By Doug Sandler, “Nice Guys Finish First”
Worry. Does it hold you back or does it motivate you as you build your business, make plans for your future, and follow your dreams? That’s the million dollar question. Depending on your perspective, as you approach a problem, worry could paralyze you or it could be your sixth sense, like an advanced warning system, keeping you sharp. Whatever the case, we all worry, but instead of having worry stop you dead in your tracks, learn to manage your worry and turn worry into its distant cousin, intuition (a.k.a. gut instinct), and use it to your advantage.
The following are 12 worries all entrepreneurs have:
1. Will I ever make another sale? The sale that I just made, will it be my last one and why isn’t my phone ringing? Is my internet connection down and why is every email I get spam? Did I go out of business and someone just forgot to tell me? These are just a few insecurities that go through my head, even after 30 years of being in business. And it’s normal if you have them too. The point here is to manage your worry, either let it wash over you and manage it or let worry keep you sharp instead of paralyzing you with fear. Yes, you will make another sale, and no, you are not going out of business. Instead of worrying, take action and look at the big picture, settle into the steps needed to reach your goals. Don’t focus on the loss column, keep yourself facing forward, stay positive and keep your head in a good place. Baby steps forward, focus on the tasks at hand and you will make another sale, and another, and another.
2. Can I make a living at this? Give your ideas time to grow. In the beginning everything seems so delicate, vulnerable and fragile. It may take some time to grow roots. But stay with it, believe in your ideas, and you absolutely can make a living at it. Your ideas will become reality. Over time, the roots of your ideas will grow deeper and stronger as you develop your ideas into products and services. Tell everybody and anybody that will listen what you are up to. Become a student and learn everything there is to know about your idea. Welcome passion into your life and become an expert at your passion. The world will eventually beat a path to your door to learn from you. That being said, be patient and do not rush it. Always keep in mind in order to get what you want you have to help others get what they want. In order to become successful, never lose focus on helping others solve their problems.
3. How will I ever find the time to do everything on my plate? It will seem like 24 hours is not enough time during the day to get everything done. Do your best to prioritize, manage, and delegate, all the while keep moving. Failure to move, take action and develop systems will keep you on the hamster’s wheel. Get beyond the wheel by sticking with only those ideas that contribute to your main goals. Learn to say no when something crosses your desk that is not in your plans. By nature, you are an ambitious person, uniquely qualified and capable of many amazing feats. Remember, you will never be short of ideas, just short of time to accomplish every one of them, so learn to manage your time effectively.
4. How long will I have to keep up this pace? Not forever! My good friend Strickland Bonner (co-host on The Nice Guys on Business Podcast) always reminds me of the mechanics behind a flywheel. The flywheel is a large wheel-like object, requiring a disproportionate amount of energy to get started, but once moving keeps a steady pace of continuous energy going. In the beginning, as you start building your business and you crank into action, lots of effort is required just to get the flywheel started. Because it’s only you and your idea, it can seem lonely, daunting, intimidating and tiring. Once you experience the taste of a sale, or a positive word from someone, your actions will be fueled by your success, helping you crank that flywheel, building momentum. Think back to all of the things you did for the first time – tying your shoes as a child, balancing your checkbook as a college student, getting your social media legs as an adult, they were all a challenge to you, but you practiced until you got to be an expert at each of these tasks. Now, they are all a given. Things will get easier over time, (or so it will seem because you will no longer need to put so much energy into many of the tasks that are second nature to you. Your flywheel will zip along, powering your business.
5. Why do I feel like a fraud? This is a feeling that many entrepreneurs have at some point during their journey. Most often it happens during the first few years of building your business. You will be going in a thousand directions, not 100% sure of up from down. You will be called upon as the “expert” in your industry and you will be overcome with a feeling of insecurity. You will have thoughts like this, “Why are they asking me this question or want my point of view? I barely know what the hell it is I am doing, so what makes me an authority.” Whenever this feeling hits me, I take a deep breath and think about all that I have done to get me to where I am in my journey. I remind myself of all of the triumphs, wins, successes and glory-filled moments. You are worthy of being titled an expert because you have worked hard to get to the point that someone calls upon you for your input. Think like an expert and you will become one.
6. How can I stay current and up to date with my products and services? Time marches on and you need to stay current. Embrace change and allow it to become one of your best friends. The best way to do this is to listen to your customers. Hear what they say, listen to what they are asking for and do everything you can to provide it. A guaranteed way to fail to to stick with your old ideas and to ignore the march of time. In a recent interview I did with Jeffrey Hayzlett, former Chief Marketing Officer and V.P. of Eastman Kodak talks about Kodak’s inability to change with the times, eventually leading to Kodak’s failure. They thought they were in the film business, when in actuality they were in the business of preserving memories. Years before their collapse they were presented with opportunities in the digital camera arena but refused to get too deep into it because they thought they were in the business of making film. Be ready, willing and able to change with the times and to make adjustments to your business.
7. How do I know where to invest in my business? Should you put money into advertising, marketing, technology, systems, education or somewhere else? Like any business, you will have to stick to a budget. At every stage of building your business, you will need to prioritize where money should be invested. Have open and honest conversations with others in your industry that you respect and look up to. Keep your business as lean as possible, especially in the beginning stages. There is nothing wrong with building your business out of your basement or spare bedroom. You should be busting at the seams before you take on the responsibility of paying rent or hiring staff. Keep in mind your best investment is you. Educate yourself and put money into getting around other successful people (conferences, mastermind groups, etc). Avoid “idea of the month” mentality. Develop a solid plan and stick to it. Most businesses fail because they run out of capital or they don’t manage the money that is coming in properly. If you are working for someone else while you are building your own business, hold onto your job as long as possible, because lean times will make it very challenging to pay the bills unless you have plenty of reserves in the bank.
8. Why is everyone in my industry killing it while I am failing? Not the case. Don’t believe everything you see on Facebook. People frequently post their wins and very rarely post their losses. My wife, Danielle, often reminds me to stop comparing my beginning to someone else’s middle. We all grow at different rates and grow to different levels. If you need a reminder about how far you have come, just look at all you have accomplished over the last few weeks, months or years. Document your progress as you go and you will be amazed at how far you have actually come. Also, leave the pity party now, the pointy hat doesn’t look good on you AND you are much better than that.
9. Who can I trust to help me? Building relationships will be a key component on your way to success. You will not be able to succeed without the help of others, so invest wisely in these relationships. Surround yourself with positive people who believe in your message and truly want your success. Find partners that you like and that you feel comfortable with. A great way to build relationships in business is to find others that you can help as well. As I continue to build my speaking and podcasting businesses, I am always on the lookout for businesses that also need something that I offer, so we can work in trade or barter. Many of those relationships have evolved over the years and the owner of those businesses have become my most trusted sources for information, knowledge and business. Give out what you are hoping to get back in return. If you start by being a trustworthy entrepreneur, you will find others in a very similar space.
10. Should I rely upon others or do it myself? Most entrepreneurs fall into the trap of thinking that the best way to get something done is to do it themselves. And while that may be true for some things, it will not be true for everything. We all start by doing our own books, marketing, invoicing, selling, social media posting, blogging, and so much more. At some point you will need to let go of the control of many of these responsibilities, otherwise you will be limiting the growth of your business. Some tasks should be automated, others will require bringing team members into the mix (on-site or virtually). Whatever the case, keep an eye on others that specialize in what you specifically would consider a support task. The key thing to remember is your goal is to work on the business and not always in the business.
11. What systems should I have in place. Systems are a way of life, there are systems everywhere you go, helping you do everything from raising a baby, planting crops, developing your network and to help you grow your business. Regardless of it’s complexity or simplicity, you will need a system in place to manage your customers, marketing, accounting, prospecting and that’s not even taking into account systems in place to manage inventory and help you further explore the products and services you develop and provide. Start with your biggest tasks, look for ways to make more efficient your processes. Time is your most precious resource and any systems you put in place should help you become more productive and more efficient, saving you time and money.
12. Are my customers happy? The best way to determine the happiness of your customers is to ask them. Don’t be afraid of the answers they give you and always hear what they have to say. Your customers will tell you everything they love about you but work hard to find out what it is that you and your company need to improve upon. Growth will come when you fix the things that are wrong with your business. Don’t get defensive or play the blame game when you have issues. Shoulder the responsibility, fix the problem, report back to your customer and check their temperature again. They will appreciate you more when you are imperfect, human and open to their suggestions. Never argue with a customer, even when you win, you lose.
Running a business can be very challenging. Add into the equation a beefy dose of worry, plus a dash of self-doubt, and pretty soon paralysis sets in. By keeping yourself focused on your goals and narrowing your goals into smaller, bite-size pieces, the bigger picture will often times be much more clear. I have found that clarity and specific action steps will help ease my worries and let me focus on the tasks at hand, allowing me to grow my business, with a few less worries.