The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. -Theodore Roosevelt
In addition to dealing with all the business and financial challenges that are out there, many entrepreneurs have discovered that starting and growing a small business can be emotionally and psychologically challenging. Let’s imagine that you are a recent founder of a business, full of energy and enthusiasm. You have embarked on perhaps the most exhilarating emotional professional roller coaster of your life, the rewards to be endless: financial independence, controlling your destiny and self-esteem.
What you may not have not anticipated are the emotional challenges. All the business planning, number crunching, contract signings did not prepare you for perhaps the most unanticipated obstacles and business killers you are now confronting: anxiety, pressure and isolation.
Before going out on your own, you likely had a career in corporate America or worked in a small business. You were surrounded by superiors, peers and subordinates, interfacing daily on both professional and personal level. Many of these colleagues were business or perhaps personal friends. Work was a center of your professional life, and as for many, your social universe. Nothing prepared you nor had you likely anticipated, what starting and running a business alone meant on an emotional level.
Now, regardless of what kind of team you have put together, you are feeling increasingly isolated, anxious and apprehensive, facing daytime setbacks and sleepless nights. You quickly realize that other than your creditors and family, nobody cares, and most strikingly, that may include the people in your previous professional life. Even for those with a partner, the relationship is tricky, as many partnerships have broken up through business disagreements. Your friends and family may not understand what you are going through, you are spending a lot of time away from loved ones, and often when together, you are preoccupied.
And the overriding issue of money is a constant worry. You have little, likely borrowed some, perhaps from friends and family, while possibly accessing personal lines of credit and credit cards. You find yourself on edge with every late receivable, knowing the due dates of every payable. The mind games never stop, and the fear of failure becomes etched into your psyche. Will the dynamics with these special people in your life change if the new enterprise does not succeed and you cannot repay the debts or investments?
Well, you are not alone. Almost everyone who has successfully founded his or her own business, has faced these obstacles. And despite enduring the journey mostly alone and riding an emotional roller coaster for a number of years, if you love and believe in what you are doing, it will be the most rewarding job in the world. The sense of accomplishment in founding and growing a business will make it all worthwhile.
While the main psychological burdens of entrepreneurship fall on you alone, there are alliances and relationships at hand that can help you over your personal and business hurdles as you work to turn your idea into a profitable reality. Some of these should be developed and nurtured even before you go out on your own. Others will become open to you as you face the emotional and business challenges that you will inevitably confront in your day-to-day struggle to solve problems and maintain an even keel.
Make sure your close family and dearest friends, and especially your spouse or significant other, are on board with you, understanding what you hope to accomplish and your reasons for taking the plunge, and offering you support and encouragement. Without their emotional involvement going for you, the road is going to be rougher, and maybe you should think hard about whether the trade-offs really make sense for you.
Build and maintain business relationships as you travel your career path. The co-workers you had lunch with, the intern you trained and the boss whose advice helped you grow may still value the relationship they once had with you and may still be able to offer you advice and support. Even better, they may have grown into positions where they can but from you or make meaningful referrals. (You can skip this one if you have mainly left a trail of bitterness and broken bodies behind you.)
Seek out as mentors the professionals and other counselors who helped you start your business. The attorney, banker, accountant insurance broker and yes, even the SCORE mentor who worked with you as you put your enterprise together, may have insights and experience from their own careers that have direct application to you situation. Moreover, these individuals, having watched you developed, may have a rooting interest in your personal and business success and may be willing to go the extra mile to support you.
Search out and join networking and support groups, actual or online, preferably with others who are facing or have faced similar emotional issues – or with others in your industry – where can both receive and give emotional and psychological advice and counsel and search together for solutions that may not be unique to you. Who knows, you may even find answers to your business problems arising out of these interactions.
Add to these possible resources programs of physical activity or spending quality time with family and friends, to give you a break from your workday preoccupations, or sessions with a therapist designed to help you deal with your personal issues, and you have a menu of avenues to personal stability that can strengthen you as you fight the good fight to make your business succeed.