Ten Must-Do’s To Eliminate Owner Stress

stress_chainThere are many reasons we entrepreneurs decide to set out on our own and start our own companies. We are driven by a vision to build something special and create our own destinies. We do it to create growth opportunities for ourselves and for those that choose to follow us and believe in our vision. Of course we do it for a financial reward and return on investment. We are willing to assume financial risks in the form of debt and obligations that require our signature to personally guaranty that, no matter what, all will be paid in full. We are the visionaries, the dreamers … the relentlessly passionate ones crazy enough to try and beat the odds of building a successful company.

Of all the reasons we start our own companies, one that is not on the list is to be stressed out. As we all know, there are times when the stress of ownership can be overwhelming and debilitating. There is the stress of making both big and tough decisions. There is the financial stress of paying bills, meeting payroll, making loan payments and being current on taxes. There is that crushing stress of debt that gets out of control. And then there’s the stress of leading and managing people. Heck … you’re probably getting stressed just reading about the things that get you stressed out.

The good news is that there are ways to minimize ownership stress – if you’re willing to practice very specific No-Compromise Leadership disciplines.

Here are my ten life-tested must-do’s to avoid and eliminate stress:

  1. Never use square pegs for round holes: Of course you’re going to be stressed if trying to use square pegs that don’t have a chance of fitting your company’s round holes. Square pegs come in the form of potential new hires that don’t fit your company’s culture. This also includes senior staff members whose performance, attitude and resistance to change have fallen out of alignment with your company’s culture, values, teamwork and standards. If you’re getting some “red flags” during the interview process, it’s mostly likely from the square edges on the prospective hire’s peg. Avoid the potential stress and don’t hire. If senior staff members are not performing and behaving in ways that support and mentor younger team players, thoroughly address it early to avoid the stress later.
  2. If it’s broken now… fix it now: If a system or approach to doing business isn’t giving you the results you need and want, then it’s broken and needs fixing now. No-Compromise Leaders know that nothing in business ever fixes itself. It just gets progressively worse … and progressively more stressful. This means that the stress of something not working will only become more stressful if you don’t address and fix it now. Fear of change and what may happen feeds stress. Procrastination feeds stress. Fix it now, is about accomplishment … and when you accomplish things, you are less stressed.
  3. There are 100 pennies in a dollar: If you keep spending more pennies than there are in a dollar, you’re going to bring on your own financial crisis. Borrowing more money to offset a pattern of losing money is like bringing in heavy equipment to dig a deeper financial hole. Using credit cards to finance operations, or getting behind in taxes, is what I call digging your own grand canyon of debt. Cash-flow plans and budgets are non-negotiable financial disciplines in business. If you don’t like this level of discipline, then enjoy the financial stress of mounting losses and debt. So much of the financial stress we see in business coaching is the result of avoiding financial disciplines.
  4. Cash reserves keep you calm and patient: Part of the cash-flow planning and financial discipline process is building your company’s cash reserve. Like all forms of saving money, it takes time and commitment to put cash aside in a separate bank account. Cash that accumulates in your operating checking account is going to get spent. Stash cash away in a company savings or money market account so it’s not easy to get to. I always refer to cash reserves as stress-relieving “sleep good at night money.” I’d rather have the stress of hitting our revenue goals to create profit and cash reserves than the stress of making money to cover this week’s payroll.
  5. Your company will change with or without you: Leaders are all about leading change … except when it comes to the leader’s ability to anticipate and respond to change. Leaders can be stubborn and inflexible, even when their companies are screaming for change. The sobering reality is that change will occur with or without the leader’s involvement. Staff discontent intensifies when leaders avoid, procrastinate or outright refuse to change. Sometimes leaders “check out” and stop paying attention to what’s really happening. Leaders always want their companies to change … but that change process cannot begin if the leader does not change first. Look in the mirror and have a fierce conversation with yourself about what you need to own in what’s not working in your company. A lot of stress can be eliminated if you work on changing yourself first.
  6. You can’t make everyone happy: Every business needs structure, systems, accountability and the ability to change and adapt to the needs within it as well as the world around it. As much as leaders and employees recognize the importance of “embracing change” … change can trigger resistance and push back. Change happens because the company needs to adjust, fix a problem or get better. As the leader, you cannot avoid or delay implementing change because the change is going to confront resistance and rock the boat. That’s stressful. It is your responsibility to communicate the why, what and how of change to help others understand. Most will. Some will not. You can’t stress over those that prefer yesterday over a better tomorrow.
  7. Share the load: One of my favorite Neilism’s is, “If I can’t sleep at night – no one sleeps at night.” Yes, the ultimate responsibility of the company rests on your shoulders … but that doesn’t mean you have to carry the entire workload of getting work done. The more responsibilities you share with those around you, the more capable and empowered they become … leaving you to focus on the more important leadership priorities and tasks. Let go of some of the control and you’ll help those around you grow. Being the orchestra leader is a hell of a lot less stressful than trying to play all the instruments at the same time. Share control. Be less stressed.
  8. Decide rather than obsess: Yes, there will always be those tough decisions to make where the choices are complex and the results unknown. The longer you obsess over making a decision, the more stressed you become. Weigh your options and probable outcomes. One of those funky choices will always have a slightly better chance of succeeding than the others. That’s the one you pick. Don’t pick the easier choice over the better, yet more difficult, choice. More often than not, the easier choice lacks the horsepower to accomplish the task. Pick, and run with, the best choice. Put everything you have into making it succeed. Obsessing feeds stress. Getting the work done eliminates stress.
  9. See something … say something: This isn’t just a saying for Homeland Security; it’s what leaders that pay attention do. Every leader sees stuff in their company that drives them crazy. The more stuff you see … the more stressed you get until you blurt out something like, “Why can’t they just do their jobs.” If you see something in your company that’s not right … address it respectfully and thoroughly. I’m not suggesting that you pounce on everything, I’m suggesting that you be both aware and present enough to engage in the perpetual process of inspect and correct. Even more powerful is to instill the “see something … say something” behavior into your company culture. The more eyes that identify issues and potential problems, the better the execution of work. I’d rather be stressed over the process of improvement than being stressed watching the same problems occur over and over again.
  10. Knives need to be sharpened … so do leaders: Leadership and clarity are inseparable. However, the deeper leaders get into their work, the more they lose that higher level of clarity on how all the moving parts interact to move the company forward. A business coach keeps you focused. A business coach helps you see what your eyes can’t. A business coach helps you understand your options so you can make the best decisions. A business coach holds you accountable. I hope you consider using a Strategies Coach to keep you and your leadership skills sharp. Here’s a link to learn more: www.strategies.com/coaching-consulting

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Please share your thoughts with me about today’s Monday Morning Wake-Up. Click below to comment.

Pass this e-mail on to your business colleagues, managers and friends. They will appreciate it.


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