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How to Grow Your Small Business in Any Economy, Part 1

How to Grow Your Small Business in Any Economy, Part 1

    Think your small business can’t grow in this economy? You’re wrong. Improving your mindset and minimizing your risk are possible in all economies.

    If you pay attention to the media and get sucked into an “economic panic,” you might think that trying to grow a business in today’s economy is a crazy notion. But many of the companies you know and trust were started in economic conditions much like the ones we’re experiencing today. Disney, Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft were all started during recessions. The economic conditions in which they were started didn’t doom them to failure.

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    But let’s face it: Small business is multi-faceted and as such, requires a multi-faceted approach. What you’re thinking and how you’re thinking have as much of an impact on the level of your success as anything else, especially for the small business owner.

    That’s why this week I’m focusing on getting your head in the right place for small business success. Next week, I’ll move on to logistics and strategies for minimizing risk and growing your business.

    Let’s start off with a conversation about where most small business owners start getting into trouble. It all starts at home, right in the brain, especially in an economy like this.

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    Lack-Based Thinking

    Lack-based thinking is when you think things like: “I can’t afford….” “I don’t know how I’m going to pay for….” It’s all about fear, uncertainty and self-doubt.

    Lack-based thinking constantly hammers away at the mindset you need to succeed. You won’t have the drive to succeed or put your dollars in the right places if you have “I can’t afford it” floating around in your head. Focus on making a shift so you can start putting your mind and your money where they can bring you back the most return.

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    Strategies to Make the Shift

    Develop and Use Affirmations:

    The first thing that you can do to start making the shift out of lack-based thinking is to use affirmations. This is just good psychology: in essence, you’re re-training your brain. To get started, make a list of affirmations or declarations and say them aloud every day, at least three times a day, for 30 days. If you miss a day, start over at Day 1. It’s absolutely imperative that you do this continuously, without a break, for 30 days. Research shows that’s how long it takes your brain to retrain itself, so if you do something for two weeks, miss a day, and then start up again, even if you do it for another two weeks, your brain won’t be retrained. It has to be 30 consecutive days, without missing a day.

    The best way to get into this habit is to decide on Day 1 that you are fully, 100 percent committed to taking this action. Don’t accept any excuses from yourself.

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    Focus on the Larger Purpose:

    Maybe you started a business so you could travel the world or just so you could relax, knowing you have money invested for a long and enjoyable retirement. Create tangible reminders of the reason you started down this path: a vision board, a picture, or a bold statement posted in your workspace. Reaffirm what you’re working toward and you’ll find a continuously renewed will to keep going.

    Track Your Successes:

    Stay focused on the positive by keeping track of your successes, even the small ones. Make a list and review them every morning and evening. This focuses your attention on what you’re doing right and keeps you concentrated on moving in a positive direction.

    Once you get your brain engaged for success, you’ll be in a much better position to take action and achieve your goals and dreams.

    Stay tuned: In Part 2, I’ll cover some of the best strategies for growing your business in any economic climate.

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    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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