Self-belief in business

Now you can criticize...

It stands to reason that if we have our own business we need to believe in what we are doing. That means that we should believe sincerely in our product or service. If we are honest with ourselves we can be honest with our customers. Then we can sell with that sincerity.

The trouble is that self-doubt can always creep in. We are not all constantly confident. Many of us, although actually very good at what we do, cannot quite believe that we are as able as our peers and colleagues, let alone better than some. We fear we will be found out as imposters. Maybe this is a more common phenomenon in women but this was my problem for many years. I think the explanation for me lies here.

Late in my career and rather accidentally, I landed a job which was technically very difficult, and which really terrified me to start with. However, I not only found that I could do it, but that I was very good at it. That was when it came to me that I was not an imposter, but could give as good as anybody, and better than some too.

I had this revelation, but maybe you just have to realise that the feeling of being an imposter is only in your mind. I still have bad days sometimes, and maybe you do too. Just think of all the good things you have achieved in your career and in your business and build on your confidence. Go get ‘em.

Call me old-fashioned?

Well, you can call me old-fashioned, but I do not spend all day and all night fiddling with my smartphone. I have a business to run.

OK, a phone is invaluable for keeping up with what is going on. I can access my email and message people if I want to. What I cannot do with is being interrupted constantly.

My work is technical. I need to concentrate. I can set aside times to look at my email whether I am out or in front of my computer. If I am with a client I cannot answer my mobile / cell, and even if I did, I could not answer a question from a client purely from memory. I would need to have their virtual or physical file in front of me. I might be able to look at a file in the Cloud, but not easily when I am out.

I do not really use my smartphone for business at all because of the way I work, so I do not even claim the cost of my contract as a business expense.

People who know me will say I am quite a techie. I am. I love gadgets, but I do not let them get in the way of my work and my business. How about you?

Values and work-time

Enjoy the fresh air

Enjoy the fresh air

This past year has been very challenging due to family illness. Despite this it has been a successful year on the business front from my point of view. I have worked less due to the non-business commitments, but have still found time to enjoy the fresh air on my walks, and with my wife.

How was this possible? Well, it has helped that the economy is improving. I have a lot of consultancy, and while I always bill this on the basis of value to the clients in what I do for them, my services have increased in value and people are prepared to pay for that value having less perceived constraints on cash-flow.

I should mention that my regular clients, although they value what they get, have not seen a big price hike They provide a regular basic income into my business.

So with the higher value work I can afford more free time and can pick and choose clients even more than I did. I also gain extra time by outsourcing the low value services with which I am less comfortable and which are, frankly, boring.

None of this is earth-shattering magic, but having a higher income but with more free time cannot be bad, can it? Do you value yourself enough?

 

Seth Godin and the Time Machine

British author H. G. Wells' 1895 novel The Tim...

British author H. G. Wells’ 1895 novel The Time Machine is an early example of time travel in modern fiction. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Seth Godin said recently that we need the drive to want more and to be better. Our businesses and indeed our lives would be no fun if we knew we had achieved all we could, and that there was nothing more.

The will to win, the excitement of the game, and the reward of getting things done are what give me satisfaction, and I guess you feel the same.

What if we thought that we had achieved all we could? It would be so depressing having to have to sit on our hands, having no new ideas. That would be the decline and fall of our businesses, and if everyone caught the mood, the end of the world as we know it.

Have you read The Time Machine, published by H G Wells way back in 1895? In his story, in the far distant future everyone felt that they and technology had got as far as was possible, and there was no more incentive to be creative. Civilisation was apparently in terminal decline.

The moral is that fulfilment is in our work, or if you prefer, the game. It is not about achieving some ultimate goal, but in our journey getting there.

 

Stress and the small business owner

origin_544510865 (2) head scratchStress is a major threat to the health of a small business, quite apart from being a threat to the owner suffering the stress. It affects productivity, it affects creativity, and it can affect the way we interact with our customers and our staff. It is generally bad news.

We have all had those times. I have had a very difficult few months myself, being involved in some litigation unrelated to my business. That is all over now, and although we have (very unjustly) lost our claim against the other parties, we can try to put it behind us.

How did I get through? I worked as hard as I could with my clients, but due partly to the stress itself but also the work involved in putting our case together, my creativity and the amount of my writing and blogging took a bit of a knock.

I coped by talking to sympathetic ears and both my wife and I are grateful for our friends and the support we have had. I have also used my walks and time off to relax a little, although being under pressure my normal “bright ideas” that I have when out in the fresh air have been somewhat eclipsed by the darkness of the court case.

It is all over now, and although we have lost and there are costs, at least we can move forward, and I can again enjoy the business game as I always have.

How do you cope with stress when it strikes your business and you?

Small business and stress

It does not matter where it comes from. Stress is bad for you. Whether you do not organise your business so that you do not have to work all hours of the day, or whether you have family problems or people are simply being nasty to you, stress will cause you trouble.

If you are stressed

  • You tire more easily
  • You probably cannot sleep well without taking pills
  • You have difficulty concentrating on business
  • You are liable to make bad decisions or you cannot make decisions at all

So how should you deal with your stress?

  • Perhaps you should ask a business friend to suggest how you should use your work time in a better way.
  • Go out for a walk for up to an hour every day – I do, come rain or shine.
  • Get a hobby or a distraction from thinking about work for your spare time – I am photography mad.
  • Read a good book.

No, I know it is not easy. I cannot make out that life is that simple. Just the same, useful relaxing distractions combined with a little help from your friends can help relieve your stress and show your path more clearly.

How do you cope with stress?

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Reading is good training for writing about your business

I like to write, and I have always thought I found it easier because I read a lot. I read other blogs, newspaper articles, I read non-fiction and I read novels. Some may think a lot of that is a waste of time, but I am sure that I benefit from the knowledge and also from the relaxation I get from fiction.

Apparently reading good novel boosts our brain power for days.  That is great news for those of us who may have worried that our reading was too much of a distraction from our work. Now we know that enjoying escapist ideas from other people is beneficial. The better our brains are working, the better we are in business.

I do not claim to be a great writer or even a good writer. After all, however good a football coach I had, I should never have become a good footballer. However, just as I know that having a good gym trainer encourages one to try harder in training, and to enjoy being fit, having the benefit of great writing from others must help us to do what we need and at least ensure our writing keeps fit. That must be good for our marketing.

What do you think?

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Last orders in your small business

None of us likes being told what to do. Sometimes we do need to listen to our business friends if we are in trouble or some of our systems are just out of control.

I remember as an employee being told to do things which were clearly ridiculous and which did not make good business sense. I just had to do them. That is why I know it rankles to be given instructions.

Just the same, a little bid of advice comes in handy if we get it at the right time. One of the worst mistakes we can make is to get embroiled in the administration, forget to run our business and not use our special skills that our clients and customers expect.

There is nothing to be ashamed of in asking for help to do the boring things which are not part of our business and are just distractions. Those things might be bookkeeping, filing, even taking customers’ orders, especially if they interrupt the real work our business does. We can get people to help with all those difficult issues so that they don’t get in the way and we can stick to what we are good at.

Of course our helpers will have to be paid, but we will be making a lot more money.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. A lifeline at the right time can put us on the road to great success.

Take a break!

Deckchair happinessWe know that work stress can burn us out  even when we are young.  One of my colleagues had a serious breakdown through stress when still in his twenties.

Of course it is important to get on in our working lives and do our best, but we are not at our best if we drive ourselves into the ground. Apparently “Generation Y” workers born between 1980 and 1993 are getting badly stressed in their jobs or when trying to get better jobs by climbing the employment ladder.

Working is important, because we all need money to get on. However, if we do not look after our health and fitness we will not be able to work. We all need to have a break during the day, and take time off for holidays to recharge.

The world will not fall apart if you are away from work for a short while. If you must check your email on a day off, make one time in the day to deal with it (no more than an hour) and then relax with a book, or go windsurfing, or whatever takes your fancy.

You will feel much better for it, and be a more effective worker when you get back. You know it makes sense, don’t you?

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More haste, less speed, less money?

DSC01839-2It is a cliché to say that people are always in a rush these days, but unfortunately it is true. In business, generally, it does not pay to be in a rush. We may make poor decisions without considering all our options, or may miss them even if put in front of us.

I have noticed a couple of problems recently in dealing with clients and friends where they are replying “on the hoof” to emails from me, and using their smartphones. In making a business decision it is important to embrace the whole conversation with your supplier or adviser. However, I have found that some overlook earlier advice because they are in haste to reply, or they do not scroll down or they do not review previous messages before answering.

I try not to let my clients derail themselves by not considering all the options, but these emails from their iPhone or HTC etc. often waste time on all sides because I need to follow up and make sure we all understand what decision we are making, and that we are making it for the right reason.

It pays to slow down and think before making any business decision. A simple brief message telling our loved ones what time we will be home is all very well. A major purchase or a key decision require proper consideration and more than a brief email in a reflex response..

Do you know anyone who runs too fast?