Q & A {This is a long one, folks!}

In response to my call for your challenges this year, Heidi commented:
"Hard question....the shop is flipped, looking all a new, the facebook is full of pics, fans are up, stock levels are on target. I have been working harder and longer hours pushing my creative energy to new levels. Like last year and the year before, I tell myself "this is the year" and like most small businesses I continue to tell all, everything is good....know one wants to be a part or shop where things aren't HOT! Right.

I think the thing I need for the first time in years is help with the fear factor, help believing this is REALLY the year. Help chasing the demons away. I stay focused on the goal, find endless projects to work on, I have great satisfaction in the process...surround myself in the passion of loving what I do.....but the help I need is to erase the doubt.  - HHH"

You just echoed every retailer on Earth, Heidi!
Regardless of what we sell, where, or how, we are all doing everything we can to make this year profitable. {And by that I mean breaking even would be nice...} First, let me congratulate you for still being in business. That is quite an accomplishment for the past year! {and if you don't beleive me, drive through your town and notice the empty storefronts and 'going out of business sale' signs}. It sounds like you have made the physical efforts to present your business at the highest level possible, and you are taking responsibility daily for doing all that you can.

Now, let me ask you this: How are you doing with letting others HELP you make your business 'all that it can be'? Are you taking on everything? In there anything left for your staff or supporters to contribute?

As business owners, we are the fall guy. The buck - if and when it comes - stops with us. And so we take on the risk and the responsibility of the business, and all that comes with it. Too often, though, all of that 'taking on' causes us to do two things: Cut everyone else off the team, and load up our own shoulders with a bunch of stress and worry.

You've got employees, and I know you pay them well, provide benefits, treat them with respect, and think of them as 'family'. You probably also educate them on your products, teach them new skills, and count on them to be there when you need them. But are they able to contribue ideas, suggestions, and actions that will help in the marketing, promotion, growth, and success of your business? Can you hand over a task to them and let them see it through - or do you have to micromanage to make sure it's done your way? That's a cause of extreme stress right there - and a stressed business owner is more susceptible to doubt, worry, and fear.

As an owner, there are certain things that only YOU can do for your business. And there are many things that you can allow, hire, permit, and empower OTHERS to do for your business - freeing you up to concentrate on your part, and also to get away from time to time and let go of the reins. Look at your staff and really SEE them and their abilities - and decide on a task that you can hand over to each of them right NOW. {uploading Facebook photos is a good example}. Make it a job that is visible - one that has immediate positive results, so that everyone on staff can see their contribution is making an impact. Then do it again. And again.

Now, for those supporters I mentioned: Do you have a referral program in place to reward your Fans and customers for bringing in or sending friends to you? Let your satisfied customers be a workforce for your business! Reward them with a special gift, monthly drawing, or discount and get them talking about you. Word of mouth is the best advertisement, right?!

It's not easy. But it's worth it! And it plays into the second part of this: By handing off some of the responsibilities of the business, you lighten your own load. In order to stop the cycle of 'stress-worry-doubt-fear', you have to cut yourself some slack! Here are a few ideas:

* Stop watching the news before bed. Stop watching the news first thing in the morning. Allow your thoughts to be positive, hopeful, filled with possibility and faith {of whatever kind} as you start and end your day. Get caught up on news during lunch or in the late afternoon, instead. Read the paper or online news instead of being subjected to the hype of drama-driven news hour soundbytes. {The old saying 'If it bleeds, it leads' isn't without truth.}

* Referring to above: TAKE a lunch break! Fifteen minutes away from your desk/cashwrap/store/computer will do wonders for your perspective. Go to the park or a sidewalk cafe on a nice day, or to the library and sit by the window when it's cold out. Listen to inspiring music on your iPod or MP3 player while you eat a healthy small meal, and drink water. Nourish your body and spirit!

*Walk, Stretch, Dance, swing on a swingset, glide down the slide.... get active for fifteen minutes a day. Every day. Morning, noon, afternoon, night - whatever works for you. It's not exercise - it's simply moving your body freely to experience life. Life is not work. Owning a business is not your whole life. Go move, laugh, sing, smile, and BREATHE. Five minutes into it, you'll be having so much fun that you'll forget those doubts and worries for a time. And that is a good place to start.

*Find daily inspiration. I recommend the words of Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer, 'Notes from the Universe' from TUT, and Louise Hay. Read a passage of literature, or scripture {again, of your choosing}. Speak kind, uplifting words to others - and just see what kind of wonderful things you will hear in return. Remember the old saying about computers: GIGO? {Garbage In, Garbage Out} It's true about everything. No, these affirmations won't give you the ultimate answers to business challenges - but they will help to keep your mind in a place of peace, openess to new ideas & solutions, and possibilities. And that helps you to overcome the worry & doubt in the long run.

*Create a new 'energy' in your environment. Get new music for your store. Turn on a few more lights. Bring in fresh foliage or flowers each week, light a candle or plug in a scented light. Open a door or window for a few moments and let fresh, crisp, clean air inside. Start the day with a rousing cheer, blessing, or affirmation that you share with your staff. Hocus Pocus? Woo-Woo? Maybe. But isn't it better than dragging in with a furrowed brow and shoulders already bent with stress before the day has even begun?

*Remember, this is your business. You can change anything about it you want to. Including the frame of mind you are in every day - and the frame of mind your employees are in. Start with you. Doubt, fear, worry, and stress are just emotions - not laws. We control our emotions, they don't control us. We can change them, toss them out the door, learn from them, or harbor them and let them hold us down. It's our choice.

Hopefully some of those ideas will help you, Heidi. I don't claim to know everything and I certainly do have doubts and worries of my own.... and I am learning day by day, step by step, just as we all are on this crazy journey of business ownership during uncertain economic times.

What I DO know is that we American independent & small business owners are damned lucky to have the chance to own & run our own businesses in this country. There are challenges, but in no other place on Earth is it as available and rewarding to the majority of people as it is here. We have a President who is working on programs that will enable more people to start & run small businesses  - because even he knows that WE are the backbone of industry and economy in the USA. Big corporations and titans of industry are tumbling all around us.  What is going to pull our country out of the recession is us: working together, with and for one another, with, for, and in our own communities. And isn't that a worthy goal to work toward?

Thanks for participating, Heidi... I appreciate your comments.

2 comments:

  1. thanks, once again! You always have the words to remind me that I am not alone in my quest or in the journey.
    I love the idea of the referral program with rewards....and I just today got much help in house from family:)
    My small part time staff is wonderful and really bring alot to the table.
    The habit of eating on the fly is going to be a hard one to break, I will do my best.
    I was reflecting on my original comment over the past two days, and came to the same conclusion as you....I CAN change my mind and hold off the doubt. Nice to hear you say it though.
    Your right- I am in business and I own my building, my credit is good and in these times maybe that is enough....I'm grateful :)

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  2. Thank you so much for your post, and comments. It seems to me that almost every day i have to give myself a positive self talk. I see the fear around me, and although we were up last year(3 websites,1 brick and morter) the long slow month of January can make even the most positive person weary!
    I have been lighting candles, and taking a 5 minute dance break everyday, but fresh flowers is a good idea, and now that the spring merch is coming in i am starting to feel hope again!
    We can only do what we can do! It is helpful to be able to see that our peers are going through the same doubts and fears.

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my take on retail visual design:

"The thing is, retail design is driven by psychology. It is by manipulating space, visuals, lighting, sound, smell, and mood that we influence customers to enter, stay, browse, buy, and return. It is an endless exercise in change, endurance, growth, education, and imagination that enables retailers to stay on top of their game and at the forefront of their customer's minds. Yes, what you sell IS important - but even the very best merchandise won't sell at full price if it's presented in torn boxes on dirty shelves in a store that is too crowded to turn around in. Visual impact is a huge part of business, and utilizing the principles that have been proven to work can help you build a better business." ~ DWK