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Small business growing pains: 6 ways to get over a challenging month

By Kayleigh Alexandra (Micro Startups)

Even in this age of technological wonders and online resources, getting a business off the ground isn’t easy, and growing it is even tougher. No matter how diligently you plan, and how carefully you factor in all the possible obstacles, you’re still going to encounter challenging periods that lead you to question the wisdom of the approach you’re taking.

For instance, you might look back on the last 30 days and realise that you’ve woefully underperformed when it comes to sales — all of a sudden, it feels like you’re going backwards. When you’ve had a difficult month, you need to remember that it’s all part of the process, and just keep going. Here are six things you can do to get over the hardship and move ahead:

Review what happened

When things go wrong, you might want to just forget about it entirely, but that’s unlikely to happen. More realistically, you’ll push it to the back of your mind, only for it to pop back up at an inconvenient time. So don’t run from it. Review everything that happened in detail. This will put you in a better position to understand why things went wrong, and there’s a good chance that you’ll be reassured by how much of the hardship wasn’t really your fault.

Check your Google Analytics installation, and browse industry publications: perhaps something truly unexpected happened in the industry, and it affected everyone just the same. Maybe you didn’t actually do as badly as you thought once you take everything into account. The better you know the past, the stronger you’ll be in the future.

Take a break from work

You can’t work every hour of every day. That might seem obvious most of the time, but when you’re trying to recover from a tough period, you can feel like you’re letting the business down by not working even harder. In truth, this is only likely to result in burnout, ultimately leading to worse performance in the coming months.

Personal sacrifice is important, absolutely, but at some point it hits diminishing returns and becomes counterproductive — so take your mind off work somehow. See a movie, take a long walk, do some cooking, play a game, read a book — whatever works for you. Get your mind in a more positive place, then return to work with a clearer head and the energy to get back on track.

Discuss it with a friend

It’s always good to get feedback, advice and support from someone you trust and whose opinion you respect. We’re not great at assessing our own actions, after all, and there’s an excellent chance that you feel more responsible for your struggles than you actually are. An outside perspective might be just what you need.

It’s also useful to hear about the struggles other people have been through — and everyone has faced challenges of some kind, so whomever you discuss it with, they’ll surely be able to relate, and offer some kind of relatable story in return. You may even find that they can directly help somehow, particularly if they have a background in business.

Identify possible operational improvements

It’s quite common for business owners to defer operational changes, however justified they appear to be. If you’re making money and flourishing, you might not want to mess with anything — but when you have a bad month, it frees you up to take a more objective long-term view of how your business needs to operate.

For instance, it might occur to you that you’re spending far too much money on things you don’t need (such as regularly getting food delivered for everyone) — alternatively, you might notice that you’re not spending money where you should be, manually handling processes you should be automating (doing payroll by hand instead of through something like Wave, or arduously managing inventory instead of deploying a solution like Productsup or RELEX). The online world has countless automation options, many cheap or even free — use them.

Start a new project

When you’re feeling rough, it might be the perfect time to start anew with some type of creative project. It can be related to your business (outlining a new content marketing strategy, for instance), or have nothing to do with it (you could take up painting, perhaps). This will help take your mind off your woes, but not just that: it will also remind you of how good creativity feels.

After a bad month, your thoughts about future work might be rigorously practical in nature, concerned only with getting the results you need. This is a dangerous way to work. Yes, you need results, but you often produce the best work when you’re engaged with what you’re doing, and even enjoying it. If you can rediscover your creative passion, it will be a huge boon.

Remember where you started

Lastly, when you’re concerned about the direction of your business, cast your mind back to how it all began. At some point, your business was just an idea rattling around your mind, seemingly unlikely to ever become a reality — but today it’s out there as a real, legitimate, operational business. Isn’t that something to be extremely proud about? It’s also a reminder that your business is a net positive. Sure, you’ve had a bad month, but you’re still up on the whole, and you have time to highlight that challenging month as nothing more than a blip on the radar. Good things are on the horizon, so be positive.

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