photo by hufse
“My hands are locked up tight in fists
My mind is racing, filled with lists
of things to do and things I’ve done
Another sleepless night’s begun”.
Who Needs Sleep – The Bare Naked Ladies
It’s tough to be a business owner and you will have more than your fair share of stress and sleepless nights. Whether you’re in your first year and ramping up or several years into your business and dealing with difficult clients, employees, competitors…there are a lot of things that can cause you to feel like you’ve been run over by a truck and keep you from getting the sleep that you need.
The good news is that you can address your issues and risks (and your sleeplessness…), here are some key things to watch out for:
1. Over Promising (and under delivering)
There will be a time when you really need to close a sale…or maybe this is just your standard approach. Either way the quickest way to cause stress, disappoint your clients and get them talking about you…in a bad way, is to set their expectations high and then fail to meet them!
Better approach: Sell them on reality and things you know you can easily hit…and then ‘wow’ them! Have you ever been to a restaurant where they surprised you with something extra? I bet you told several people what a great experience it was! Great word of mouth comes from clients who had their expectations exceeded and were ‘wowed’ somewhere along the way!
2. Not truly delegating
Whether you’re a ‘control freak’ or you don’t have the time to train someone or you just know that you can do it better than anyone else, not giving up responsibility is a sure path to working too long, limiting your opportunities and having lots of sleepless nights!
Better Approach: Put the right people in the right seats, make sure everyone is clear on roles and responsibilities and then let them do their job. This is going to be really hard at first, and there will be some challenges, but if you can hold on, you will substantially increase your capabilities (and give yourself some time to sleep).
3. Constantly fighting fires (living in Quadrant 1)
If you are consistently spending your time responding to things, fighting fires, answering emails, voicemails, letters, bills, etc., then you are flying blind (and you probably feel really stressed and overwhelmed since you have little control or visibility over where you’re going). You’re being a hero in your business…and that’s not good.
Better Approach: It’s counter-intuitive, when you don’t have enough time to get things done, that’s exactly when you need to take some time out of your schedule and work on planning and mapping out where you want to go. Start consciously spending much of your time in what Stephen Covey refers to as Quadrant II activities.
4. Being Afraid
The myth: the entrepreneur is fearless. The reality: most small business owners are everyday people, often without much of a lifeline or reserve should things go wrong. It’s natural to be afraid, but if that fear causes indecision or just drives you to be overly cautious, you’re going to have problems (and it’s likely you’re not getting much sleep).
Better Approach: Recognize the risks that are causing the fear and develop contingency plans in case things go badly. You can’t control everything, but you can plan for the worst and hope for the best. Talk to peers, friends (a coach…), a mentor if you find yourself really getting bogged down. The worst thing you can do is to just fret.
5. Lack of Consistency
One of the biggest issues that business owners face is the dreaded rollercoaster effect – ramp up for sales and marketing, land some work (…stop marketing) and then when work slows down again, start ramping up marketing and sales again and hope there’s not too much of a dry period in between. Getting whipsawed isn’t fun and it doesn’t work in the long run.
Better Approach: Implement a marketing system and make sure that you are doing some marketing and sales activities all the time. In order for Marketing to be effective over the long run, it has to be consistent. Find a handful of marketing tactics that you enjoy (or at least don’t mind) and put them on the calendar as regular activities.
6. Chasing Shiny Objects (not being focused)
As a business owner it’s in your nature to look for new opportunities – different, better ways to make money. The problem is when you start chasing all of the shiny objects, you take your eye off the ball on your baseline core business and all of the sudden you’ve got nothing tangible going on (and you’re exhausted). You’re off the map and drifting.
Better Approach: Be very clear (with yourself and your team) about what’s most important for business success. Know where you’re going. If something new and shiny comes along that’s not part of that equation, take note of it, but keep your focus. If it’s too good to pass up, then determine what you’re going to STOP doing when you start going after the new opportunity – you can’t do everything (and if you try you’ll fail).
7. Going it alone
You didn’t become a business owner because you needed direction or a lot of help. You’re independent and proud of it! However the reality is that big success happens when you find other people that you can lean on, learn from and collaborate with.
Better Approach: Find someone to talk to about your business. That could be a Peer Group Advisory Board, a formal board of directors, a mastermind group that you pull together on your own or a business or two that you can partner with. Find a way to tie into a network of people who can help you see into your blind spots, encourage you or kick you in the ass…whatever’s needed! Every successful business out there has someone they got help from – you can’t do it by yourself and hope to succeed in the long run.
8. Not Sleeping or taking care of yourself
Maybe it’s obvious, but a lack of sleep or just generally not taking care of yourself will lead to stress, poor decisions and performance and…additional lack of sleep. It doesn’t take long to dig a pretty deep hole.
Better Approach: Set serious guidelines and barriers for when you’re working and when you’re not working and stick to them. Put time in your schedule for exercise (even just taking a walk), make sure you’re eating right…consider joining a gym or the ‘Y’. Find time to hang out with friends and family. You likely think you don’t have time for any of that, but it will make a lot of difference in the long run.
2011 – the year to get some sleep!
Now’s a great time to start identifying those things in your business that are causing you stress and sleepless nights and finding a way to make them better. It won’t be easy, but climbing that hill will put you into a great position to grow your business (and free yourself up) in a healthy way. If you’d like help identifying what’s going on with your business or what you could do about it – contact me for a free session.
What keeps you up at night? Share your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear them.
Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach