Don’t Let Stress Run You Out Of Business

I wanted to share with you a question that came in this week from a local entrepreneur named, Steven, who is having a tough time dealing with the stress of running his small business. I’m hearing from a lot of stressed-out entrepreneurs these days, so hopefully sharing Steven’s question and my response will help others learn to cope with the pressure that comes with running your own business.

From Steven: “Tim, I started my business about a year ago and things are going fine, but the stress of running the business is really starting to get to me. I spend more time worrying than working. I’m starting to think that I’m not cut out to run my own business and that I should just close up shop and get a real job. Do you have any advice that might help me decide what to do?”

I’m full of advice, Steven, and it’s totally free. Just remember, you get what you pay for and I can’t be held legally or morally responsible if my advice somehow lands you behind the counter at McDonalds. I’m not Dr. Phil, for petesake. I’m shorter, have far more hair and far less money.

The first thing you need to do is take a few deep breaths and take comfort in the fact that you are not the first entrepreneur to feel the weight of the business world on your shoulders.

Every business person, including yours truly, has felt the way you do at one time or another. For some, it’s a constant feeling; especially when things aren’t going as well as we’d like them to. And don’t think the stress will magically disappear if your business takes off. I know people who run multimillion dollar corporations and they will tell you that the stress level goes up in proportion to the size of the business. These same people will also tell you they love what they do and would never consider doing anything else.

The difference between these entrepreneurs and you, Steven, is that they have learned to not only handle stress, but to transform it into a driving force. They feed off the stress. It fuels their creativity and innovation. Stress challenges them; it makes them think and makes them better entrepreneurs.

I think the real question isn’t whether or not you have what it takes to run a business. The real question is do you have what it takes to handle the stress of running a business. These are two very different questions and the answers depend totally on you.

Even on the best of days running a business can be incredibly stressful. It’s only natural that there will be times when you wonder if you’re really cut out to handle the pressure.

It sounds to me like you’re having what I call a “garbage truck moment.” That’s when the pressure of running your business starts getting to you and you begin to question whether the entrepreneurial life is right for you. Even when things are going great, there is stress. And when things go bad, the stress multiplies a hundred fold.

The debts are mounting, your staff is shrinking (or growing), you get that nauseous feeling in the pit of your stomach and you find yourself longing for the apparent simplicity of driving a garbage truck.

Note to garbage truck drivers: save your hate mail, boys. I know you work very hard and I respect what you do. Without you the world would be a very different, very smelly place, indeed.

What’s happening to you, Steven has happened to us all. The stress is causing you to doubt not only your decision to start your own business, but your ability to run it, as well.

There’s no magic bullet for dealing with stress and you certainly can’t eliminate it altogether, so you must learn to handle it. I’ve talked about managing stress and worry in past columns (visit and click the “Columns” tab), so I won’t go into great detail here other than to say you need to catch your breath and learn to revel in the things that are going well, not dwell on those things that are causing you stress.

You must learn to worry only about those things you can control, take action against those things you can’t, and be prepared to deal with those things that may stress you out tomorrow.

And remember this: very few things in life are without stress. Just ask any garbage truck driver.