A few days ago, I met with my friend Cathy who had just launched her small business. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Cathy to bits but she was looking busted. I admit I was a bit shocked to see the state of her: dark rings around glazed and shifty looking eyes, hair pointing in just about every direction and a nervous tic that had her constantly meddling with her phone. Sinking into the chair opposite me, she said,
“I need more than 24 hours! Where’s the coffee??!”
Yep. She had the telltales signs I see almost daily in new business owners: she was totally overwhelmed.
“How do you do it? How do you stay so composed? How did you dodge the crazy train on this journey?”
I had to be honest and tell her that I didn’t. Not at first. Like her, I was once a total wreck but luckily I learned early on, some of the principles I’m about to share with you on how to avoid being overwhelmed when starting a small business.
Small business start-up can be a complete rollercoaster ride and if you are what I like to call a mumpreneur; you have even more work cut out for you in managing your business as well as your family. But all is not lost especially if you remember the following:
1. Plan and Prepare:
When starting a business, prepare your mind to take up more work. There are no two ways about it, your work ethic has to go to the next level and the right mindset will ensure that you are not overwhelmed by the sudden onslaught of work.
Take time to visualize what your workload might be, the demands it will make on your time and life. Now visualize a contingency plan to get you through the hardest times. Of course, it would be impossible to plan for every possibility, but a mind that is prepared for hardship is harder to crack.
2. Prioritize and Put up Boundaries:
Burn out usually rears its ugly head when you have too much to do, in too short a time, over a long period of time. Daily tasks such as meetings, social commitments and deadlines have the ability to leave you in a panic, especially at the onset of setting up your business.
To keep the “crazies” at bay, prioritizing is a must. Decide well ahead of time what is important to you and what is not. What is worthy of the bulk of your time and what is not? How much time do you have to devote to your business and how much to yourself and your family? Settle these things in your mind and decide how far outside the realms of comfort you are willing to go. Beyond that point, do not feel guilty about saying “NO!!!”
If it helps, make a “to-do” list at the end of each day for the next day, and prioritise items that need immediate attention both for your business and your family.
3. Pass the Buck:
Success starts when you know your own strengths as well as your limits. Be realistic and assess whether the tasks you need to accomplish need to be done by you. It can be daunting to trust others with your “baby” but wise delegation is a sign of maturity and a sure way to avoid being overwhelmed when starting your business. Build a solid team you can trust, and share the workload. If you are like me, a little bit of a perfectionist, remind yourself constantly to strive for progress and excellence and not necessarily perfection. You are human after all.
4. Play Smart
This tip is very simple, don’t spend hours manually doing a task that a simple tool or app or phone call can accomplish in minutes. There are a plethora of online tools available to assist the small business owner to make operations a little easier.
5. Pull Rank:
Many first time entrepreneurs make the mistake of failing to define roles for the people in their team and that can lead to power struggles and inefficiency. To side-step this potential stress point, prepare a list of employees and clearly define their roles as well as the chain of command. Call an introductory meeting and share this list with the entire team. This makes accountability easier and reduces the stress caused by not knowing who is meant to do what.
6. Pause and Breathe:
Don’t forget about your personal health and care when you start building up the business. Cultivate healthy eating, activity and sleep habits. This will calm your mind and body and ensure that you are holistically fit for the rigours of the business world. Recognize your own personal signs of burn out and take swift action against it. You can take a coffee break, move away from the work atmosphere, stretch, schedule a holiday, spend time with family and friends, whatever it takes to return to a centered, focused frame of mind.
7. Patience, Patience, Patience:
Business building is a lengthy process so don’t set yourself up for a fall by expecting an accelerated growth in a short period of time. You can achieve your goals by focusing on taking small steps every day. Break down your work into smaller chunks and celebrate yourself and your team when you achieve each little bit.
Yes, starting up a business can be overwhelming, but follow these tips and you will be well on your way to avoiding being overwhelmed.
Give it a try and let us know how it works for you.