idea, you might need to consider pivoting. If you have an engaged audience but they’re not purchasing from you, consider adapting your offering to meet their needs. If you’re struggling to build a loyal customer base and generate profit, it could be that you need to shut down and start over – a decision not to be taken lightly and should be made after receiving professional advice.
Am I attracting the right customers? Review your marketing strategy – do you have the right target audience personas in place? Take a look at your existing customers, have any left you good reviews? Which ones engage most with you on social media? Work out your brand ambassadors and do your homework on them! How old are they? Their job title, income level? What other brands do they love? What’s the problem they have, which your product/service solves for them? Which social media platforms do they use the most? Once you’ve revisited your personas, review your marketing strategy and ensure you’re communicating with them in the right way, in the right places.
Do I have a strong grip on my business finances? By updating your cash flow statement and income statement every Monday, you’ll be able to better measure – and manage – your finances. You should know both your cash flow and your income – you need to know if you’ll be able to pay the bills and your employees (if applicable) this month (cash flow statement), but you also need to know if your business is sustainable in the long-run (income statement). Working with an accountant will help you set these statements up, making it easier for you to pull reports easily each week. If you don’t set time aside to review these statements each week, you’re not going to feel secure in your finances, which will only add to your stress and anxiety around them.
Do I need to adopt more of a lean startup methodology to my business? Are you testing and measuring, then learning and iterating? Revisit your business plan, taking the above areas into consideration. Use data insights to see whether what you thought was the right call, is in fact the best one, since launching? Are there new competitors on the scene, who are spending more on social ads than you? Is their offering better? Why? Are there new social platforms that your target audience frequents? Have your target audience’s interests and requirements changed since writing your business plan? Do you require a business continuity plan? While it needs to be a detailed and well informed document before starting your business, it also needs to remain agile to any changes in environment, as well as what your data’s telling you.
Consider working with an accountant. As a small business owner, it can sometimes be hard to see the wood through the trees. Consider working with an accountant who can bring their unbiased expertise to the table – can they spot pitfalls and opportunities within your business that could turn financial results around quickly?
Don’t forget that your time is money too. Where are you spending most of your time within your business? Is it justified by the results? Or could you introduce better efficiencies through process refinement, upskilling and technology improvements? The time you save could be better channeled into areas that have an immediate impact on your ROI.
“I’m worried about my business finances.”
Let’s start first with flagging that it’s completely natural to feel concerned about your business finances. It’s just your brain’s way of taking responsibility for your business and wanting to protect it. Without sufficient revenue and cash flow to support necessary expenditures, your business can go into unsustainable debt or be forced to make painful cuts.
But what can’t happen is taking this worry beyond itself. Constant anxiety and stress around your business’s financial status will seriously impact your mental health, which can also impact your physical health. You will be in no shape (inside or out!) to accomplish anything positive – both professionally or personally.
Begin by focusing on what you can control.
- Are you clear on all of your expenses?
- Are they essential? Could they be reduced?
- If you can’t save on expenses, could you generate additional revenue elsewhere?
- Take a breath and proactively work through your data and options.
Remember your passion behind your business. The reason why you’re doing all this. Sometimes it’s the fuel you need to work through your financial worries to get to the heart of the problem/s. Turn worry into your motivator for finding new revenue streams – a new client base, a new range of products, a new marketing strategy – focus less on making money, and more on what you can do to make sales. Less worry, more action.
Another useful tip is to remove your emotion from money. A hard task for a business owner, but an essential one. Attaching emotions to winning certain contracts or making XX sales per month can demotivate and stoke your worries. Be passionate but try to harness your emotions for clear and strategic thinking.
Working with an accountant can help reduce stress and anxiety around your finances. From setting up the most appropriate legal structure, to assisting with your business plan, ensuring tax compliance, as well as establishing robust financial management systems.
“I’m not sure I know what I’m doing – aka I’ve got imposter syndrome”
Acknowledging this feeling is a big step in addressing it. Knowing that imposter syndrome is a real thing – a common feeling for many – can be reassuring. There will be times when you feel inadequate – running a business requires a lot of knowledge in many different areas – not just your product/service. You can’t expect yourself to be an expert at everything. Knowing the areas that require improvement for the benefit of your business is a great way to start proactively addressing them.
Have a better relationship with failure. Winston Churchill once said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Keep your passion prominent (write it on a post-it note and put it on your wall in front of you if you have to!). Remember all the good reasons behind why you’re doing this.
Consider having a business mentor. As well as sharing learnings and experiences, you’ll quickly realise that most business owners regularly experience imposter syndrome. It’s how you turn it into a positive that matters e.g. what areas am I feeling unqualified for? How can I address them to increase my confidence in them e.g. training?
“I’m not comfortable presenting or pitching my business”
There are numerous resources available online to help improve your presentation/pitching skills, from how-to videos on YouTube to articles, online courses, webinars and personal coaches.
A great starting point is to understand your business inside out. You should be able to persuasively introduce yourself, your company and your product/service within 30 seconds (your ‘elevator pitch’). This is a key networking tool so you’re able to take advantage of any marketing opportunities as they arise – not just presentations! It can help with acquiring new contacts, clients, partnerships, funding and exposure.
You can also increase your confidence in presenting by:
- Practicing (ideally in the place you’re presenting).
- Turn your nervous energy into enthusiasm – it really shines through when you speak.
- Listen to other presentations! (Are you presenting at a conference? Attend some other talks, understand your audience – what are they responding best to?).
- Arrive early. Settle in and adapt to your presenting space beforehand if you can.
- Get to know who you’re presenting to. Have a chat with your audience before presenting – you’ll appear more approachable to those listening to you.
- Think positively! Visualise yourself successfully presenting. It can be a real confidence boost.
- Most audiences want you to succeed! Don’t see them as interrogating, but supportive.
- Take deep breaths to get oxygen to your brain and relax your body. Feeling tense can speed up how you talk – your audience might not be able to understand you well if you rush through!
- Smile! It increases endorphins, replacing anxiety with calm – making you feel good about your presentation. It also shows your audience that you’re enthusiastic and passionate about what you’re presenting.
“I’m struggling to switch off.”
Owning your own business can mean it’s hard to completely switch off. It’s not as easy as leaving work on Friday at 5pm and not thinking about anything until 9am the following Monday. You’re passionate, ambitious and want to give your business every chance of success – but not at the detriment of your physical and mental health.
The key to relaxing evenings, less stress, better focus and a positive mood, is what’s known as psychological detachment. Being able to leave work at work and switch off work concerns (outside of an emergency!) requires the ability to identify and dispute the false beliefs that come from stress triggers, reframing your thoughts and reactions, and countering the activation of the stress response with recovery and refueling.
Constant alertness and worry about what needs to be done, or what could go wrong, can cause significant stress and impact your ability to switch off. Taking time out for some rest and relaxation is extremely important in ensuring you’re offering your business the best version of you. Not one that’s running on fumes. Strike a balance by regularly having screen breaks, technology detoxes at the weekend, exercising and being more mindful of where and when your thoughts drift into business mode. Think about the things that make you happy outside of work and make a point of doing more of them. Live in the now and invest in your wellbeing for the benefit of yourself and your business.
“I’m worried about losing a key client”
Worry can be like a rocking chair – it gives you something to do but it won’t get you anywhere.
- Start with the facts. Why are you concerned you might lose one of your key clients? What’s changed? What would it mean for your business if they did leave (good and bad)?
- Get talking. Just because you’re a small business who has a big client, doesn’t mean you should shy away from difficult conversations such as money, the future of a contract, issues with a project, etc. You need to be comfortable having these discussions. If you’re worried you might lose a client, check in with them. Ask them if everything is ok, and ask about the future. See if they’re happy with your service, and if there are any problems. Hopefully you’ve caught them in time to rebuild the relationship.
- Remember, business relationships stop and start all the time. It’s not always down to you – clients can move on for internal reasons also. Don’t take it personally and burn any bridges as you never know; how you handle a parting of ways might be the reason for a client returning down the line. Maintaining your professionalism is key.
- Increase your time chasing new business. While it’s always important to be looking for new business, it’s easy to take the foot off the gas when times are good. Always be in new business mode – it will take the financial pressure off having a handful of a few key clients.
- Have a rainy day plan. Prepare a strategy to implement should you lose a key client. You’ll be out the blocks a lot quicker should it happen, and will generally worry less day-to-day knowing it’s in place.
- Prevention rather than cure. Give your client no reason to want to leave in the first place. Exceed their expectations with your service. Check in with them regularly, ensure they’re happy with how things are going and give them opportunities to feedback and help nip any issues in the bud early on. Make yourself a valued and trusted supplier.
These are just a few strategies that you can put in place to help handle anxiety-inducing events while running a business. Make sure to add tasks that take care of your mental and physical health to your daily to-do list, as it will really impact how you process stress and anxiety moving forward.