Advertising
Advertising

How to Head Off Small Business Fear in This Economy

How to Head Off Small Business Fear in This Economy

20090507-bravery

    This is a scary time. Everyone you know knows at least one person who has gotten downsized and new jobs are scarce.  People are scared to start businesses and they’re scared to invest in their existing businesses right now. Part of it is that in an economy like this, mistakes are even more costly than before. And part of it is that people are just plain scared to lose anything right now. What you need to know is that the surest way to lose and make mistakes now is to NOT invest in your business. The only way to win right now is to face your fear and keep moving forward in the right way. Today, I’ll give you a few suggestions for how you can move ahead and steer clear of costly mistakes.

    As with everything else, realize that the current economic conditions are temporary.

    I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. The first thing to do is remember that economic conditions like we’re currently experiencing are temporary. Virtually every financial expert and publication has said that the recession won’t last forever. So when you start to experience fear about the economy and what it means for you, first and foremost, realign your thinking so you’re thinking about it as a temporary condition that will eventually resolve itself.

    Advertising

    Keep investing in yourself and your business.

    In this economy, a lot of business owners are cutting corners. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to who are cutting out key professionals, reducing their marketing budgets, and eliminating continuing education. What these business owners fail to realize is that it’s absolutely crucial that you continue to invest in yourself and your business to keep things moving in an upward trajectory. But be smart and invest in the right things. This leads me to my next point.

    Cut costs, but cut the right costs.

    When you cut costs, know which costs to cut. Analyze your business expenses and make sure you’re tracking everything. Look for ways to save. For example, if you’re low on printed material like your marketing flyers or business cards, you may be able to find a printer that charges less, but offers the same quality as your old printer. This extends beyond products you use for your business. Examine your business relationships. Are there some service providers you aren’t happy with? Now’s the time to make a switch to someone who will provide you with better service at a better rate. In this economy, you can get great service at a much more affordable rate than ever before. ..and you should.

    That said, don’t cut the essentials! You need to continue learning and improving your skills, so cutting back on continuing ed is a mistake. You don’t need to go to every workshop and seminar, but you shouldn’t eliminate these opportunities to learn, network, and increase your visibility altogether. And don’t start doing your own graphic design or having your son’s best friend design your web site. Cuts like this can result in catastrophe — web sites that don’t function properly, brochures that look unprofessional, and the appearance that your business is small-time, unsuccessful, or fly-by-night. And none of these are words you want applied to your business.

    Advertising

    Learn from Pareto.

    Another place you can save in your business is by applying Pareto’s 80/20 principle to your client list. The 80/20 rule says (in a nutshell) that the bulk of your business comes from about twenty percent of your client roster. That means you may be expending a great deal of effort and expense marketing to and serving the eighty percent of your clients who aren’t producing very much of your income. So why not go through your client list and do some weeding? You’ll save money in marketing costs and you’ll have more time to cater to your most-productive and profitable clients.

    Another way to implement Pareto’s 80/20 rule is to look at your current products and services. Which twenty percent of your products and services generate eighty percent of your profit? Concentrate on improving those and developing more products and services like them. You may even eliminate the products and services that aren’t generating enough interest.

    Marketing, marketing, marketing.

    One way you can guarantee that your business will fail is if no one knows you exist. So don’t stop marketing your business to save money. That’s the wrong cost to cut. Instead, keep up your marketing efforts, but like your client list, examine which efforts are providing the biggest pay-off. Cut back on the ones that aren’t bringing in clients and beef up the ones that are drawing attention. And, consider implementing more PR methods into your business so you can garner some good press for free.

    Advertising

    If you’ve been using direct mail as a marketing tool, check the quality of your list. How long have you been mailing marketing materials to people who haven’t responded? Pick a cut-off date and eliminate anyone who hasn’t responded since that date, and you’ll dramatically reduce your printing and postage bills without losing the people who actually respond to your marketing efforts.

    Once you’ve got ’em, wow ’em.

    It won’t do you much good to acquire clients if you can’t serve them and serve them well. So once you’ve drawn them in with your PR and marketing, you’d better make sure you wow them. It’s about more than doing a good job. It’s about doing a great job. Deliver at least on time, if not early. Delight, surprise, and overdeliver. Make sure your clients and customers know you appreciate their business. Always thank them.

    Also, survey the clients who’ve stayed with you for a long time. Find out what you’re doing right and amp up those efforts. And find out what you could do better, and improve on that, and you’ll see your client retention rates improve even more.

    Advertising

    Save money by hiring experts.

    Hiring the right experts can actually save you money in your business. Imagine all the mistakes you’ve made in your business history. Recall all the professionals you hired who didn’t work out – the web developer who charged a ridiculously high fee for every single update, the assistant who didn’t do her job, the graphic designer who charged you a fortune for a logo you now hate. Remember how much each of those mistakes cost you? Hiring a business consultant who has a Rolodex of professionals who can do that work at the highest quality, but at reasonable rates, can save you a lot of money in the long run, and in the end, the savings more than offset the price of the consultant. Plus, that same consultant can help you avoid other, costly errors, and make suggestions for other ways to optimize and save.

    But beware: “consultants” are a dime a dozen out there. So find someone you can trust and someone who can really deliver, otherwise you’ll spend much more than you’ll save.

    In this economy, it’s only natural that there’s a lot of fear. But knowing it’s temporary, conducting your marketing in the smartest way, continuing to invest in your business in the right way, and building a team of experts who you can trust to deliver can keep your business growing and minimize your fear. Stay strong – this won’t last forever!

    More by this author

    How to Hire A Web Design Firm Are You Having A Scarcity Conversation? 5 Topics To Address When Talking With Your Partner About Starting A Business How to Stay Motivated and On-Track When You’re Struggling How To Do What You Have To Do When You Don’t Feel Like Doing It

    Trending in Productivity

    1 How to Be More Creative and Come up with Incredible Ideas 2 Habits and Motivation: Master Both for Big Results 3 How to Improve Concentration and Sharpen Your Attention at Work 4 10 Reasons Why You’re Demotivated and How to Overcome It 5 How to Prevent Inaction from Leading to Regret

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on May 21, 2019

    How to Be More Creative and Come up with Incredible Ideas

    How to Be More Creative and Come up with Incredible Ideas

    Regardless of how creative you already consider yourself to be, there’s a good chance you would like to level up your creative abilities.

    You might want to write a better song, think of better solutions to problems at work or around the home or maybe paint a picture.

    In any case, the good news is that creativity is not born: it’s made, and each one of us has the potential to be more creative and come up with incredible ideas.

    “Creativity is any act, idea, or product that changes an existing domain, or that transforms an existing domain into a new one.” — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

    The definition of creativity is broad, and reminds us that creativity is not limited to artists or musicians. It does however require that we have some kind of impact on the domain in which we create.

    Creativity also emphasizes values.

    “The process of having original ideas that have value” — Ken Robinson

    This makes up for what Csikszentmihalyi misses out. For instance, we can make a change in the world without adding significant value. Any destructive act, like smashing a window, creates change, but it doesn’t necessarily create valuable change.

    In short, there isn’t one single definition of creativity It’s up to us to find a definition that feels true and useful. When you know what your standard is, It’s much easier to embrace creativity and start to cultivate it.

    And in this article, you will learn how to be more creative and take a good look at what goes into the creative skill:

    1. Cultivate Focus

    In order to create, there needs to be a focus on creating something, whether it’s a song, a theory, a product, or a sculpture.

    You could also call this “drive” – it’s the initial spark that drives the solution to a problem, or the will to get on your laptop and start typing.

    However, it’s worth noting there are different stages to the creative process: the divergent stage and the convergent stage.

    In the divergent stage, we want a broad focus – we want to be willing to let in lots of different inputs, ideas and insights. This is the time for brainstorming all possible ideas and solutions.

    In the convergent stage, we start to narrow our focus, like a camera lens. At this stage, we start to drill down to a handful of ideas or solutions, discriminating throughout the process.

    How to cultivate focus?

    Advertising

    Take a 20 Minute Walk

    Walking away and getting your heart rate up is the best free tool you have in regaining your focus.

    I know it might seem counterintuitive to take a break right when you’re at your busiest, and especially when you’re drowning in your massive to do list, but the effects it will have on your clarity and ability to focus are undeniable.

    Walking is physiologically proven to release stress, and clear your mind. In fact, most of my most brilliant ideas (and some pretty terrible ones too) have occurred on my daily walks.

    If you give this technique a try, what you’ll find is that you’re much more productive than you were before you took a breather.

    Over time, if you do these walks daily, you’ll quickly find that your to-do list starts to feel a lot less significant, and a lot more doable. It’s all about keeping razor focused, and that’s what short daily walks will gift you.

    2. Build a Structure

    When I wake up in the morning, I start the day with a structure in mind. I know that 15 minutes will be dedicated to meditation, 30 minutes to coffee and reading, 20 minutes to yoga and so on.

    The structure of this morning routine might be boring, but the act of each task in itself has the potential to be, on some level, “creative.”

    The point of structure is that it gives you the space to make time for something you want to do. It helps you carve out the time to do your creative work. Once you begin that thing in itself, you are free to go about it however you’d like.

    Without structure, we can lose focus and can feel overwhelmed with possibility. If you’ve ever looked at a blank page and felt too overwhelmed with possibility to make a mark on it, you’ll know what I mean. How much easier it gets when you are given some guidelines or a deadline?

    The trick is finding the right amount of structure for you and your creative needs. Too little structure and we feel overwhelmed. Too much structure, and we risk feeling limited and stifled.

    Again, it’s worth thinking about creating in those two stages: divergent (less structure) and convergent (more structure.)

    How to build a structure?

    Create a Morning Routine

    Your morning routine doesn’t have to be rigid or so arduous you dread waking up. In fact, it should feel like the opposite. When you get a routine that works for you, you’ll look forward to starting the day.

    We all have different needs and preferences which can shape our ideal routine. In the book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, you can be inspired over 160 different creators’ daily routines, from Charles Darwin to Pablo Picasso.

    Experiment with any that take your fancy, and see how you feel with a bit more structure to start your day.

    You can also take a look at this article about morning routine for inspirations: The Ultimate Morning Routine to Make You Happy And Productive All Day

    Advertising

    3. Find Motivation

    There is a theory that suggests: people will be most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the interest, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself — not by external pressures. This is also known as intrinsic motivation; a drive that comes from within.

    Think of a time when you did some of your best work — chances are you were totally absorbed in what you were doing, to the exclusion of everything else. You were completely focused on the work itself, barely noticing time flying by.

    Now think of a time when you felt under pressure to perform. Maybe it was an exam, or a commission for an important client, or maybe your boss had told you “there’s a lot riding on this.”

    Notice the difference? In the first memory, you were driven by intrinsic motivation, which made it relatively easy, even enjoyable, to be highly creative.

    In the second memory however, extrinsic motivation was breathing down your neck, distracting you by whispering about the rewards for success and the horrible consequences of failure: likely making it harder to focus on the task at hand.

    For this reason, intrinsic motivation, if you can find it, is what separates the good from great creative work.

    This isn’t to say only internal motivators help. I personally get motivated by luring myself to work with a good cappuccino at my favourite cafe. That will get me ready to write or edit or whatever I’ve been avoiding.

    How to find motivation?

    Connect to Your “Why”

    Your “Why” is your fuel: the thing that drives you forward, that gives you a reason to do what you’re doing.

    ‘He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.’ — Friedrich Nietzche

    When you have a reason to do something, a purpose or a goal that matters to you, you can connect your daily actions to it. Then, each act becomes infused with meaning and you find that intrinsic motivation comes naturally.

    The trick is to remember your “why” and connect with it on a regular basis.

    Think about how you want to feel on a daily basis. What would you like to accomplish in the next year? What would you like for yourself in the next five years? How about in your lifetime?

    Ultimately, the tasks you face on a daily basis, or at least some of them, will connect to a greater purpose if you follow this path and you will find you feel more motivated to create and less resistance.

    If you aren’t sure where to start looking for motivation, this will help: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

    4. Be an Expert in a Chosen Domain

    Research has shown that just as expertise in one domain does not predict expertise in other unrelated domains; creativity in one domain does not predict creativity in other unrelated domains.[1]

    Advertising

    So just because you can paint a pretty picture, doesn’t mean you can creatively solve a mathematical problem.

    If you’ve taken one of those tests like the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, which will ask you to think of a bazillion uses for a pencil, and scored well, unfortunately this is only an indicator of divergent thinking skills. It is not a predictor for creativity all round.

    The good news is, you can train your creativity in your chosen domain. Much like a muscle, you can isolate exercises to strengthen it.

    Of course you can still do a total body workout – or atotal creativity workout – but it means your creativity-training exercises need to come from a wide variety of domains; not just thinking up uses for a pencil.

    How to become an expert?

    Make a Mastery Training Plan

    Following our physical workout analogy, it’s worth applying the habits of great athletes to your chosen creative domain. For example:

    1. Decide what area/s you want to work on

    Much like a tennis player who decides they need to improve their serving technique, you can decide what area within your creative domain you want to improve at. Get specific.

    2. Decide how much time you can dedicate

    Most of us don’t have all day to train like a pro tennis player might, but you can likely squeeze 20 to 30 minutes in a day, if you want to. Whatever the time you can allow is, decide to dedicate yourself to it.

    3. Review your progress

    Finally, in order to check your progress, you can take regular reviews. Decide what your metrics are, and take time each week to check in with yourself.

    How many days did you practice? How did you compare to the previous week? This kind of review can help you stay on track, and actually creates more intrinsic motivation as you see yourself develop.

    5. Create a Conducive Environment

    A psychologist in 1943 proposed that behaviour is:[2]

    “a function of both the person as well as the physical environment they are in.”

    I would suggest that the act of creating is a behaviour and that, even though it begins as an internal process, it’s very much affected by and even dependent on the environment we are in.

    Advertising

    I started noticing how environment affects me when I worked in an office. Over time, I realized that the more people who were in or who were talking, the more distracted I was. If I got to the office early before my coworkers arrived, I was twice as effective.

    I was even more effective if I was at home. Now that I work from home, I know I’m even more effective when in certain coffee shops. Ideally, places that have high ceilings, gentle lighting, some barely noticeable background music – and excellent coffee.

    It’s these little variations in our environment that can really shape our creative output.

    If you’re an introvert, you probably do your best work alone. If you’re an extrovert, you probably do your best work in the company of others.

    This isn’t to say you should find one way of doing things and stick to it: in fact, varying your environment from time to time is a great way to stoke the creative fire too, which we’ll touch on more later.

    How to create a conducive environment?

    Add or Subtract Stimuli

    Novelty in our environment has been shown to stimulate the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that increases our desire to seek out reward.[3]

    If you’re looking for creative motivation, adding some novelty into your environment can be just what you need.

    On the other hand, some people are highly sensitive and when it comes to having too much stimulation in their environment, they find it difficult to focus.

    Experiment with working in different environments. Note how you feel. Note whether you do better creative work or have more interesting ideas when you’re alone or with others.

    Try listening to music, people chatting or try being in complete silence. Try a dimly lit room, try working in bright sunlight.

    In each case, note how you feel before, during and afterwards and rate the quality of your work.

    The Bottom Line

    Creativity is not one particular skill or talent one can have. It comes in as many broad and unique flavors as there are people on this earth.

    To be more creative, take little steps each day. Acknowledge where and when you feel most inspired, motivated and original and spend more energy in those areas.

    More Articles About Creativity

    Featured photo credit: Sticker Mule via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next