This article has been written because my experience tells me the underlying theme for business failure or success can usually be attributed to mistakes that otherwise intelligent people make when they have failed to apply common sense because their emotions are blocking their view. Having attempted numerous start ups (some good and some not so good), I still find myself stumbling once in a while and not listening to the same advice I give others.
It is always easier to give advice than to listen to someone tell you what you already know. The trick is being able to balance your emotions in order to minimize the impact of your mistakes. There is also a reason you do not find much written on this subject within the context of starting a business or being a business owner. The reason is that the online magazines, bloggers, coaches etc., rarely have the start up experience necessary to help others. Their articles are fluff and they cannot assist you with the true dynamics of starting a venture. This blog is for those who want to know the reality of their emotion’s affects on the dynamics of successfully launching or running a business.
The desire to start your own business comes with inherent emotions. Emotions can be positive or negative and they all have an impact on the success of our ventures. Positive emotions of excitement, clarity, energy, and the thrill of doing something new are often countered by negative feelings as a result frustration, anxiety of being able to pay the bills, unexpected obstacles and loss of self confidence.
The good news is you are not alone. Despite what some people may tell you, emotions are natural and although you may not be able to control them, one can certainly find a way to manage the issues. The bad news is – they are not going to go away. We have all heard that “with greater risks come greater rewards”, however, the flip side is there are also some devastating lows.
The high points of the rollercoaster are what an entrepreneur lives for. The feeling of that first client, first sale, first payment, and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is absolutely fantastic. We will get back to the positive emotions management later in this article. Dealing with the negative emotions is far more difficult, because negative emotions can be paralyzing or destructive to your start up.
The information below is only intended to generalize issues into major categories. Everyone is an individual and has different values and circumstances depending on their culture and other factors. There is not one answer or recommendation that fits everyone.
Emotion vs. Stage of Business Development:
Stage 1: Conception
Task: Setting the Vision and making the decision to go forward.
Emotion: Excitement, Clarity, Confidence.
Critical Factor: Overcoming fear (Fear of Failure, Fear of others perceptions)
Emotional management: Your excitement may be clouding your judgment. This is where your first real challenge to maintain your composure. At this point you need to guard your idea and prevent discouragement by others. If you need feedback, go to your closest open minded friend (or The Entrepreneur’s Advisor™) until you complete Stage 2.
Stage 2: Idea Development
Task: Thinking through your idea, determining what you will need, how you will get there, what need does your idea fulfill, understanding what you do not know.
Emotions: Excitement when you begin the process, feeling overwhelmed or loss of motivation when you realize this is hard work and takes time. Other emotions – greed, indifference
Critical Factor: Not giving up thinking about the details because – you are only seeing $, the task is mundane, you don’t know how, you cannot seem to concentrate, it just seems like a lot of work.
Emotional Management: Starting, owning or running a business is hard work. There is a lot to do and all of it takes time and/or money. Before proceeding it is time to do a reality check.
- Do you have the passion to implement your business idea?
- Do you have the resources (time and money)?
- Are you willing to accept that you might need to modify your approach?
- Are you ready to accept that there is something you did not think about?
- Can you ask for help (partner, advisory board, investors)?
- Do you really understand that you do not know all the answers?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions you the likelihood of building a successful venture is slim to none. These checkpoints are vital because if you have not thought through your idea you will have the potential for a great amount of anxiety when the plan does not unfold as you expected. I believe this stage is where most businesses really fail. Lack of funding, market conditions, unexpected events, poor hires are symptoms of a failing or failed idea. The cause is generally a result of 1) a lack of preparation and knowledge and/or 2) loss of positive “Can Do” attitude to find solutions to the opportunities presented to you.
Stage 3) Implementation:
Task: Putting all the pieces in place and opening for business. The checklist can be endless, just keep it organized. Other tasks may include formalization of a capital raising strategy, networking, and product development.
Emotions: positive – empowerment, confidence, passion, negative – overwhelmed, frustrated, anxiety
Critical Factor: staying organized and on measurable tasks.
Emotional Management: This is the most exciting time for a new venture but also the most the most challenging. The emotional rollercoaster is at its highest and lowest on a regular basis. The key is having someone to share the enthusiasm and burdens. A partner or close friend to help pick you up when you get knocked down or remind you of how you achieved success when your head gets too big.
When things go well, your biggest challenge is maintaining time management. This is huge for solo-entrepreneurs. Having customers is wonderful. But do not forget what you did to get them. Other positive emotions such as your excitement need to be managed. Being too excited causes a lack of focus and allows for mistakes to be made.
When things get rough (cash flow is my thought here) – do not give up, remember your strengths. . How will you handle the possibility that you cannot pay the rent, that others may not see the potential in your idea that you do? Review “Stage 2” and see what is going wrong. Adjust, transform, reinvent, and find a positive to focus on. Although I am not a physician, I see many people with attitudes that mimic depression. Depression can be paralyzing and negate the energy and attitude you had at the beginning
Stage 4) After the thrill is gone (>3 years in business):
Task: Business growth, retooling
Emotions: Contentment, boredom, frustrations of minor consequence
Critical Factor: Not forgetting how you got there
Emotional Management: The focus shifts, you can quickly lose the hunger/drive that motivated you in the first place. Making the transition from Entrepreneur to a large company is difficult. I can only think of a few people such as Bill Gates (Microsoft) or Tom Golisano (Paychex) who founded and had the skill set to manage large companies. Now is the time to decide how you will grow or move on. If you do nothing you may place your success in jeopardy. But that is another article…..
In summary, starting any business will incur both negative and positive emotions. However, the effect of emotions can be managed and perhaps minimized by thinking through your idea very carefully. The effective management of emotions is best handled if you do not try to do everything yourself and/or have an outlet to discuss issues. This outlet may be professional help, an advisor, a business partner, a life partner or close friend. The key is not letting the pressure build until you explode, become discouraged or paralyzed.
If you must endure the emotional rollercoaster by yourself then ask yourself when you reach an emotional stress point “What would my advice be to someone else who came to me?” How would you map out a solution for them? Teaching and mentoring is a great way to learn.
The Entrepreneur’s Advisor™ is unique in their ability to assist new ventures. Our understanding of the emotional rollercoaster, the details of starting a business, the experiences of running a business, change management and a passion for what we do separates us from others because “We have been there and done that”. Our innovative Pay-As-You-Go” program is designed to be a sounding board for start-ups. Talk to us – “We love getting our hands dirty.”
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