Managing Stress as a Small Business Owner

November 3, 2020

Natalie Strahorn, The MVMNT Society

This year has reminded me of an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, where life as we know it has changed so drastically—and what's scarier is not knowing what the future holds. My small business, The MVMNT Society (formerly known as Xtend Barre Old Town) was in financial debt before the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, we experienced a government-mandated shut down for three months, followed by re-opening at 30% capacity since July with no idea when we will be able to operate at a larger capacity.

In June, I left my previous franchise and rebranded, which is basically like starting a business all over again—new website, logo, marketing materials, décor, class programs, trainings, merchandise, props and the list goes on! Then, when we were able to open our doors, only three team members felt comfortable returning to teach, so I taught four to five fitness classes a day. To say it has been a stressful year is probably the biggest understatement of my life. Yet somehow, I’ve managed to stay focused, remain calm and keep charging on. After six years as a small business owner and entrepreneur, I’ve adapted a few habits and philosophies that have helped me along the way. Here’s what I’ve learned.

1. Crazy Believe in Yourself

I’ll let you in on a secret: when I started my business over six years ago, I had no idea what I was doing! Securing a retail lease and all the required permits and licenses is a bit like finding your way in the dark. You don't realize you need a certain license until you get down to City Hall and are passed from one counter to the next. Despite the obstacles, I knew that if I could have my own small business teaching fitness classes, I would be successful.

It’s not that failure wasn't an option; I honestly never even thought about failing. I believe that if you are passionate about your business, it will be felt by whomever you’re selling or providing to, and that will translate to success. When I decided to rebrand my business, I knew in my heart it was the right time. It wasn’t an easy choice, but I believed that giving my community something to be excited about during this unique year would be successful.  And so far, the rebrand has brought in a lot of new business.

2. Manifest Success and Reject Worry

I’m a big believer in manifesting your own destiny. I love listening to entrepreneurial podcasts, especially Ed Mylett and Boss Babe. Ed once said that “worrying is wasted energy,” and no good comes from worrying. Stop and think about that because it’s really powerful. What does worrying do? Nothing but make you feel bad. Whenever I begin to worry, I remind myself that I’m wasting my energy and try to focus on the positive. I visualize whatever successful outcome I want; this helps eradicate my stress.

3. Exercise

It’s a great thing I teach fitness for a living, otherwise, I’d probably be a huge stress-ball! In all seriousness, exercise is an incredible stress reliever that is great for overall health and wellness. Exercise produces endorphins, which are like natural painkillers that reduce stress. When exercising, I like to remind my clients to tune out everything else and focus on what their bodies are doing. Making this mind-body connection not only enhances performance but allows you to escape your daily stressors for the duration of your workout.

4. Make Lists and Journal

Organization is extremely important for me to keep a handle on my life and business. I use Evernote to keep a personal to-do list, business to-do list and more. I also use a Moleskin notebook to write down lists of things that must get done each day. This list needs to be reasonable enough to tackle, but also include the most impactful things I need to do. There is a difference between things that are important and things that are impactful. This list must be impactful, with actions that move my business forward. Finally, I keep a Five-Minute Journal—focused on gratitude—beside my bed. I always tackle my lists and journal before I start work. This helps me feel like I’m working in a productive state, rather than a reactive state.

5. Know Your Strengths and Outsource Your Weaknesses

Delegating whenever possible is important for keeping a handle on my business and reducing stress. As a small business owner, I cannot do it all. I’ve learned to outsource the things that I’m not good at—like bookkeeping and reporting—and lower-paying tasks to more junior teammates so that I can focus my efforts. My time is better spent creating marketing plans and class programming than it is on tasks like checking clients in for class.

6. Lean on a Support System

I would not have my business today if it wasn’t for the support of my husband. From day one he has believed in me and never doubted me. The same goes for my parents. Knowing that I can lean on them—even if it’s to use them as a sounding board—has helped me manage the stress of operating a small business. It’s important to surround yourself with people that believe in you and can lift you up.

Starting and operating a small business will always be stressful, but if you learn to properly manage your stress, there’s nothing that can stand in your way!

Questions?

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Discussion Questions

  • 1
    Imagine you’re an entrepreneur starting your own business… What are three things you do really well that would move your business forward?
  • 2
    What are three areas you would outsource to others?
  • 3
    m. Who is your support system? How do they help you?
  • 4

Classroom Connection

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