Many small business owners are stressed out due to the COVID-19 pandemic now more than ever. The troublesome situation appeared to be temporary, and manageable in the early weeks, but it’s shaping up to be something no one could have predicted. And the way forward remains difficult to forecast.
The pandemic has turned everything upside down. What was good marketing six months ago is no longer working today. Maybe even the best marketing wouldn’t help you now and you simply need to sit tight. Maybe there will be a way through for those determined enough to stay in the game.
You’re used to doing the heavy lifting, but things have changed quickly, and you need a place to productively explore your options. Support from someone intelligent, who truly listens and poses profound questions, can be invaluable.
There are several things you would like support mulling over.
You don’t know how long the downturn will continue to negatively affect your business, but you’re staying flexible and trying to be optimistic.
You’re doing the best you can with limited information. But you know things are not going to improve quickly.
The picture keeps evolving. Recently you realized that physical distancing is going to be the new normal for some time to come. You don’t know what will be happening in a year, but you know the world will be a changed place when businesses open up again.
The stock market has been down, and your investments have been affected. Maybe you’ve escaped relatively unscathed. Perhaps, however, you’ve lost some of your wealth. At the same time, your income from your business is down and you have expenses to cover. Your need for support will not disappear any time soon.
Small business owners suffer from isolation at the best of times.
If you are a small business owner, your husband or wife may not want to hear any more about the business. He or she may have asked you to leave your concerns at the office and to be more present at home.
Most small business owners have auditioned their spouses as potential sounding boards, but many have found that them to come up short. Although they certainly mean well, they may not fully understand the ins and outs of your business and may be too close emotionally. Spouses are often panicking because they can readily see how the current situation could cost you the house.
Some small business owners have business partners, but there may be little support coming from this direction. Instead, you may have to be the strong, confident one in the partnership to counter your partner’s tendency to catastrophize. If you show any doubt, your business partner may panic. You don’t need that on top of everything else that’s happening. You need your partner to hold it together to the extent that they are capable.
Most of your friends and family are not business owners and don’t understand the world you move in. They may not be abel to respond appropriately to your requests for support and for them to act as a sounding board.
You can’t talk to your employees about the issues because this would undermine their confidence in you and the business, which is the last thing you want. Even if they have been with you from the beginning, they count on you for leadership as well as a paycheque. They don’t want to listen to, or can’t tolerate hearing, your doubts and concerns.
You can’t talk to the competition. Some of them would like nothing better than to learn about your weaknesses so they can exploit them.
You may have learned to remain quiet, but this approach comes with a price.
Today, more than ever, small business owners are feeling the need to speak and to be heard. The stress of the pandemic is grating on them, and is resulting in restless or sleepless nights, headaches, moments of panic that are difficult to manage, and even depression.
Small business owners need to share with someone that their business is down 25% or 75%. They don’t need the listener to solve their problems, although some constructive comments would be helpful. Their problems are not easy to fix and may not have obvious solutions.
Right now, small business owners just need to be heard. There is pressure weighing them down, which needs to be acknowledged. They need someone to understand their situation and to confirm that anyone would be stressed in the same circumstances.
You need someone knowledgeable and experienced to talk to.
So, what can you do? First off, you need to find someone you can talk to because the stress can be too much to carry alone.
That someone may be your spouse or it may be your business partner. But if neither fits the bill, which is often the case, then you might want to find someone outside your current circle. You might want to call up an old mentor to schedule a time for a chat.
Perhaps you’ve met someone senior in your field who won’t feel threatened giving you a leg up. Perhaps you know someone in another business area who doesn’t directly compete with you and who will be happy to talk before breakfast one morning a week. You might also explore the idea of hiring someone experienced who will genuinely listen and respond in a helpful manner.
I have 17 years experience as an engineer and 20 years experience as a psychologist. I have built two successful businesses and have consulted with dozens of small business owners on multiple aspects of their personal and professional lives. I will be happy to explore how I can help you, too.