Life happens to small business owners. Unexpected things happen to everyone, at the most inconvenient time. It’s something you can’t control, and often you can’t even plan for it.
The one thing you can do is control your thoughts and feelings about it. You can sit in adversity and let life suck for you, or make the best of it, and I promise you, that IS in your control.
Running a small business is tough at the best of times, and a lot of small business owners have not worked on their business model enough so they are still constantly behind, chasing their tails, scrambling to find clients, or make an extra dollar. These are all things that can be resolved by working on the business model and systems, but many business owners ‘fall’ into business and don’t have the skills, confidence or time to do that work.
Then you throw in something difficult.
An injury. A death in the family. An illness. Something big that often makes it all fall apart. Any threads that were loose and ready to unravel come apart on the spot. It all goes to shit (excuse my language, but that’s the truth of it)
I feel like I’m an expert in this.
In the last three years I’ve experienced what feels like more than my fair share of adversity. My heart horse broke his leg and six weeks later my father passed away, leaving my sister and I to pack up our family home.
I had surgery to remove a dozen benign cysts from one breast and 60% of the tissue from both sides as a reduction in both size and risk, had a nasty allergic reaction to the pain meds they gave me and vomited for what felt like an eternity, landing me in the ED twice in five days.
Went on the trip of a lifetime to the US, but got sick on the plane trip, vomited so much that it put my heart under pressure and I spent 2 days in the cardiac ward in LA.
That triggered some mofo anxiety which stayed with me for a good year, having massive panic attacks and being unable to leave the house at times. Then I fell off my horse going over a simple little jump and snapped myself in half, my pelvis, sacrum, a vertebra and a rib, and spent 3 months off my feet, and 6 months out of the saddle.
And right now, I’m sat in bed after having to have surgery on my leg for an infected dog bite from breaking our two dogs up from a really out of character fight which is going to keep me off my feet for weeks and out of the saddle for longer, after I just started to enjoy riding again after my fall late last year.
I sat here thinking a couple of things at first.
Like, a phrase that starts with ‘F’ and ends with ‘uck You Universe’.
‘This is shit, here I am again.’
A bit of ‘why me’ and ‘this feels like groundhog day’.
“OMG you are a disaster zone Mel!”
To be fair, I probably have every right to feel like that, even my friends are starting to make comments about me being accident prone, or unlucky. Images of full body bubble wrap suits are being messaged around. But you know what, actually, I am REALLY LUCKY!
Last year after my fall, I decided very early on to find the positive and make the best of my situation. I was trapped in a room with my phone and laptop and not a lot more, for 3 months. So I worked on my business as much as I could. I planned, I wrote content, I engaged with and built my group, and I just kept going.
In that time, I more than doubled my income. The effort paid off and I am still seeing the results even now!
I could have so easily have watched the whole of Netflix. And slept. And felt sorry for myself. Not to say I didn’t do all of those things but I balanced it with action. I got dressed super early in the mornings, even though I was getting back onto the bed for the day. That was key to me feeling like I could take action.
Some days were easier than others, as is always going to be, but in the end, I made sure I did at least one thing to add value to my business every day. Sometimes that one thing took 15 minutes, other times I spent 9 hours on it. I was ok with whatever I did.
Compared to some business owners, I am lucky. As an international consultant, I was still able to work once I got past the ‘heavily drugged’ stage of recovery where I was… well… off with the fairies. I’ve seen other business owners who have physical jobs sustain and injury and it all grinds to a halt. That is a matter of planning for every scenario, having more than one stream of income, and proper income protection (in the form of savings or insurance). If you are in small business in and have no backup plan, and things fall apart, you only have yourself to blame.
Planning is everything
No matter what your business is, you need to consider what will happen if you are hit with some form of adversity. This isn’t ‘panic planning, build a bunker for the zombie apocalypse’ kind of thing, it’s more like taking a sensible approach of making sure both you and your business can take the hit of you being out of action for a while. If you have thought about it and planned ahead, then you are more likely to be able to keep your mindset positive when things aren’t going to plan in your life.
And then your thoughts are even more important.
Every thought you have, you choose to have. So when things happen, you can choose to find the negative, or the positive. Sounds cliqued but every cloud DOES have a silver lining, you just have to find the positive, the gift or the lesson in everything. Practice that habit with small, every day things to begin with. When you tell someone about your day, don’t tell them about the worst thing, tell them about the best thing. If you are talking about an event, don’t talk about how hard it was to park, or the food that took forever, talk about how great it was to be with the people there and what good things you found.
If you instantly jump to the negative, the ‘I can’t’ or ‘they didn’t’ and that kind of thing, then when something big like some of the things that have happened to me come along, you are going to sink into your own misery and everything, including your business, is going to fall apart.
Teach yourself to focus on the positive…
… to not catastrophize things and blow them out of proportion, and to not assume the worst is going to happen. Make the most of today, because you have no idea what tomorrow has in store for you. This is one of the reasons I take action the way I do in my business. There’s no time to think about something for a year, put things off until the stars and moons align.
There’s a good way to think about your current ‘thing’ that is stressing you out, and that is to ask ‘will this affect me in 6 weeks time?’ If it wont, don’t give it more than 6 minutes thought!
Each time I’ve had what felt like adversity, I have learned something new about myself, I have gained more than I have lost. I’ve found resilience and strength I never knew existed in me. And damn, that is bloody empowering let me tell you. I also realised that if I shared my story with others, I may be able to empower others, and I have already seen the results of that which is really heart warming.
How would YOU cope?
So if you are a small business owner, take a step back and assess your business to see how you will deal with it if adversity strikes. That’s really important for you to do and the time is NOW, not the moment you find yourself in hospital, or somewhere else that you just can’t work for some reason.
Then focus on the positive mindset, because trust me, from repeated personal experience, your mindset is going to make the difference between you making it through whatever the universe throws at your or not.
And then let’s hope you never need either of those things!