Failure is the greatest fear for a business owner. Imagine your company falling short and not generating enough revenue to sustain itself. During the financial crisis in 2008, small businesses were hit the hardest, creating a recession that lingered longer and more heavily than many firms could endure. Especially in light of this recent crisis, it’s not uncommon for worries to perch in the back of entrepreneurial minds, becoming a constant source of anxiety. But that doesn’t mean we have to fall completely under its spell.
We idolize the Mark Zuckerbergs and Elon Musks of the world and champion the rapid expansion of Inc. 500 companies. But we rarely consider the struggle and hardship that took place before the breakthrough. We see the “overnight” success — the tip of the iceberg protruding out of the water — but we ignore the mass that exists underneath. Most renowned entrepreneurs have experienced moments when they thought their companies might crumble. Like many small business owners, they lied awake at night wondering whether or not they’d ever reach a place of financial security.
This sense of dread is all too familiar for some business owners. Unfortunately, uncertainty is a necessary component of entrepreneurship that you simply must learn to cope with. Low revenue doldrums and unpredictable dips and surges are all part of the journey. However, it’s possible to come out of these periods not only alive, but thriving. Yes, you may feel as though things are entirely out of your control, but rough patches can bring a wealth of wisdom and resilience along with them. Some degree of revenue uncertainty is always present, but you can learn to coexist with it. Conquer your anxiety by adopting the right state of mind early on.
Solidify Your Vision
If business revenue is waning, your original vision might start to feel out of reach. It may seem more important to take things one day at a time and forget about the long-term. But shaky times are precisely when you should get crystal clear about your vision for the future. It’s a time to get back to the basics.
Elon Musk hit a troubling point soon after founding SpaceX. News of his financial struggles left many people floored. Musk was astoundingly rich on paper, but had little cash to show for it. The now-billionaire entrepreneur was borrowing money to pay his rent, but somehow maintained focus of his primary vision of reaching Mars.
Determine Your Control
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” While she wasn’t really a businesswoman, Maya Angelou’s words sum up entrepreneurship eloquently. Changing or accepting — these are the only two options you have as a business owner. So put your efforts toward those things you know you can impact, and let go of those you can’t. This might require some consideration first, as you may be accustomed to placing too much focus on factors that are out of your hands. If so, relinquish these factors and re-enter the game when and if the opportunity arises to control them. Run your business in a way that you can be proud of instead of trying to influence outside factors in your favor.
Sometimes it’s a business owner’s toughest task to simply recognize that there is nothing more that can be done. When the day is over, go home and take a break. Don’t obsess, don’t be stubborn and don’t try to “work through” a problem to which there may be no immediate solution. A lack of rest wreaks havoc on your immune system, while rest interrupts the domino effect stress can cause. Exercise, hobbies and vacations can all serve as interruptions to the stress cycle. A refreshed mind and body is better equipped to tackle major obstacles, so it really doesn’t serve you to work in excess. Consider breaks to be an integral part of your revenue solution strategy.
Assessing the Revenue Issue
Once you’ve gotten a hold on your anxiety, the revenue issue can be addressed through either cutting costs or boosting profits. So what action should you take?
According to the Gartner Group, a reduction of just 5 percent in operating costs can create the same impact as a sales increase of 30 percent. There are three key questions you can ask yourself while reviewing a current list of clients.
- Who is making me the most money right now?
- Who has the most growth potential?
- Who isn’t making me money or doesn’t have growth potential?
Obviously, those in category 1 are the clients you want to continue serving to the best of your ability. For those in category 2, construct a written plan of action for each to strengthen the relationship. Those in category 3 will likely consist of your biggest headaches — the complainers, the late payers, the time killers, etc. Your category 3 clients aren’t going to magically transform into the category 1 or 2 clients. As difficult as it may be during a time of low revenue, you need to cut them loose. Losing money in the short-term can help you free up both time and money in the future.