Let’s get really real with each other; It’s tough out there for small businesses.
Running or working for a small business is truly a magical experience. Of course, running your small business can be a headache and a huge stressor, but when you’ve got an amazing team and dream somehow, the stress feels worth it. What’s interesting is that behavioral science backs this up; doing hard, stressful things with people you genuinely like helps to alleviate the stress and even makes things fun!
And while I hope reading that serves as an encouragement to everyone out there, I also want to be realistic about the current state of running a small business. And, as I said, it’s tough right now! Even we here at Pulse have had our fair share of challenges. So in light of this, we wanted to take a moment to commiserate and encourage each other as we launch into Quarter 2.
Recently I was doing some research on the challenges small businesses are facing in our current climate and I came across this quote:
“2023 will be a year of small business owners betting on themselves and focusing on the elements of business ownership within their control.” – Sharon Miller, President of Small Business/Head of Specialty Banking and Lending at Bank of America
When I read that quote, it was like an injection of hope. Years ago, a mentor and I talked about how much of what we classify as anxiety is a distortion of our perception of our control.
What he meant by that is there tends to be two different ways anxiety manifests in us: overactive or underactive.
- Overactive anxiety looks like micromanaging, panic attacks, the inability to say no, and running around doing busy work because all of that makes you feel like you have some control.
- Underactive anxiety is the inverse: avoiding contact with people, the inability to make a decision, and refusing to do anything.
These things look like and manifest as anxiety and depression, but really all they are is our brains scrambling for some sort of predictability and control – even at the expense of our mental, emotional, and physical health.
But neither of those options is proactive. They may feel good (in a warped sort of way!), but they aren’t actually doing us or our businesses any good.
The world is unpredictable, and I probably shouldn’t have to tell you that after the last three years’ events. But life was unpredictable before March 2020. Life has always been unpredictable and uncontrollable. But that doesn’t mean everything is beyond your control! Which is one of the reasons I loved this quote so much.
Do What You Can, With What You Have, Where You Are
I have some bad news for you: You cannot control or fix the economy. I know; I’m sure that was a big shocker. But jokes aside, I do think sometimes, as small businesses, we feel a lot of pressure to succeed because it’s good for the economy. We’re the backbone of American Capitalism, right? But the truth is, the US Economy has been built on a rather feeble foundation for the past several generations. You didn’t create the mess we’re in today, and the pressure to fix the economy shouldn’t rest on your shoulders.
Maybe the idea that fixing the economy is your responsibility doesn’t resonate with you, but I bet the fear of letting down your employees does. One of the most significant burdens small business owners carry is the anxiety over paying their employees and keeping them employed! But if you zoom out, that is a micro example of feeling responsible for fixing something that might not be in your control.
Now I’m not saying to fire everyone or stop paying them. My point is that business owners tend to heap a lot of responsibility on their shoulders that they just can’t carry on their own. This doesn’t make you a bad business owner; it makes you a human being.
- We, as a species, were never meant to be self-reliant. I’m sorry if that offends our American Individualism, but it’s a fact that more and more science is backing up.
- We were meant to live in villages, to share the workload, to rejoice with our neighbors, and to mourn with them too. This isn’t a utopian dream: it’s how humanity survived for millennia!
- And while I’m not suggesting we go back to the good ol’ days of hunter-gatherers, I do want to remind you that you need people to help you carry the load.
You can’t walk into Congress tomorrow and solve the economic crisis. But you can be honest and vulnerable with your team. You can share your worries and fears and let them offer encouragement, comfort, loyalty, and solutions you may not have thought of.
Our Fearless Leader, Serena, loves to say, “it’s better that we all suffer a little together than one person suffers a lot alone.”
I couldn’t agree more.
My Money’s On David
The other part I loved about that quote from Sharon Miller was the idea of betting on ourselves.
I’ve noticed that within American Culture, there’s this interesting paradox where we love a good underdog story. Still, if you talk about being the underdog, you’re considered arrogant and full of yourself.
We love the idea of someone taking a risk, but if they talk about how their risk paid off, now they’re bragging. And really, what that tells me is that we’re all terrified of taking risks and jealous of the brave few who do.
A year ago, I moved across the country. It was something I had always dreamed of doing, and I found myself in a place in life where I was finally free to chase after that dream. In the lead-up to my leaving, I had so many people – primarily stay-at-home moms (who are a beautiful and vital part of our society!) – who told me how excited they were for me because they, too, had always dreamed of doing this when they were younger. And while that experience was awful in so many ways, I remember thinking that the risk was worth it because I would never look back on my life and wonder, “what if.” (The happy ending of my adventure was finding Pulse, so I would say the risk was worth it!)
My point here is that success of any kind requires a little bit of bold audacity. All bets are a risk, and a risk is nothing more than audacious action.
So bet on yourself, baby!
If your risk isn’t immoral, illegal, or unwise, take it! I’m a firm believer that, in the end, all risks are beneficial because we learn something and gain wisdom from each of them.
In the quote from Sharon Miller, she goes on to say that the best asset of any small business is its resilience in the face of adversity and risk. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that most small business owners realize just how resilient they are. For most of us, I think we confuse resilience with abundance. We believe that if we have enough of something (be it money, clients, notoriety, etc.), we can get through the next hurdle, but that’s not what resilience means.
Resilience is another one of those paradoxes. The actual definition means to be tough and flexible at the same time. A rubber band is probably the best example of resilience there is. It can withstand being stretched and easily retain its shape after the stretch.
And I get it if you have a hard time seeing how running a small business means you’re naturally more resilient, so let me see if I can paint a clearer picture:
David was a teenage boy when he fought Goliath. I like to think of him as a gawky, gangly kid who was kind of awkward and a little emo. Goliath was a giant! He was a warrior! He was the best fighter in the whole army! This is a fight between Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and your 13-year-old artsy nephew who writes poetry and carries his guitar around with him. Who is your money on?
I would get it if you said the giant. But think about this: David became an expert with his sling because he was a shepherd boy in the field for hours on end and was bored. He practiced daily, gave it all he had, and got really good at what he did. Goliath relied on his brute strength and size. David was small and nimble, able to outmaneuver the awkward, clunky giant.
So who are you in this scenario? (Spoiler: you’re David.)
You are small but mighty. You’re really good at what you do. You are agile and adaptable. You’re creative and think outside the box. As a result, you have the ability to not only survive in the face of goliaths but also to maneuver around them as they shake and even crumble.
We always try to make our blogs full of helpful tips and educational information, but when it comes to this topic, right now, the thing we all need the most is encouragement. So I really do hope this encouraged you.
One of the things I love most about working for Pulse is the fact that we believe in our clients. We want to be an extension of their team, meaning we want to be bought in on their values, mission, products, and services. I love that we get to become the village for our clients, sharing their struggles and celebrating their wins.
And you need that too. Our commitment to our clients is to audaciously bet on them and help them focus on what they can control regardless of the state of the economy and to do the same for ourselves.
We are small but mighty, all of us. And when we work together, we get to tap into the magic of creative resilience so that we all can survive anything.
So we’re betting on ourselves, and we’re betting on you too.
If you’re interested in partnering with a Marketing Team that believes in you, get in touch today.