This week celebrates 6 years as a business owner and coincides with #MentalAwarenessWeek. This seems a good time to reflect on the pressures and strains I have felt whilst growing my business and my top 5 tips for other business owners who may be feeling the same.
Lists - at times, a lot of times, trying to juggle numerous clients and tasks has been totally overwhelming. That old adage 'can't see the wood for the trees' has never been more accurate. For me, the power of a good list helps me to refocus and prioritise again. Simply taking 5-10 minutes can make all the difference. So top tip number one is to make lists - digitally, on paper, or even on napkins if you are out and about - keeping some clarity is essential.
Stop working and start planning - motivation can be hard, particularly if you are a sole trader, a solitary director or busy. It took me a while to understand that if I wanted my business to grow, I needed to stop and make plans for the future. Stopping work is hard, you have customers waiting right? Right. But not stopping means your business is at risk of becoming stagnant and unappealing not just to your customers but to you - this is the biggest risk there is! So stop, engage a consultant or business coach if needed, but every month take an hour or 2 to plan and make sure your business keeps moving forward.
Ask the experts - it can be very hard when you are trying to build a name and reputation to admit you need help and can't manage on your own. There is a fear that this is a sign of failure, but just as you are an expert and you want others to engage you to help their business, it is important to recognise that you will undoubtedly need to ask for help too. Struggling to build your own website, for example, may save you some money, but it will not be as good as one built by an expert. So tip 3 is to ask the expert and don't be afraid to ask if a skills exchange can help keep the price down.
Network - the single biggest asset that any business owner can have is their network, this can be colleagues, associates, other business owners or friends. These often include the experts mentioned above and give the opportunity to collaborate, exchange expertise and expand your potential client lists. Take time to reach out and build networks that will support you when you need it and push you when you feel lost. My network has saved my business and my mental health more times than I can think, by simply being there when I have needed them. It's not what you know but who you know after all.
Escape occasionally - 2020 has been the year of screens, Zoom meetings have dominated our work, and social, activities and our screen time have more than trebled. this isn't anything new, but a reminder really of how to get away from the screen overwhelm that has dominated our lives in recent months. I have found that by stepping away from the screen and heading outside (weather permitting) can change your day. I am lucky, I have a garden and I have birds in that garden and neighbours to talk to over the fence. But even if you don't, take 20 minutes each day to step away and get outside or lean out a window and breathe deeply and refocus your eyes. This last bit is as important as breathing, we need to refocus our eyes on something in the distance to allow our brains to be able to face the screens again.
Although there are hundreds of tips I can give you, and a million times where I have not taken my own advice, 6 years later I look back and can celebrate having a thriving, growing business supporting my family and my own mental health. I am happy to chat further if anyone wants to call me or join me for a coffee - this is just the tip of the iceberg!