Gut Wrenching Fear – the tagline for owning a small business

Gut Wrenching Fear – the tagline for owning a small business

I’m straying way off course and off schedule in honor of the 7th anniversary of Wax Marketing – today! My biggest lesson? Dealing with the big GWF – the gut wrenching fear that comes with owning a small business. I don’t think it’s good marketing strategy, or business acumen, or networks that makes or breaks a small business. I think it’s the ability to deal with fear.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, right?So the next time you wake up in the middle of the night worried about that big check you need to cover payroll – or  when half your customers decide your service is a “luxury” they can do without – try these and see if they work. Here’s how I’ve learned to deal with GWF  over the past seven years. I hope you’ll add your own fun tips and ways to get around it too!

  • Stay in the moment and remind yourself it really IS one day at a time. Is there enough cash in the account to cover today’s bills? Then work your butt off on the important stuff and let tomorrow take care of itself.
  • The answers to all your problems are in your network.When you’re too tired to go to that networking event, GO. I got to meet Donald Trump a couple years ago and he told us a story about a dinner party when he was in about a billion dollars worth of debt. He really didn’t want to go but dragged himself there. At the party he happened to sit next to a banker who ended up re-financing all his debt and getting him out of his problem. He always wondered what would have happened if his depression had kept him from going.
  • When it gets really bad, go to the movies. Whatever takes you completely out of the situation will help – and do it in the middle of the day.  As a junior salesperson an old boss told me he used to do this on those days when he couldn’t sell to save his life. I don’t know why, but it really works to escape into that dark theater for a couple hours.
  • Have the most obnoxiously optimistic small business owner you can find as your best friend. Dick Alman, rest his soul, was my cheerleader for the first five years of the business. Whenever I would get down or start thinking that maybe it was time to put my resume together he would tell me how lucky I was. Although he’s since passed away, I always think about what Dick would tell me when I’m down.
  • Keep a secret stash of cash. Whether it’s from a home equity account or a bit of your life savings, put this money in a separate account and make sure it covers three months worth of operation. I’ve never had to tap into mine but knowing it’s there has saved me from many sleepless nights. Borrow it if you have to, but have it there as a last resort.
  • Offer up your luxuries as sacrifice. I’ve sacrificed a lot of new things before I’d sacrifice my business. I’ve downsized my office twice to avoid having to go back to a real job. If you know what you’re doing it’s only a matter of time before things get better. Don’t let material things get in the way of your free agent freedom.
  • Have a way to make extra cash on the side if you need to. One summer I worked nights writing the copy for back covers of books and press kits. It was a pittance but it kept me going and eventually things swung back up. And I made a ton of new friends and gained valuable experience in self-publishing which has since hit it really big.

Finally, remember the alternative. I actually did go as far as to put on a suit and interview for a big job a few years back. I was literally sick to my stomach.  I decided then and there I’d rather live in a pup tent with my dogs than go back as a salaried employee. And eventually, the GWF really doesn’t get me anymore. I think I’ve finally either gotten used to it.

  • Melinda Emerson
    Posted at 13:04h, 20 November Reply

    This is an excellent blog post. I especially love the advice that the answers to all your problems are in your network. That is so true, and too often when we feel isolated in our businesses we forget our network of friends. There’s many ways to build your network too. I wrote a blog post this week about this very subject. No network, No Business

    Melinda Emerson

  • Joel D Canfield
    Posted at 16:10h, 20 November Reply

    Thanks for compiling something I can send my clients and friends to 😉 I’ve had the fear conversation a hundred times the past six months, and I’ll have it another hundred the next six months. I’ve come up with these solutions through trial and error; it’s nice to have them all in one place.

    I just wish I’d had this six months ago . . .

  • waxmarketing
    Posted at 19:40h, 20 November Reply

    Thanks for the kind words – I’m still working on my own “fear factor” but I’m glad my experience so far is helpful! Bonnie

  • Frank Locust
    Posted at 13:00h, 30 November Reply

    Small business is at a very interesting time right now. GWF is contagious in my experience. Any advice, like that you supplied above is helpful and relieving. Thanks

    Posted at 10:34h, 11 December Reply

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