By Rieva Lesonsky

life preserver photo

One article I recently saw compared small-business owners in the current economy to shipwreck survivors who are clinging to the wreckage of the ship, keep hearing that they’re going to be rescued very soon,  and are doing everything they can to survive, but can’t hold on much longer.

I’m an optimistic person, but on my bad days I can see why business owners might feel like that. That’s why it’s so important to actively take steps to keep your spirits up.

Here’s what works for me:

  1. Talk to other business owners. I’m lucky to have three business partners that I see pretty much every day. Sure, we all go through our ups and downs—both personal and professional. But so far (knock on wood) we’ve never all been down at the same time. So when the business bank account is getting low or that big prospect we were counting on says no and one or two of us start getting really discouraged, there are always a couple others to cheer us up and put us back on track. If you don’t have partners, create a support network you can talk to. This could be other entrepreneurs, or people totally unrelated to your business—as long as you trust them to listen and give you honest feedback and advice.
  2. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Relying on one big client—or one big prospect that you’re hoping to land—has never been a smart strategy, but in this economy, it’s downright suicidal. You need to diversify your efforts as much as possible—not just your current clients, but the clients you’re prospecting too. For example, in addition to continually pitching new clients, my company is also diversifying into our own line of products, which will give us another income stream that’s not reliant on the same type of customers. The more feelers you have out for new business, the less stressed you’ll be if some of them don’t pan out.
  3. Take some time for yourself. Time is the scarcest commodity for business owners, but sometimes it’s what you need to get back on track. If there is something that will refresh your spirit, do it. A while back after a long week of business travel I was feeling discouraged and just plain worn out. So instead of spending another night slaving over a hot laptop, I took a few hours to go see the movie “Julie & Julia.” It was just what I needed. The part of the movie that resonated with me was Julia Child’s perseverance after her book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” was rejected by several publishers, despite years of work and several rewrites. Child overcame many obstacles to write her ground-breaking cookbook, but she never let them get to her. When problems set in, she just picked up the pieces and went on. I left the theater feeling energized and inspired.

What strategies do you use to keep your spirits up? I’d love to hear what works for other people.