“It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” -Chinese Proverb
One of the most difficult things about being a business owner is accepting the fact that a lot of things impacting your business are completely out of your control. Things like the weather, the economy, a catastrophic event, or overall trends in your industry can all have a huge impact on your business and there’s not a damn thing you can do about any of them.
I myself, experienced a period about a year ago when everything in my business seemed out of control (read about it here). I’m not going to lie, it was an extremely scary time and at one point, I thought I would lose everything—as we all know, the exact opposite happened. But as a business owner, how do you cope with that uncertainty? When things seem out of your control in business, how can you remain calm to make sound decisions when all you’re thinking is, “I’m scared.”
I was in my studios working this weekend, and stopped to re-read an article that appeared in the local newspaper about 5 years ago featuring Pure Barre Winston-Salem. I framed it; walk by it every day, but I haven’t read it since I hung it on the wall. The article discussed the “new” trend of the importance of working out and how local residents were now placing value on health and fitness. Now, in most places the subject of this article might not even be news-worthy. But since Winston-Salem serves as the corporate headquarters for both RJ Reynolds (think Reynolds Tobacco) and Krispy Kreme doughnuts, a focus on fitness in the community seemed important to discuss.
The article listed several big box gyms and a few smaller boutique fitness studios in the area for readers to check out and start their new fitness journey. Of the 10 listed, only 3 are still open … my business, the YMCA, and a Crossfit gym (owned by good friends of mine). Wow. The Y’s not going anywhere, so what special secret had my friends and I found to stay in business? I can’t speak for my friends, but I guess I do have “secret” for coping with and managing things that are out of my control … I don’t worry about them.
Instead, I think about all the things that are within my control. I focus my efforts working ONLY on those things that I can control.
Oh man, are you confused after reading that? It really is that simple.
I can’t control the weather. I can’t control the economy or the aftermath of the 2016 Election. I can’t control if one of my employees sleeps in and doesn’t show up to teach. I can’t control if someone sees how great my studios are and decides to open a competing business. And I definitely can’t control if my clients would rather eat Krispy Kreme doughnuts instead of drinking green juice and eating vegan, non-dairy desserts.
But I CAN control how I REACT to all of these things.
I try not to get sidelined by problems. Instead, I try to jump straight to thinking about their solutions.
Turning problems on their head and re-focusing your energy towards finding solutions takes some practice. For most people—including me before I adopted this way of thinking—this also requires a total mental shift. Why? Because it’s easy to be negative and complain about all the things that go wrong in your business. It’s a lot more difficult to take the time to find a solution, create a plan, and stay disciplined while executing that plan.
Does this mean I’m never frustrated with how things are going in my business? Of course not. In fact, I get frustrated and mad about my business all the time. I have a rule. I can only stay angry about something for one day. After that, I have to move on and solve the problem or just let it go. And if the first solution I come up with doesn’t work, then I try something else. This is why I love working for myself—when you are constantly challenged to solve problems and find solutions, it’s pretty rewarding to add up all of your accomplishments. The studios probably average about 1-2 problems each day we’re open, and after five years, that’s about 3,650 solutions found. That’s a lot of accomplishments. No wonder I feel like it’s time for a vacation!
If you find yourself stuck in the vicious circle of negative thinking because things just feel out of control in your business, take a step back and start to think about what you can control—your reaction to what’s going on around you. Focus on improving yourself as a manager. Focus on only working on what you can control and see what happens … You might just create some light in all that darkness.
Until then, stay on your toes!
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