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Maintaining a Stress-Free Business

April 28, 2009
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I have had two businesses in my life, and I can honestly say that I have run them basically stress-free, even though in 35 years I have had my share of ups and downs.

Stress – noun – “Emotional pressure suffered by a human being.”

Unfortunately, we live in the land of stress. I have a good friend who came to the U.S. from Peru when he was 25 years old. Although the part of Peru he came from was poverty stricken, the people there not only had no stress, they didn’t even have a word for it in their language! Today, 27 years later, my good friend Victor has his own computer business and is totally stressed-out.

I have had two businesses in my life, the first a natural foods restaurant and bakery I owned for 14 years, and a carpet cleaning business now in its 19th year. I can honestly say that I have run them basically stress free, even though in those 35 years I have had my share of ups and downs.

Here are a few tips on avoiding stress while owning your own business.
  1. Remember, if you have your health and family, you have everything.
    Why do those people in poverty stricken lands live stress free? I am not talking about areas where starvation is a possibility but areas where people don’t have much but they appreciate what they have and don’t even realize they have so little. Lesson No. 1– Appreciate what you have. Chances are if you are reading this, you are not immediately concerned about having a meal or a roof over your head. So what’s the big deal? Your reputation? Your pride? Recently I read where a German billionaire committed suicide because of a financial meltdown. It’s all about how you look at things. I always remember the words of my 93-year-old father-in-law and 84-year-old mother-in-law who constantly tell us that if you have your health and family, you have it made. (By the way, they are great examples as they go to the gym four days a week and play bridge, read, take cruises and live the lives of healthy people 30 years younger than they are).
  2. Learn to shut off the business.
    As business owners, we can be consumed 24 hours a day with the business. You need to be able to put on a different hat and enjoy being a parent, spouse, athlete, reader, fisherman, painter, golfer, walker, volunteer, cook or engage in whatever non-work activities you like to do. Another word for this is compartmentalize. The bills are not going to be paid any quicker if you stay up all night and worry about them. Sometimes I tell a client that perhaps they would be better off working at Home Depot and that way they could have far less stress. Shut off the work, no matter how much it takes; in the end it will all work out. I once heard a preacher say that he worries between noon and 12:30, so if a worry comes up, he tells himself to put it off until noon. Try it, it may work for you. The worse business situation I was ever in, was when I had my natural foods restaurant and bakery and the IRS was giving me 30 days to come up with the back payroll taxes I owed. It doesn’t get much worse than that, as they made me list all of my assets with the idea that they were coming after them if I couldn’t pay. Even in that dire situation, as unpleasant as it was, I knew things would all work out and I knew that I would still have my health and family, so I lived each day as though it would be alright. It did work out as someone bought my restaurant at the end of the 30 days, I paid my taxes and life went on.
  3. Do the best you can and then don’t worry. You cannot do any better than your best.
    There are two important parts to this statement. Part one is that if you are not doing your best, then you have a legitimate reason to worry. Part two is that if you are doing your best, relax, as there is absolutely nothing more that you can do. It is out of your hands. The key to this is finding a way to do your best and this usually involves discipline and planning. Most people come up short in these two areas, but they are not that hard to accomplish. Take the time to sit down and discover what you need to do and make a game plan to get it done. This takes discipline but every successful business person has mastered this skill. Quite simply, do your best, you know what that is!
  4. Live within or under your means.
    One good way to improve your life is to get rid of two-thirds of what you have. You can be possessed by what you possess. I love the European lifestyle and my wife and I love visiting Europe every year, not only to see the beautiful sights but to also immerse ourselves in their laid-back lifestyle. Don’t get caught up in a race with the Joneses, and try to keep as much of the high-end-ticket pressure off as you can.
  5. Take it one bite at a time.
    You can’t change your business overnight, it takes time. There is a law called the Law of Gestation and it tells us that it takes time to develop things. A mother doesn’t get pregnant and then in a few weeks have the baby. She probably wishes the time would go faster, but the birth happens when it happens, and in the meantime there is some pain and discomfort. The same way in your business, you’ve got to realize that certain things take a while to develop so relax and let the Law of Gestation have its way. Work on this part of your business, then the next part, and finally it will all come together. Sometimes the thrill is in the pursuit, so enjoy the journey and don’t worry when it takes some time to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.
  6. Delegate, you can’t do it all yourself.
    This part can be quite difficult for many people because the reason they got into business in the first place was because they have a dominate personality. A dominate personality can have some great benefits but can be a stumbling block when it prevents people from delegating. The best way to delegate is to determine what you like and are good at, do those aspects of your business and delegate the rest. This is a great way to relieve stress because you give up doing what you don’t like to do and many times the people you delegate a task to will do a better job than you. That is a win-win situation. Delegation is the only way to grow a business, so get used to it and leverage it to your advantage.
  7. Enjoy the race.
    Wow, you took the plunge and you are one of the 3% of Americans willing to take the chances associated with owning your own business. If you fail, so what, you tried and that says a lot more about you than most people. Andy Warhol, as crazy as he was, said one of the most profound statements ever uttered: “Business is the highest form of art!” You may not have known it but you are an artist. Now go out and compose a beautiful symphony or paint a Rembrandt or write a Longfellow-like poem with your business and enjoy the journey. Artists generally are not stressed because they love what they do and don’t mind working hard even though they may not see immediate results. What a privilege to be an American and own your own business. Ninety-nine percent of the rest of the world would give anything to have what you already possess.

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