Small business uncertainty
Across the country, small business owners are becoming more and more familiar with a feeling of paralysis. Paralyzed by fear, uncertainty, misinformation, and a general sense of swimming upstream, many are finding it difficult to make the important decisions that will shape their business and personal futures.
What does new tax legislation and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care act mean for my business? What will happen if those in Washington don’t see fit to set aside their personal agendas for the goodwill of the country? What would a government default or extended furlough mean for my business and our economy?
When consulting with small business owners on financial decisions, these questions arise constantly, and it is apparent that people are afraid. If they aren’t at least slightly afraid, they’re probably not paying attention. If you own a small business, you may relate to their fear.
What I’m about to propose may surprise you, then. I recommend that you stop. Stop paying attention. Stop listening to the talking heads and doomsday predictions. Stop listening to the various predictions of outcome and speculation as to the dire effects of each possible result.
Why should you stop paying attention?
It sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? After all, those who are informed typically fare better than those who aren’t. Therefore, you should remain informed and do your best to stay current with the facts.
But is it possible to be informed and to stop paying attention, and if so, why would you? People I know who have given it a shot can tell you that it is. These successful people would also tell you that they are no less worried, afraid, or interested than anyone else.
What sets them apart is their realization that paying attention is an action, a (sometimes) conscious effort. The more aware you are of it, the more you can choose what you pay attention to. And what you choose to pay attention to shapes your reality, your attitude, and your outlook for the future. These people continue to be successful because they realize that no matter what the government does, they’ll find a way to deal with it until they can’t, and no matter how challenging things get down the road, they’ll be better off if they stayed focused on doing the best they could with the hand they were dealt at any given time. They know that they can only accomplish this by focusing on the things they can control, so they set their attention on the activities they know will produce a positive outcome.
Setting your business apart
Small business owners have limited control over market forces. Supply and demand will always win, and consumer sentiment matters now more than ever. The majority of us cannot control tax legislation or industry regulations. What business owners can control is how they face challenges, how they treat their employees and how their customers view their company.
How customers view the people who run a company, and how they view their relationship with a company, its people and products are some of the factors that set businesses apart. Setting your business apart from the herd is increasingly important in constricted, commoditized economies like the one we are experiencing today and could see for some time.
Adapting to changes
Many of us are in business because we want to improve the world in a certain way, the only way we know how. When it comes to federal governmental policy, however, the truth is that the vast majority of business owners don’t have the time, resources, or power to directly affect outcomes. Changes will come down the pipeline, and we’ll have to learn how to adapt. It may be painful, and it will most likely be inconvenient.
Most business owners will probably have to pay people or other companies to help us navigate whatever changes come down the line, whether that fits into our plan or not (and it should). Some businesses may be pushed out, and some will be replaced by new organizations who realize that with every challenge comes an opportunity.
The fact of the matter is that we don’t know the future, and we can’t control it. So why waste your time and resources fretting the unknown? Your concerns are valid and you are right to stay informed. You are right to be a little afraid. But learn from those who are forging ahead and making their businesses stronger than ever, knowing that strength and focus are key to their survival. Follow their lead, and no matter what happens over the coming months and years, I assure you that you’ll be better off than those who chose to remain paralyzed by fear of the unknown.