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Managing Stress in a Small Business: An Interview with Kate Carroll

When Mick and Kate Carroll decided to open their small business, Radius Pizzeria & Pub, they weren’t quite sure where to begin. The couple started attending SCORE workshops and things began to fall into place. “We knew where we wanted to go but didn’t know how to get there,” says Kate. Fast-forward a year later with many 18 hour days, Kate says she has a “very close relationship with stress.”

Nearly one in five small business owners work 60-plus hours a week, and 76 percent have had symptoms of work-related stress.* Since April is National Stress-Awareness Month, we wanted to shed light on this topic.

In an interview with Kate, she shared tips on how she manages the stressors of running a business.

What are some tips on managing stress when first starting a business?

“It’s important to remember that there is always going to be a laundry list of things you need to do. Because of that, working all the time will never create that sensation of completion. You have to take breaks and step away. Reach out to people that you care about. Interacting with others gives you a better sense of yourself.”

How important is exercise?

“Exercise really does help. When you’re stressed out, you’re not doing your best work. Taking short breaks and keeping in mind that even though you have more to do, you will get it done. Even a walk around the block can give you new ideas. Rome wasn’t built in a day and it’s true. The most important thing you can do is just keep breathing.”

Tips on working with your partner in business?

“We starting working with a counselor to help us figure out ways to communicate with each other. You need an objective mediator. We knew we had different ideas to get there, but getting there is hard when you’re immersed in it all the time. And it only took one or two sessions to figure out. The technique ‘when you say something in this way, this is what I’m  hearing’ has helped.”

Advice when dealing with a stressful situation?

“No one  is doing something that someone hasn’t done before. You have people in your area who are doing what you want to do successfully. You can get so wrapped up in your head and looking in one perspective you can’t see the forests for the trees. There’s no way you can  do everything. We aren’t all good at every aspect of the business. It doesn’t make you weaker or powerless. For some professionals perhaps the single best thing they are good at is finding and recruiting really talented people to make that idea to come.”



Aliana Marino - Communications Manager, SCORE
Aliana is passionate about helping small businesses thrive and getting the word out about the great work SCORE mentors do across the country. | Facebook | @SCOREmentors | More from Aliana


What You Can Learn from the Secret of Silicon Valley

Wouldn’t it be great if your startup or business could be as successful as Silicon Valley legends like Facebook or Google? Much has been written trying to figure out what’s the “secret sauce” that makes Silicon Valley such fertile ground for startups. Writing in Scientific American, the authors of a study on Silicon Valley companies share some insights into how any company—even those not located in the Valley—can thrive.

Innovation is the root of success in Silicon Valley, but there’s more than one way to innovate. In fact, the study pinpointed three types of innovators in Silicon Valley. The first and most successful: The Need Seeker. These companies focus on finding out what their customers/target markets need (whether those needs are spoken or unspoken), developing products or services to meet those needs, and getting their offerings to market ASAP.

There are many benefits to being a Need Seeker. Specifically, the study found that Need Seeker companies’ profits and value grew faster than any other type of company over a five-year span.

How can you become a Need Seeker? In addition to doing ongoing market research and staying in touch with what your customers need, here are some other habits of successful Need Seekers:

  • They communicate their overall business strategy to every employee.
  • They devote time and budget to R&D; at the same time, they’re open to ideas from outside the company or from any department within the company.
  • They create a culture where employees are passionate about the company’s products and services and strongly identify with the customers.

The second type of Silicon Valley innovator is the Technology Driver. These are companies whose product offerings are led by their capabilities. As the authors put it, they “take their direction from their engineering departments, rather than their customers.” The danger of this approach, of course, is that you may get so caught up in what you’re able to develop that you forget to ask whether anyone is willing to pay for it.

A better approach for small businesses is that of the third type of innovator: Market Readers. “If you can’t be first, be fast” is the motto for these companies. They quickly copy ideas from first-to-market Need Seekers, make incremental improvements or adjustments to differentiate their offerings, and get to market rapidly to take advantage of demand.

You may not be located in Silicon Valley—but there are some things you can do to share in its “secret sauce”:

  • Value innovation, both in word and deed (i.e. with your checkbook).
  • Hire and reward employees who are passionate about serving the customer.
  • Stay in close touch with your customers by surveying them, connecting with them on social media and just plain talking to them to see what they want.
  • Keep ahead of your competitors by doing market research, reading industry-leading blogs and journals and keeping your eyes and ears to the ground to spot the “next big thing”—and get in on it fast.
  • Remember, perfect is the enemy of good. Focus on getting your product or service to market fast. Test your idea on a small scale first; then fix problems and scale up as you go.

SCORE mentors can help you turn your business into an industry leader. Visit to get matched with your mentor today.


Rieva Lesonsky - CEO, GrowBiz Media
Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. | @rieva | More from Rieva