Why mental resilience is a key business skill for SME owners to learn

Running your own business is no easy thing and ensuring your business is successful is even harder.

Why mental resilience is a key business skill for SME owners to learn

Running your own business is no easy thing and ensuring your business is successful is even harder. But why is it hard? Well, to maintain financial and psychological wellbeing is tough for business owners but they’re not exclusive in feeling these worries, many employees also find maintaining financial and psychological wellbeing to be tough. When we delve into it, it is the uncertainty that makes it so tough to own a business. It’s the not knowing whether you’re going to be able to make it through another month, if anybody wants your product or services, if you can get that deal over the line or if you need to pivot your offering due to a global pandemic. It’s all unknown. 

On top of this COVID has caused many small business owners even more anxiety, stress and put additional pressure on their businesses as they have had to learn how to deal with these disruptions. Business owners have had to develop new core skills to build coping mechanism and emotional agility to withstand the uncertainty and changes that are prevalent. 

To have the imagination and skills to reflect on future uncertainties is a human marvel developed over several hundred millennia, certainly a skill our fellow animals aren’t capable of. This ability has developed in order to allow vigilance against the unknown, however, especially in 2020, it can also lead to the activation of our fight or flight mechanism by a mere thought leading to anxiety and its manifestations. Psychologists and Neuroscientists have researched our fear of the unknown extensively and we generally prefer certainties which we can then deal with (even if the certainty is frightening or painful) rather than uncontrollable uncertainties which causes a lot more distress. In reality, we all live in uncertainty. Despite what we think, we can’t predict the future, which has been perfectly demonstrated by the Coronavirus outbreak and how it has impacted every aspect of our life.

When I advise on maintaining motivation through uncertainty, I think about my father who is the epitome of an entrepreneur and someone who has definitely weathered some storms in his 50-years of business owning. It was, therefore, only natural for me to seek his advice when I set up my own consulting business and was going through the obvious growing pains as every new business owner does. I once called him to vent my fears and he calmly and assuredly said, Well of course it’s hard. It’s supposed to be hard or everyone would do it. 

Those words may not seem particularly assuring but I found them rather settling. What my father said was that running a business is hard, but he didn’t say it was impossible. Indeed, business owning is hard and it’s hard for everyone, it’s not an isolated incidence of difficulty for you (or me) and there is indeed a constant that we can cling to. That constant is uncertainty. It may not be the certainty you’d prefer but it is a constant, nonetheless. I think it is in fact, the uncertainty of business, that unites all start-ups and business owners. It is the mental strength and resilience to withstand the pressure of the unknown that is so impressive. 

Building on resilience as a core business skill is essentially our ability to withstand external pressures without them having an impact on our mental health, physical health or social health. Business owners that have been trained or have learnt to be resilient are able to take control even in the toughest situations and can not only handle the Coronacoaster but can use this time of disruption to make key business changes and use the ‘new normal’ as an opportunity to help their businesses thrive. 

As a resilience specialist, I have worked with many business owners since the first lockdown in March and have seen first-hand how this pandemic has affected SMEs across the UK. 

As a Psychologist, our change in mood and behaviours hasn’t been a surprise as the impact of the pandemic is unprecedented. When I work with clients to build their resilience, I base their development on analysing how they control their life and outcomes, their self-confidence and belief in their own abilities, their attitude towards challenging situations and their commitment to their promises both to themselves and to others. 

We all have strengths and weaknesses that affect our overall resilience, however, by honing strengths and improving weaknesses I help leaders to manage and overcome any obstacle no matter how big or unexpected.

Dannielle Haig
Dannielle Haig

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