So as I continue to look at business in a very different way, my thoughts cross to what being in a small business is actually like. Those that run them, or have run them, ‘get it’. Those that work for big business or medium size business, just don’t. There’s is a place of comfort and getting their pay on time. Yours is a place of I get paid when I get paid. Bugger.
But when it comes to the strains of running a business and perhaps in equal measure the successes, what other job runs close? Well having done some coaching and teaching myself over the last 5 years, I’d say being a school teacher or a school head must run it close. Yes they get paid by the government. Yes they get x amount of weeks off every year, but imagine dealing with at least 30 people in one room all day, every day. Imagine being challenged to bring the best out in them, when actually you’re under that much pressure, you’re struggling to bring the best out in yourself. And imagine how debilitating and disheartening it is to constantly have the goal posts moved on you by people with no real, genuine connection to what you’re doing. imagine having to deal with all those parents (customers), that want special treatment for their children and not the others.
I can highly recommend a book called ‘Leading From The Edge’ by former headmaster, James Hilton. James’ story is scarily not rare. Education has the second highest incidents related to stress in the UK (HSE Report 2015), losing out to health professionals. (Which is scary when you think about it. If they can’t look after themselves, who the hell looks after us?) Business runs in at third place. (Check out the bit about how many days are lost when it comes to business size. I’ll comment at the bottom).
James was a successful headteacher, climbing through the ranks and running his own school very well. But it all became too much and he lost the fight for a short amount of time. He showed classic signs of physical illness and developed a stammer. Here was a man who was successful; successfully running the largest primary school in the county and one of the biggest in the country and he just fell apart. He could talk to people in the supermarket 15 miles away but couldn’t face going to the one 2 minutes away because they might know him. His stress and depression was encompassed in avoidance. Avoidance of situations that a rational mind would just say…”WTF?”
James’s book comes with great ideas and hints and tips on how to deal with situations from his own personal experience and from research he’s done with many people including his own therapist and Andy Cope from the Art of Brilliance. There are interviews and case studies but I just want to focus on three things that struck me that can be of great use wether you’re a school teacher or a business owner and recognising something isn’t quite right.
“Don’t underestimate small steps. It is only small steps which will get you closer to where you want to be tomorrow.”
Small steps make big strides. It’s just that as a business owner we forget that. The building blocks and foundations need to be in place for you to move forward. Anyone can have a ‘big vision’ and a ‘big dream’. I know I did. But sometimes we forget to share those goals and visions with people. We should be proud of some of the littlest things done well, because trust me when I say this; some people don’t even do the little things very well. So one of the challenges James sets out is very simple, but can be effective when it comes to your health or the health of your business.
Write yourself a personal mission statement of what your life stands for in no more than 50 words. (Try not to exceed 50 as the need for brevity can really focus your thinking)
Write down a goal you wish to achieve in the next 12 months that would contribute to your mission statement.
Now write down one small step towards that goal you can make during the next week and commit to taking it. (By writing it down you take ownership. Now tell someone about it and you’re more likely to do it)
“You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the reality of consequences of avoiding reality”
When businesses fail or struggle one of the key things that happens is avoidance. It happens on a sub conscious level and manifests itself physically. Looking at where I’m coming from and going to, I can honestly say a huge part of my problem was that subconsciously I too was ashamed of not being able to cope better than I was. The guilt that resulted in my hidden struggle meant I thought I was letting everyone I knew down and I went on to avoid and isolate myself from those that probably would have and could have helped me. Hence when I did finally reach out for help i was clutching at straws, got it horribly wrong and consequently fell apart.
So a second of James challenges can easily be translated to your business right now.
Are there any aspects of your professional life in which you subconsciously employ avoidance tactics?
If so, what do you do to avoid them?
Do you feel guilt or shame over them?
Why do you feel that way?
What could you do today to give you limited exposure to the thing you fear?
How could you graduate exposure over the next four weeks?
“Don’t mistake movement for achievement. It’s easy to get faked out by being busy. Busy doing WHAT?” Jim Rohn
People tend become stressed when they feel out of control in a situation. There is much about working in business that is so unpredictable it beggars belief! So it would be fair to say that it would pay to take control whenever you can – “Control the controllable”. There will be so many competing demands on your time, so working smarter will help you achieve more and give you a better sense of satisfaction. Therefore reducing your stress and anxiety levels.
Here are a few of James’s tips:
Build in quick wins, however small into large projects allowing everyone to feel that progress is being made.
Have a master to do list and then daily ones broken down into ‘must’, ‘could’ and ‘should’.
Be realistic about what you are likely to achieve. Work on the basis of 5 hours work as the rest of the day maybe taken up by the ‘unexpected’ demands on your time.
Take short 5 minute breaks.
“If something can be done 80% as well by someone else, delegate.” John C Maxwell (author).
Don’t dwell on what happened yesterday, it won’t change it. Concentrate on today and tomorrow.
James’s book is available here: CLICK
(My thoughts on the HSE document that states far less days are lost by small business than larger business: Well, in many cases, there is no back up, no wellness policy or safety net. I think it would be fair to say that much is ignored because they are a one man band. If they don’t work, it all collapses. So many people, me included, soldier on because they feel they have to. Look, this is one of the reasons I’m writing this and being honest about what I felt and still feel as a proud business owner. It’s OK, not to feel OK. Really it is. And the relief of being able to say it, is immeasurable. So all I’m doing is helping you guys see there are ways of feeling brilliant when you don’t want to. Marc x)