Discouragement in Your Small Business: 10 Helpful Suggestions

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Discouragement in Your Small Business: 10 Helpful Suggestions

Overcoming one of the greatest threats to building a successful small business

By David Cox | January 21, 2020

Discouragement in a small business can threaten the potential of business owners to succeed. Although some struggle with discouragement, others have learned how to respond differently. That’s why two different business owners may face the same challenges but differ in their response and outcomes.

Unquestionably, the response you choose will impact your objectivity, decision-making, and your willingness to take decisive action. Undoubtedly, the wrong response could place your business at risk. Consequently, you need to know how to react to adverse circumstances in a manner that will help you respond productively.

You have ultimate control over your attitude

For example, let's say you experience a series of difficult circumstances in your business. If you feel these are a sign of impending failure, obviously, you'll be discouraged. However, what if you assume that these circumstances are not a sign failure? Instead, you choose to view them as a learning opportunity that will, in time, strengthen you and your business. Although these circumstances are stressful and no less complicated, you will feel differently about them.

Furthermore, you need to accept that problematic situations are not an indication of personal failure. Difficult circumstances do not determine a business owner's value or self-worth. They're merely opportunities to learn and grow, for which we will one day be thankful.

These challenges are part of your journey. As business owners, we share in this experience. Besides, as the saying goes, “if it were easy, everyone would do it.” As such, developing the right attitude and learning to overcome discouragement in your small business is essential to your success.

The experience of discouragement in small business

Since launching our small business over three years ago, my wife and I have faced many difficult situations. Sure, some were incredibly discouraging, and there were times we considered whether or not to continue. Eventually, we learned to accept these conditions as temporary setbacks. Today, instead of surrendering to them, we choose to work through them and become stronger with each experience.

I wish learning how to overcome discouragement was as logical as I make it sound. Some business problems are complicated and require a rational approach to solve them. Unfortunately, once our emotions are involved, logic is rarely our initial reaction. Consequently, when we react to discouraging circumstances emotionally, it’s easy to allow fears and doubts to influence our decisions.

For example, a reduction in sales may call for a new marketing campaign. However, if you’re afraid to spend the money necessary to do this, the solution will never be implemented. As a result, the decline in sales continues, and your inaction places the business in jeopardy.

What percentage of new businesses succeed?

The Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy reports that around 80% of new businesses survive their first year.

However, they also cite that only 50% of those businesses are still in operation five years or longer. Furthermore, even with the growth in entrepreneurship, only 34% of new businesses remain viable for ten years or more.

What does this have to do with learning how to overcome discouragement in your small business?

You may have trained in an area of specialization, that now represents the core service of your business. You may even have received training in the fundamentals of running a business. Nevertheless, if you’ve started and now run a small business, you must learn how to overcome discouragement.

Facing discouragement in a small business is inevitable

Despite the successes you experience in business, problems and other unforeseen circumstances will arise. As such, discouragement will accompany these setbacks. Often, they will create problems in addition to the everyday challenges of running a business. Here are ten examples of circumstances that can cause feelings of discouragement.

  • You lost a significant client, and now your business is struggling financially.
  • Those who pledged to support you when you started your business have vanished.
  • The demand for your products or services isn’t as high as you anticipated.
  • The cost of operating your business continues to increase.
  • You’re not where you thought you would be at this point in your business development.
  • You live with constant uncertainty.
  • You’re struggling in your business, but it hurts more when family and friends ignore your struggle.
  • It hurts when people you counted on for help or encouragement let you down.
  • Your business isn’t going well, and you feel ashamed that you may be hurting your family.
  • You see others succeed in business and believe they have it easier than you.

When enough of the above factors present themselves, the discouragement you feel is quite real, and you shouldn’t ignore it. As mentioned, it can have a detrimental impact on your decision-making, objectivity, and willingness to act decisively. What’s more, it can negatively affect your energy and the desire to pursue your business goals aggressively.

How can you overcome discouragement in small business?

I want to acknowledge two individuals who have contributed to how entrepreneurs, small business owners, and sole proprietors address discouragement in business. First, Tommi Wolfe, an award-winning business coach and the founder of Top6BusinessCoach.com. She offers some excellent advice on the subject. Second, Brian Hamilton, the founder of the Brian Hamilton Foundation, has also contributed substantive information on this subject. Here are a few of the ideas they've shared that could prove helpful for you:

Remember, it’s not personal

You’re working to build a successful business, and it’s a journey. The same one all successful entrepreneurs, small business owners, and sole proprietors have taken before you. Undoubtedly, you’ll face many challenges, and some will be discouraging. Regardless, they’re a normal part of figuring out what you don’t yet know. So embrace the problems, and don’t take them personally – every discouragement you overcome is the next successful step in building your business.

Fear and doubt are a natural part of this experience

If you wanted normal, you shouldn’t have started a business. Your journey will, at times, provoke fear, doubt, and a host of other emotional reactions. Instead of feeling discouraged, give yourself credit for getting out of your comfort zone. Remember, you’ve chosen to do something extraordinary.

When are you going to take action?

Taking action produces results. Comparatively, taking massive action can produce massive results. However, even wrong or ineffective efforts can be helpful. You’ll soon discover what’s not working and make appropriate adjustments. A lack of action teaches nothing. Fortunately, you can resolve more problems by taking the time to think them through. Then, you can implement your strategic measures objectively.

Stop measuring results strictly in financial terms

Obviously, new companies need to watch expenses, sell their products and services, and strive for profitability. Adequate cash flow allows these new firms the ability to make whatever adjustments are necessary to succeed. However, it takes time for new companies to build sales and create positive cash flow.

Therefore, it’s essential to stay positive and focus on progress by meeting smaller goals and measuring accomplishments. This approach will prove initially more effective than merely counting the dollars that came in this month.

Make time to take care of your health

Healthy food, adequate sleep, regular exercise, and plenty of meaningful relationships will help you maintain good health and well-being. Taking care of your health will also keep your life full and help you remain motivated and positive.

Learn from successful people in your field

Many talented, hard-working individuals have probably conquered the discouragements you currently face in your business. Contact one of them, if possible, and offer to take him/her to lunch. This relationship will prove invaluable. If that’s not possible, research and read about what successful people in your field have done to overcome similar obstacles.

Read a good book

Biographies of successful individuals may prove particularly helpful as you strive to overcome discouragement in business. You should study not only what they've done, but what continues to make them successful. Then, model it in your business and possibly in your life.

If you read history and biographies, you’ll find that many who made significant contributions to the world had significant problems. It's good to learn about others who have struggled because it helps us better reflect on the challenges in our lives. Besides, when we read about those who've been able to overcome these obstacles, it gives us hope.

Watch an inspirational movie

There are so many movies that offer inspiration when you’re feeling discouraged. Some are related to business, but others inspire us on a human level. Brian Hamilton wrote that he’s drawn to movies about dreamers. For example, he mentioned movies like Shawshank Redemption, Nebraska, Warm Springs, and Rudy (all of which I highly recommend). Hoosiers and The Legend of Bagger Vance are also excellent movies that involve overcoming adversity to accomplish an extraordinary goal.

Talk to another business owner

Building a small business is often a lonely endeavor. Thus, whether you’re an entrepreneur, a small business owner, or a sole proprietor, you need a peer group. You need the support of others who have traveled the same road professionally. If you know individuals who have started and are running their own business, seek them out. Invite them out for breakfast or lunch. Get to know them and learn from them. In doing so, everyone will benefit from the relationship.

If you don't happen to know other small business owners in your immediate area, it’s time to meet some. You may even find it worthwhile to seek out a local or area business-related group. You may think networking in this manner is a waste of time, but I assure you it’s not. I guarantee it’s essential to have peers you can relate to professionally.

Do something around the house

During periods where you’re overcoming discouragement in your business, don’t forget to contribute around the house. Yes, I’m talking about household chores. For example:

    • Taking out the garbage
    • Washing the dishes
    • Mowing the yard
  • Doing some of the grocery shopping
  • Running errands as needed

Obviously, your spouse or roommate will appreciate the help and you'll feel good about what you've accomplished. In fact, you’ll feel better about yourself.

Overcome discouragement by moving in the right direction

As mentioned, you will inevitably face discouragements in your small business. I’ve known dozens of individuals who started new businesses over the last 30 years. During this period, I’ve watched these talented, hard-working new business owners face numerous struggles.

Many eventually learned how to conquer their discouragement and continue their progress towards a profitable and sustainable business. However, I’ve seen too many others, equally capable, who failed to learn this lesson, letting their discouragement give way to despair. As a result, they abandoned what could otherwise have been a successful endeavor.

When you’re feeling discouraged in your small business, adjust your attitude and view the circumstances as an opportunity to learn and grow. Then, take action by doing something within your span of control. The suggestions listed above can help you work through the discouragement you feel.

It’s not necessary to adopt every suggestion listed. Choose the ones you feel would be most beneficial and take action. Regardless of which or how many you choose, they can help you move in the right direction. If you do this, I'm confident you can overcome your discouragement and take the next step towards the success of your small business.

Editor's note: The image at the top of this article was contributed by Claire Anselment, a talented young artist from Springfield, IL.

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About the Author: David Cox

David Cox is a Co-owner of TPB Business Copyediting. He writes to encourage us to apply our multidisciplinary training and experiences to develop our current career role further.