Martin Webb: 'How to cope with stress'
Entrepreneurs are not the most touchy-feely bunch of people I‘ve ever come across. We don‘t generally bare our souls or express our deepest feelings in vast emotional outpourings.
But although we all like to think we‘re masters of the business universe, most of us are secret worriers on the side. We worry about the competition. We stress about our staff. We‘re paranoid that we‘re losing our touch. And most of us opt for the easiest quick fix to deal with these concerns. Which is to pretend that they don‘t exist.
I‘m writing about worry because it‘s one of the last truly taboo subjects of entrepreneurial culture. For everything else there is a textbook, college course or other source of useful information to magic the problem away. But worry is a secret curse for many of us, clouding our judgement and making our lives miserable.
Recently, I‘ve been waking up in the small hours of the morning worrying about the effects of the smoking ban on my pub businesses. I worried that my pubs would become barren wastelands with tumbleweed blowing where my customers used to stand. I worried that the value of my leases would be slashed overnight as operators rushed to join the stampede out of the industry. But like so many things that seem a big deal in the middle of the night, this catastrophe failed to materialise.
Worrying up to a point is a good thing as it motivates us to take actions that can push our businesses forward. But when that worrying make us tired, unhappy and scared to make the wrong move, something has to be done.
So how can we deal with worry? I was lucky enough to have a business partner who tended to worry about different elements of the business to me. That meant that there was always someone available who could put things in perspective. It‘s amazing how quickly problems can subside when they‘re thoroughly talked about.
I‘ve always been one to tackle worries head on. Worries are the brain‘s way of letting you know that there might be a problem, so take the hint and do something about it. Write down all the pros and cons of the situation you‘re worrying about. Rationalise the worry so that you‘re making decisions in the cold light of day rather than rash judgements at 4am. The secret is to use those worries as a tool for making the right business moves rather than letting them rule your entrepreneurial style.
Stopping the night fears is not always easy to do. Simple things will help though. Take some exercise so that your body is tired and your sleep deeper. Read a book before you sleep so that your mind isn‘t thinking about business just before you doze off. I always write a list of what I need to do the next day before I go to bed. That seems to free my mind from trying to remember all that stuff as I try to clear my head.
Building and running a business is always going to throw up worries but when it dominates your life and leaves you stressed then it‘s a big problem. However you deal with your problems, talk to someone. It‘s funny how once you start talking even the worst problems seem to get better almost straight away. You may have to buy your mates a few points while you ramble on, but that‘ll definitely be money well spent if you can sleep like a baby and focus on running your business again.
Post Date: June 18th, 2009