If you are like most small service business owners, you started your business because you have a special skill or training and you wanted to work for yourself. Odds are that you did not anticipate one day being self-employed and as a result, did not get a business degree.
You may also have received confusing, unhelpful or even unhealthy messages about money growing up. So where does this leave you? Confused? Uncertain? Hesitant? Overwhelmed? If any of these sound familiar, it's time for a plan to get you out of fear and into action.
When fear wins
When your fear wins you are more likely to avoid and shut down. The fear is not the problem, though it certainly feels like the problem. The problem is the inaction that comes from the fear.
In order to avoid the unpleasant emotions we avoid the tasks we think are causing the emotions. Then the unpleasant emotions fester and grow and plague us. If we really look at the problem, we can clearly see that it's having NOT done things that is causing the fear and making the problem worse.
Therefore, the solution to fear is action. Knowing, planning and doing. Let's see how you can turn your self-employment business fears into actions that bring about more positive experiences and emotions.
Importance of education
First things first, you will more afraid of and more overwhelmed by financial business matters that you have no exposure to or experience with. You don't need to go back to school and get a business degree. You are already running a business and don't have time for that. Taking an online course, getting a mentor or coach, reading a book and networking with peers are all great ways to learn.
The more you know the better you are able to decide what will be best for your business, make plans and implement those plans to get yourself to a comfortable, confident place. If something is really worrying you, ask yourself the question "What do I need to learn to overcome this fear?"
Creating a healthy business
We know how important physical health is and hopefully we know how important mental health is. But what about our business health? Chances are if you are fearful, stressed and overwhelmed, something isn't working well. You can look at some basic business functions to see if you are in the healthy range and this can help pinpoint where you need to focus your attention to reduce fear and get on track.
Are things generally running smoothly? Are there systems in place that when followed lead to the outcomes you want? If not, you may need to consider putting some systems in place and possibly hiring people to help. More on this below.
Oversight and communication
Are you finding out quickly enough when there are problems? Do you know what to do to solve them? If not, you may need to pay more attention to daily operations or place a trusted person in a supervisory role. You may also need to identify mentors who can help guide you when you run into a problem you haven't seen before.
Business owner stress
How are you doing as an individual? Are you sleeping at night? Do you have family and down time? If not, you may need to take a hard look at your priorities and goals. Owner stress has a direct impact on business functioning.
It's fine to work hard, extra hours, you are building something of value. But make sure you are also taking time to breathe, rest, relax and take care of yourself so you can be physically and mentally present at the start of each day.
If your business is not running smoothly, identify one thing you can change this week. Next week change one more. You will start to see the forward progress stemming from your actions and the problems will slowly become more manageable.
A key feature of a well run business is good systems that are used regularly and efficiently. Here are a few systems most all businesses need in place to run smoothly.
You might have a very simple banking system consisting of one business checking account. Or you could have several checking, savings and credit card accounts. It does not matter how many accounts you have, it matters greatly that 1) your personal transactions are kept separate from business transactions and 2) whatever banking system you come up with, it works for you as the business owner.
An accounting system links to your business bank and credit card accounts to pull in transactions so they can be categorized. This gives you the opportunity to run reports and keep an eye on the business results. For some very small businesses a spreadsheet will suffice, for others you need a software package such as QuickBooks, Xero, FreshBooks or GoDaddy. If you have employees or are taxed as an S-Corp you will also need a payroll system.
Cash management system
A cash management system is an approach to handling cash as it comes into your business. It determines where your money goes, how you will pay yourself and when and how much will be set aside for expenses, taxes and other cash needs. It can be highly structured or less structured, depending on what you want as a business owner. One popular cash management approach for business is Profit First. I recommend checking out the book and then customizing or using whatever method you decide is right for you.
A budget is one of the least enjoyable aspects of running a business but it is also an incredibly useful tool if used properly. It can be accomplished fairly simply. A budget tells you what to expect and gives you a measure to see how your business is doing.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Electronic Health Records (EHR) system
Most businesses will have a system separate from their accounting system to track important details about their clients or customers. This is usually an electronic software system but it can occur on paper as long as there is some gathering of information about who you are servicing and what services are being provided. A separate CRM or EHR system will give you flexibility to track clients and help you build and grow your service business.
These systems collectively lead to solid business operations. If you put in place systems that work together well, and they are regularly and efficiently utilized, you will save yourself many business owner headaches. If it is too overwhelming to think about all the systems you don't have, choose one system and get that process working well first, then tackle another one.
Choosing qualified, trusted professionals is a critical component of reducing fear and running a healthy business. Legal professionals can review your business documents and establish your form of business if you do not want to do it yourself. Check out these other blog posts for finding a qualified tax preparer and financial planner.
It may require time and energy to find the right professionals. It might also bring about a string of worrisome thoughts and emotions such as what if I hire the wrong person, what if I get bad advice, what if they cost too much? Go slow but take steps to find professionals you need.
You can do this
If you are still swimming in self doubt, worry and fear it's time to go back to the start. Think about the reasons you began a business. Ensure your actions are aligned with your goals. If you are operating your business the way others have said you "should" maybe you need to focus more on running it the way you want. Sit down and write or type out what you want to get out of being a business owner and work backward from there.
You have two options when you realize you have a fear as a business owner: you can avoid it or you can face it. If you avoid, the emotion is going to stick around and take over. You can also choose to take action and change the fear into something else like comfort, relief or confidence.
Peace of mind is primarily up to you. The good news is you do not have to face it alone. You can hire people, you can find professionals to help you, you can enlist mentors and coaches to support you and you can learn and use your new knowledge to develop business systems and processes that work for you. There is a lot you can do, so take action today even if it's just one small thing in one area you need to work on.
Also check out: Top 10 New Business Mistakes: And How to Avoid Them
Questions: email [email protected]
Jennie Schottmiller, LMFT, CPA is a licensed marriage and family therapist who practiced as a CPA prior to becoming a therapist. She has an active solo therapy practice and runs a facebook group for clinicians and offers courses to help small business owners with accounting, tax and financial analysis matters.
Disclaimer: This blog is for education only. Please consult with a qualified professional when you have any questions about your personal accounting, tax or legal situation. Information contained in this post is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace professional advice.