Breaking News Bar
updated: 1/20/2014 12:46 PM

Entrepreneurial stress: 'We do too much out of fear'

Success - Article sent! close

Payroll to meet. Bills to pay. Checks to (hopefully) arrive. Sales calls to make. Emails to send. There's stress to being an entrepreneur.

It's how we handle that stress that makes a difference.

"We do too much out of fear," says Gail Sussman-Miller, chief obstacle buster at Inspired Choice, Chicago. "We say 'Yes' too often when we want to say 'No.' We take all the business that comes our way even if it's not a good fit.

"When entrepreneurs are feeling stressed, the typical response is 'I'll do more,'" Sussman-Miller says. "But it's often better to do less."

Do less? Maybe turn down business? Perhaps: Sussman-Miller is a coach; helping business owners manage stress is one of the things she does.

Sussman-Miller's approach often centers on how well we control our emotions. "It's best," she suggests, "if you can be calm. Detach yourself for a moment, and look at the possibilities. Then make decisions based on what you truly want."

Her approach seems to work:

• Like many entrepreneurs, Leah Rosenthal had trouble with rejection.

The artist at Leah Designs, Arlington Heights, Rosenthal's handcrafted fabric products include the popular CHALK-along, a portable roll-up activity for young children. But when she first met Sussman-Miller, "My business was struggling," Rosenthal says.

"I took it personally if someone criticized my work or didn't want to buy it. Rejection and fear were two big stumbling blocks."

Enter Sussman-Miller and her funnel technique. "She made me realize that not everyone is going to become a customer," Rosenthal says. "If someone would stop to look at my display, that's a positive, one level of the funnel filled. If they ask a question, that's the next level."

For Rosenthal, the funnel helped calm the stress that so often comes with selling.

• Ken Petrie, bounced from his job in 2011, hired Sussman-Miller "to help me figure out what I want to do when I grow up. I learned a lot about myself, a lot about where my thinking had gone astray."

Not unlike many middle-aged executives suddenly confronting career decisions, Petrie faced a choice of hanging out a consulting shingle or trying to find a job. Ultimately, he did both, informally advising "four or five" businesses until one -- NPN360, a "highly entrepreneurial" marketing services and branding firm in Wheeling -- brought him on board as executive vice president.

• Jennifer Silk, an Elgin freelance professional violinist (Strings of Silk Music), had long been struck by the camaraderie and philanthropic potential of women's clubs. Her goal seemed simple: Organize a professional women's club. Silk, though, couldn't overcome a fear that no one would want to join.

After a series of phone consultations with Sussman-Miller, Silk launched her Women's Professional Musicians Club, which had a six-year life. Sussman-Miller "helped me see past my fears and focus on my dream," Silk says.

Sometimes a little coaching can help.

• Jim Kendall welcomes comments at his new email address, 2014 Kendall Communications Inc.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.