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Sydney Morning Herald

Businesses for Sale, May 6

MAY 16, 2000

Buying or starting a small business always carries a degree of financial and personal risk. Failure rates are high in the early years, but even those businesses that prosper often go through testing times.

How can you best deal with them? How do you keep a positive attitude when you hit the really rough patches? And if some people deal better with major business problems than others, what are their characteristics and what can we learn from them?

The people who deal best with adversity are distinguished by a belief and trust in themselves and their abilities, according to life coach Lorna Stewart.

"If they believe in themselves they will find a way through or around any roadblock. It will give them the persistence to keep looking for the right strategy or solution even when it seems impossible," Stewart says.

They are willing to accept new challenges, but if something fails they learn from their mistakes and empower rather than disempower themselves.

"Asking 'why is this happening to me?' is disempowering and can flip someone very quickly into victim-land, whereas asking 'what can I learn from this situation?' is empowering and opens the doorway to possibility and choice," Stewart says.

David Wood, director of, believes that those who cope well with adversity have realised it actually does not matter.

"We strive for control and security, but it doesn't exist. People who deal best with adversity are those who don't complain or suffer, but take it as a lesson and part of the game," he says.

Coach Dr Mark Naim says it is important to be centred, balanced, and have a business philosophy of being of service to the community rather than just solely making money.

"You need to learn to be yourself and have a diverse and full life. It's important not be attached to any one outcome, but to always stay in the area of choice," Naim says.

David Rock, managing director of Results Life Coaching, has five survival tips for dealing with times when things go from bad to catastrophic.

Back to topOne: do not panic

"Panic is the biggest immobiliser. Once you are in panic mode, serious trouble seems to have a way of sniffing you out," Rock says. Get your mind off the problem at least temporarily by spending some time on other things - your family, friends, a hobby. Focusing on something else is a more effective distraction than trying not to think about business issues.

Two: get the full picture

Do not avoid dealing with the problem. Get all relevant details so you know exactly what you are facing, as fear of the unknown is often more debilitating than the actual situation. If things are as bad as you fear, at least you know what you are dealing with.

Three: slow down

It is easy to feel forced into hasty decisions in a difficult and fast-moving situation. Slow down, and fully consider the implications of what you are doing, particularly for the long term. Perhaps check your emails only once a day and advise people you are going to take 24 hours to consider any issue before answering.

Four: get help

When they are going through troubling times, many people do not want others to know about it. Pride, the belief that they should be able to handle it themselves or not wanting to trouble others are usually the causes. Rock says men are especially bad about seeking help, but plenty of women also fall into this trap.

"When we are going through difficult times, our family and friends often want nothing more than to know how they can really help us. Tell a few close people, and you might find your load lightened and new ways of approaching things."

Back to topFive: focus on the long term

Remember that everything passes, and many entrepreneurs have come close to losing everything at least once.

Stewart also recommends having a vision about your future (in written or pictorial form) to inspire you, along with a mission statement that reminds you why you are in business.

Another technique is to write down 10 or 20 things in your life for which you are grateful - at the very least it will get your mind off business issues and focus you on positive aspects of your life.

As a heavily stressed and over-tired mind does not deal well with problems, regular exercise and relaxation can be very powerful routes to a more positive attitude.

"One of my clients identified the main thing stopping his business growing was that he was spending all his time on it. He was overwhelmed and exhausted, came across as desperate and drove customers away.

"Now he's devoting more time to his surfing and his relationship, he's more effective with his time and he's listening to his customers' needs. Things are now turning around for the better," Stewart says.

By Pam Kershaw


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