By Bill Reagan
It is so easy to develop a negative attitude and self-doubt. All sorts of things can trigger the downward spiral: a clumsy mistake, a snide comment from a colleague, a missed goal, a perceived slight, just to name a few.
When faced with a succession of negative experiences, it is easy to lose our perspective and compound the insults to our ego, progressively undermining our judgement and interactions with others.
Everyone has experienced periods where the dark cloud of negative feelings envelops us to the point that friends or colleagues notice something is wrong. Inevitably, those negative thoughts disappear when we realize we hadn’t made a mistake after all, or perhaps we find that we completely misconstrued the colleague’s comment. Suddenly, everything feels so much better, but that period of negativity already had taken its toll on our time, energy and concentration.
In the corporate world, misunderstandings often can be worked out in discussions with colleagues. By contrast, small business owners may feel isolated or that they cannot share concerns with others in the business.
Too often, those owners think they are the only ones experiencing certain problems and not meeting standards, and they beat themselves up over this. It can be so reassuring when they discover those problems are common and not necessarily indicators of their own failure.
The sharpest entrepreneurs ask lots of questions and are constantly researching better tactics. Sometimes, the best approach is simply to get feedback from others who have been in their shoes, so they seek advice from business professionals who are knowledgeable and objective. Friends, family and colleagues are not always able to provide these perspectives.
Successful business owners seek opportunities to engage — formally or informally — with other entrepreneurs. Candidly sharing experiences can help entrepreneurs find solutions or new approaches. For these relationships to be beneficial, all parties must be willing to be open and honest about their successes and challenges.
There are many opportunities for this type of engagement, including CEO roundtables, co-working spaces, industry gatherings and targeted networking opportunities. We all have been to events that have been a waste of valuable time, energy and money, so knowing the other participants is key. Do your background research to make sure these gatherings are a good match for your goals.
Business owners may feel more comfortable approaching someone one-on-one. Good advice doesn’t have to come from someone in the same industry or area of expertise. Identify someone whose success you admire and invite them to coffee to talk about their philosophy. These informal sessions may help you see your business from a new perspective.
The Alexandria Small Business Development Center offers objective feedback and frequently helps business owners make critical connections. Whether you’re looking for objective individual guidance or opportunities to connect with other businesses, our staff has access to a large network. Contact us to find out more about what we can do for your business.
A good attitude is an investment in productivity and worthy of the entrepreneur’s effort.
The writer is the executive director of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center.