6 Ways to Manage Stress Like a Pro While Running a BusinessRamon Ray
What comes to mind when you think of an entrepreneur or business owner? Maybe driven and hard-working, stressed—and at the same time, the process is rewarding. Yet learning to cope with the difficulties of growing a business isn’t something that’s taught in school. Jackie Hermes is the CEO of Accelity, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based agency that helps software-as-a-service (SaaS) startups get to revenue and grow faster, and a co-founder of Women’s Entrepreneurship Week. She shares her best tips for managing stress in your business.
To be successful as an entrepreneur, you must learn how to manage stress, period—or it could eat you alive. According to Inc, entrepreneurs experience traumatic events at every turn, and a level of stress that’s higher than most other professions. This topic has just recently become something we talk about in public… entrepreneurs aren’t forced to deal in silence anymore. Read on to learn more about how to manage stress while running your business.
Entrepreneurship is hard—and worth it
Taking that first step to follow your dream and start your entrepreneurial journey is intimidating, but it’s just as rewarding as it is scary.
As an entrepreneur of 10 years, I’ve dealt with a lot of late nights, I’ve said yes more than no (and a lot of times, when I was scared), and hustled for every dollar. My hustle looks a little different these days—I’m sleeping better, saying “yes” to the right things and watching my business grow in a pandemic. Thankfully.
Deciding what’s worth your time while still taking risks can be difficult. Pause to think through your options and step out of your comfort zone to keep success in your sights.
Mindset work is key
Mindset can feel a little “woo-woo”—at least that’s what I used to think. Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart; it requires an incredible amount of mental toughness and working on my mindset is one of the only habits that’s helped me deal with the daily challenges. I’m constantly reading, listening to podcasts, doing yoga, attempting to meditate (ha), and checking in weekly with my business coach.
Doing this has made me more disciplined, resilient and able to head off stress. Forward progress stops happening when you let little things turn into big things, and an untrained mind definitely has that tendency.
Mindset is important no matter what you’re trying to accomplish. As an entrepreneur, you’ll likely be tasked with leading others at some point, and it’s important to keep your head high during the good times and the not-so-good times. Every time I’ve shown up this way for my team, regardless of the circumstances, I’ve seen it positively impact them; they mirror the energy I bring, and vice versa, and it lifts all of us up.
Stop doing the things you suck at
Seriously! Knock it off. No one can do everything, and when you try to, you become a master of none. It comes down to delegation, which is easier said than done. Here’s my rule: if I sit on it, dread it, or know someone else can do it better, I find help or delegate the task completely.
Once I found that intersection of things I like to do AND am good at, it was easy for me to decide where to focus my time and energy and delegate other tasks. This is a great way to build a team under you, too. When you find a skill that you lack, you can start searching for someone to work with that can bring your vision to life (or even do it better).
Since I’ve honed in on the things I excel at and found resources to handle the rest, my stress levels are lower, I’m more productive, and most importantly, I find more joy in my work.
Hire the right people
As an entrepreneur and leader, seeking out specific people with specific skills is an important part of scaling your company. You need to find people that not only fit the job you’re hiring for, but also fit the culture (which is a BIG deal!). Every hire builds on company culture, and a strong culture attracts great people.
In fact, recently my team and I redefined what our culture and values should look like in action so that we hire intentionally and fire quickly based on these values. It makes the process very simple—if the candidate isn’t a “heck yes”, then that means they are not a fit.
Here’s a tip: I started with freelancers, but solid, consistent resources can be hard to find. We still leverage freelancers and contract certain needs that aren’t full-time out to experts. It helps with costs when scaling a business. If you’re not ready for your first hires, or if you’ve built a team but are having trouble scaling, this is a great option to explore.
Put yourself first
This was so hard for me when I first became an entrepreneur because my business was, and still is, one of my babies (earmuffs, kids!). You want to work on it every second of the day—your to do list is overflowing, you have a million ideas, and between meetings you never quite get to everything you’d like to.
I learned that I need to put my own oxygen mask on first. No one can pour from an empty cup. This means listening to my body, protecting my time for what’s really important and spending time with family and friends.
When I made this shift to focusing on myself first, I found that I was happier and more productive when I was on the clock. Stretching yourself too thin might work temporarily but will eventually result in burnout.
Take clarity breaks
Here’s an important lesson from my business coach: when you’re in the business every day, you never step back to think big, examine your direction, and create goals. The solution? Clarity breaks. These breaks could be an hour in the morning for a workout (big shout out to Peloton!), or a week-long vacation to unplug (make sure you actually unplug). Breaks seem counterintuitive when you’re trying to hit big goals, but they’re necessary to see clearly.
Here’s an example: in the book How to be a Great Boss, Gino Wickman tells a story about an executive who was on a cruise ship that lost internet for 5 days. She was completely disconnected. When she was able to remove herself from the day-to-day of the business, she was able to think critically about the business and “what resulted were solutions to an array of items that had needed attention for a long time, but that [she] really never thought [she] had time to attack”.
Imagine what you could do with a clarity break like that.
Turn stressful situations into opportunities
Running a business is difficult, there are no two ways about it. But there are so many ways to improve yourself and your work if you take a moment to breathe. Focus on saying “yes” to opportunities that scare you and align with your big scary dreams—those are the challenges that massively expedite growth.
Embrace the hardships. Take risks, grow, fail, learn. You’ll do it all. If you don’t yet see failure as a learning opportunity, it’s time to adjust your mindset. Your mind is a powerful tool, and ultimately, how you experience entrepreneurship is completely up to you.
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” ―Charles R. Swindoll
Jackie Hermes is the CEO of Accelity, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based agency that helps software-as-a-service (SaaS) startups get to revenue and grow faster, and a co-founder of Women’s Entrepreneurship Week. Very active on LinkedIn, Jackie sparks discussions about the daily life and challenges of growing a bootstrapped company. Jackie mentors student startups via The Commons, is a co-organizer of Startup Milwaukee EMERGE, an advisor with Golden Angels Investors, and mentors numerous early-stage startups. In addition to her professional involvement, Jackie is an adoptive foster parent and future pilot.
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