One of the joys of working with owners and managers in small companies is watching the speed and effectiveness of innovative changes in their organisation. It means that they can be faster and better at adapting to changes in their environment than larger businesses. However many business owners find it difficult to be innovative, often held back by their own self-limiting beliefs or lack of quality thinking time.
This week I met with a director in a small company who typified these issues. As a co-director in an IT business he was held responsible for managing everything in the business that wasn’t directly related to customers and IT issues. The biggest sales and marketing challenges involved setting the right strategy and implementing a plan. However day to day management pressures were preventing this from happening. Although he was working very long hours in the business the effectiveness of their ad-hoc approach to sales and marketing was being limited by this lack of time to implement a planned and systematic approach.
A conversation yesterday with a business coach highlighted a similar issue. She was faced with launching a new service and had been kept awake at night by worry about recruiting sufficient customers in time for the planned launch date.
Thus people who are high achievers can self-sabotage their business growth because they may not be able to overcome their perfectionist approach. They are often very demanding of themselves, have a fear of what others will think of them, fear failure and tend to work all hours constantly trying to be better than the competition. The end result is too much stress and anxiety, which can be counter-productive.
In order to better manage a small business, the managers have to be exceptional time managers themselves. Time at work has to be spent wisely and the long hours culture needs to be ditched in order to keep up high energy levels without becoming stressed. This is difficult if the managers set the bar too high for themselves by being perfectionists or being afraid to make changes because of the fear of failure.
So what steps could we take to prevent the stress of running the business becoming overwhelming?
Firstly we need to be able to step back from our business by taking time out to think about how we can make changes at work or at home to reduce our stress levels. It helps to think about what’s important to you at home and at work and perhaps to set yourself some new, more realistic priorities. Things that cause you stress but that are out of your control need to be accepted, rather than fought. Have a bit of courage and make some changes that will help you create thinking time and space in the working day. In this digital age many of us are wedded 24/7 to our phones – great when we need to work flexibly but not always helpful if you never truly escape from the workplace. Plan times in the day when you can and cannot open emails or answer phone messages, frequently a great distraction from work that is far more important. Limit your time on social media by having planned times to use it and times when you ignore the latest tweets coming in.
Secondly allow yourself to celebrate success and your achievements, whether at work or at home. One of the strategies I employ is to keep a daily written journal and I write down things that I’m grateful for both at home and in the workplace. It helps me to keep a sense of perspective when work stress levels increase.
Third, be kinder to yourself. If taking sufficient time to sleep, to look after your diet and for exercise makes you better able to cope with a busy work/life balance then it’s worthwhile investing that time.
These small changes in behaviour mean that separation of work time and family or social time become easier. Less time at work, but concentrating on the important tasks first, means that we are more, not less, productive overall. Your business can only benefit from more quality thinking time.
Get your thinking caps on!