Entrepreneurship can feel like walking a fine line between optimism and realism.
On the one hand, naively hoping to sail through unscathed can lead to disillusionment when the tough times inevitably come. On the other hand, too much focus on the rough patches can cultivate a fear of risk-taking and put a stop to business growth.
Profits rise and fall over the years, and the road to success is a rocky one. In the UK alone, 50% of all startups fail within their first five years. However, the difference between those that fail and succeed comes down to how they bounce back from hard times. It’s rare for a rough few months to kill off a business entirely – but your response to adversity has the potential to change everything.
Here are our top three tips for harnessing resilience and standing firm in the face of business trends.
Cultivate a growth mindset
Recent years have seen a huge uptake in teaching growth mindsets in schools. Rather than telling students that they’ve failed a task, teachers encourage them to keep practicing, examining what went wrong and taking the opportunity to learn from it. While the concept seems simple enough, it can be surprisingly difficult for an entrepreneur to reframe failure!
In terms of business growth, studies show that only 16.6% of UK high-growth businesses are women-owned. However, these 16.6% do not differ from male-owned businesses in terms of growth expectations, actual business growth or job creation. This suggests that the discrepancy is not down to capability, but attitude and opportunity.
In order to cultivate a high-growth attitude, we need to actively cultivate our own growth mindsets, looking at the long-term payoff rather than focussing on short-term stumbles, and redefining ‘failure’ as a learning experience. Each time you feel like giving up on a project, ask yourself: what can I take from this short-term negative to create a long-term positive?
Be realistic about your own capabilities
The GEM 2012 Women’s Report shows that globally, women have a lower self-assessed perception of their own capabilities than men do. In developed Europe, for example, women scored 33% when surveyed on their own capabilities, whereas men scored 50%. Likewise, women have a significantly higher fear of failure across the board than men do.
This suggests that as female entrepreneurs, we vastly undersell ourselves – even to ourselves. When times get tough for our business, we are quick to point to our own failings, rather than examining external causes. This can lead to self-doubt, and an inability to clearly see the other factors at play. While it’s easy to bounce back from the belief that we’ve made a mistake, it’s near impossible to bounce back from the belief that we’re simply not good enough.
Examine your beliefs about yourself. Where you see yourself being overly critical of your own abilities, ask yourself what caused these beliefs, and how you can prove your true potential. Take small risks on a regular basis, so that by the time that bigger opportunities arise, you have empirical evidence that you have what it takes to handle them.
Practice personal and professional mindfulness
UK women-owned businesses have a significantly higher churn rate than male-owned businesses – that is, the combined rate of startups and closures. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that women-owned businesses are more likely to fail on their own merit. In fact, women aged 25-34 typically attribute business closure to ‘personal reasons’.
We’ve all experienced the snowball effect of personal problems and business issues piling up and making us wonder if we can cope with it all at once. While we may not allow personal issues to stand in the way of business sense, they can still wear down our resilience – and likewise, a rough few months at work can take a toll on your home life.
It’s important to practice a degree of mindfulness when it comes to business lows. Ask yourself how much of what you’re feeling at work is due to the work itself, and how much is down to external factors. By drawing a line between your professional and personal feelings, you can respond more pragmatically to the matters at hand and avoid the self-doubt that comes from overgeneralization.
For startup entrepreneurs and seasoned professionals alike, resilience is an invaluable antidote to naivety. Go into each new challenge accepting that failure is possible, yet armed with the inner strength to learn from it, and you’ll find yourself bouncing back as a better businessperson!
About the author:
Miriam Dervan is the founder and CEO of MDE Services Group Ltd. She is the CEO of MD Events Ltd, a leading global life sciences and corporate specialist meeting planning and patient service agency. She is also the founder and CEO of MD Travel and MD Recruitment.