This blog has been a little quiet as I’m after being in Ireland for a business/family visit. While I was there, I watched the new television programme, Taking Care of Business on RTÉ. Like Fergal Quinn’s show, Retail Therapy, a struggling business and its owner are the focus for each episode. While there is much conversation about business plans, debts and the relationship with banks, the most striking thing that is talked about is the low confidence level each business owner exhibits at the beginning of the episode.
Ireland is a tough place for small business owners right now
I had quite a number of conversations with various small business owners while in Ireland who described their frustrations and worries. There are many questions about the rising tax levels, continuing austerity budgets, the obstacles business owners face accessing credit, the high debt levels and the actions taken by the Irish government.
Confidence has taken a hit
Confidence is a remarkable thing. It is not the belief that you can do no wrong nor that everything is going to be the way it was. It is the belief that “I can handle this somehow”, even under pressure. However, when you are faced with what seems like never-ending obstacles, confidence can be undermined so even normally confident people get to a low moment. As I’ve written before, it’s not unusual to question your values, choices and actions during a major crisis of confidence. It is also overlooked as a business tool during times of crisis because it seems so tenuous and airy-fairy. Yet, it is the underpinning for what makes a small business owner effective.
To be confident, you need focus
Daniel Goleman, who studies emotional intelligence has discovered that focus is an important ingredient in confidence. In an interview with Dr. George Kohlreiser, he quoted Kohlreiser as saying:
“How you manage your own emotions is determined by how you focus. The mind’s eye is like a flashlight. This flashlight can always search for something positive or something negative. The secret is being able to control that flashlight – to look for the opportunity and the positive. When you do that, you’re playing to win. You’re able to focus on the right things and maintain that positive self.”
Getting that groove back
Someone once wrote that “It’s not a hill, it’s a mountain when you start out the climb” in reference to changing one’s heart and mind. There is a tension between old expectations and current reality. However, building up confidence brings the small business owner back to what makes him/her tick. This is the focus.
For some business owners, they need to be meeting prospective customers. This is where they get get their groove back. For others, they need to be doing something else to get their groove back…meeting with current customers, revising the business plan or accessing help from an outside resource. For my coaching clients with struggling businesses, the return to basics (reviewing the business plan and current goals, looking at up-to-date financial reports and completing a SWOT analysis) plus acknowledging the emotional aspects gets their feet back on the ground and their minds looking forward.
Confidence…that overlooked business tool
For Irish small business owners, indeed small business owners in many places, it is an uphill climb. The slow pace can feel grueling and the wins seem so small. It is so easy to think so-and-so has it easy because of their location or specialty but you don’t really know what their story is. And it’s tempting to ignore that you have certain skills, have faced adversity before or that there are other small business owners like yourself. People gauge how well your business is doing by your posture and how you speak (Amy Cuddy has a fascinating TED talk about body language and confidence). Your prospects get excited if you are enthusiastic. Your staff and/or outside resources will feel more secure that you are projecting solidity. And most importantly, you will discover you can weather what comes your way. Confidence isn’t about the bad stuff going away. Confidence supports finding a way to face forward and seek solutions.
**After 2 active conversations on LinkedIn started due to this post, I wrote a companion post, “CEO Mindset: Confidence When Your Business Is Struggling“, to flesh out more about what makes confidence such an important business tool.
About the author: I’m Elli St.George Godfrey, a small business coach and executive coach who guides established small business owners in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the US to use the CEO Mindset and be comfortable in their own skin. I have a deep appreciation for learning and understanding my client’s business style and culture. Whether you are re-focusing your small business or expanding in your own backyard or into another country, my 3 keys coaching process helps clients move from being excited about growing to having the tools to make it actually happen. Curious? Schedule your complimentary coaching session here.