Dealing With Anxiety & Overwhelm As A Business Owner
Sarah Nicole Nadler
I almost gave up on my business - before it ever really got off the ground.
I wrote about that critical moment in my book The CEO Mindset but I've never really revealed what made me change my mind and persist in spite of the way it was triggering my anxiety & depression.
The end of one year and beginning of a new can be especially triggering for business owners - as we try to make sense of all that happened (or failed to happen) and rekindle the flame for January.
So this week on The Six Figure Biz ShowI'm sharing with you the incredible story of how I stumbled accidentally across a tool that has helped quiet my inner critic AND saved me from giving up before I ever began.
So, as always, let’s pull this problem apart.
My BEST Tool To Deal With Anxiety, Depression & Overwhelm As A Business Owner - Episode 73
Build Your Business A Crystal Ball
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My Struggle With Anxiety, Depression & Overwhelm
One of the first barriers I encountered as a business owner, clear back in 2006 when I first began supporting myself with my own business, was lack of self-esteem.
I was waaaay too hard on myself!
Whenever something didn't go exactly the way I expected, the internal monologue would start:
I can't do this.
I'm not good enough.
And when something went wrong? It's all my fault.
The fact that my parents were relying on me to support myself so they could care for my ten-year-old sister and pay for her cancer treatment, made it a REALLY BIG DEAL if I didn't hit revenue targets in my business.
That's a LOT of stress for anyone at eighteen.
But I managed it, and here's how:
Imagine for a moment how my life was then.
Barely 18, my parents were divorcing, my sister was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and I was living with my boyfriend who drank and kept losing every job I found for him.
I had cancelled my plans to attend University of Portland where I had a scholarship, and instead built my side hustle into a $5-figure business. But to say I wasn't in the best state mentally is a drastic understatement!
My whole life was turning upside down and I had no way to stop it.
A family friend took me under his wing. Jim was a business consultant, and counseled me to start measuring the numbers that matter in my business.
I thought he was nuts...
...the last thing in the WORLD I needed was another item on my to-do list!
But I did it anyway. And he began to show me how just keeping my numbers on a visible dashboard could reduce the amount of time I spent trying to figure out what to focus on.
Take the example of the dashboard below:
The top left graph is the key performance indicator (most important number being tracked). All the other graphs are the things that add up to revenue in this business.
Can you tell me why the revenue is going down?
If you said, "Lack of returning clients" then you're right!
Once you have a dashboard like this one, you can save yourself tens of thousands of dollars, the heartache, and time wasted going the wrong direction and solving the wrong problems in your business.
Because all it takes is a glance and comparison of the graphs to spot the CAUSE of a decline (or improvement that you can strengthen!).
But what should you be measuring? And how can you create your own dashboard?
Let me show you:
Step One: Measure Something Worth Measuring
Before you can use statistics effectively in your business, or work out your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you have to be super clear on WHO you serve, and WHAT the end-result or transformation you cause will be.
Transformation: a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.
What transformation do you cause in your business?
Plumber: A fully-repaired plumbing system that works, and a happy client who wants to refer their friends or family.
Cook: Tasty nutritious food that pleases all the senses (look, taste, smell, texture).
Doctor: Happy patients who have been properly-diagnosed and treated to a good result of improved wellness.
Author: Published books that communicate a message and create a positive emotional impact on the reader.
All of these transformations have a few things in common:
Completed - nothing half-baked, or 'mostly done'
High-quality - it isn't a transformation if it's lousy!
Change - if the client, customer or raw materials are in the same or worse state than when you started, it isn't a transformation
And finally, we have the idea of exchange - the product or service has to be in the hands of the person it serves before it can be considered valuable.
Step Two: Write The Ending First
Now, the ENTIRE purpose of this dashboard is to measure your progress toward your dreams and goals in your business or life.
So, if you haven't written the ending first (where you are trying to arrive) there will be nothing to measure!
Sit down and write out an objective - any objective. Any goal is better than nothing!
It can also be helpful to become familiar with what a business in your industry SHOULD look like, if everything were running perfectly.
Have you ever worked in a business such as the one you're trying to build? If not, you will struggle much more to build one (because you won't be able to easily tell if things are going well or poorly!).
You have to write out a goal, and picture the ideal day - what would it look like? What would you be spending your time on? Is that realistic?
A great method of doing this is to tour a top company in your industry or go behind-the-scenes if possible in their business.
What do they spend time on?
Once you have that ideal day worked out, now we can come up with some statistics to measure your progress in that direction.
"You need to have measurable yardsticks in your business - so you can't cheat, and so you can stop beating yourself up over nothing."
Now, if you're still wondering, what does this have to do with depression, imposter-syndrome, and that nagging voice that keeps telling me I can't do this?
Well, guess what: when you have a dashboard like the one I keep, you can't fool yourself anymore.
You need to have measurable yardsticks in your business - so you can't cheat, and so you can stop beating yourself up over nothing.
That's what statistics do: they make you face the facts.
If you're running your business based on your 'gut', your heart, or your instincts alone...you're going to make mistakes.
Leaving your entire livelihood up to chance isn't a wise choice!
Or maybe you don't even trust your gut anymore, because you've made so many mistakes that you're now using the "throw it all at the wall and hope something sticks" method.
It's heartbreaking to watch a business owner do this, because the solution is so simple.
Statistic management, coupled with the exact formulas of what to do when the numbers go up or down, takes about 90% of chance out of running a business.
Like in 2019, when I started my online coaching business and suddenly two months in I was hit by a bout of anxiety and depression.
I felt like a failure because I wasn't able to quit my corporate consulting firm yet, and wanted to just give up!
But when I entered the numbers into my dashboard at the end of the month... every single graph was uptrending except revenue.
So all I needed to do was discover why the revenue wasn't matching the rest of my growth. And voila! I struck gold!
If I had followed my "instinct" I would have quit then and there.
But instead I persisted and found answers.
If I hadn't, there are hundreds of businesses that might not exist right now, whose owners felt like giving up during 2020, and even a few couples who were on the brink of divorce because of the added stress that comes from a failing business!
When I think about how many people I've been able to help and serve because I knew this trick...
...I couldn't wait another moment to share it with you.
Step Three: How To Decide What Numbers To Track In YOUR Business
Common business advice tells us that of all the numbers you could measure, only a few are key to the success of your business at any given time.
The difficulty lies in choosing the right ones, but it is actually quite simple.
In his book Measure What Matters, John Doerr explains a system of achieving Objectives by associating them with and measuring them by what he called Key Results.
The OKR Formula
OKRs (objectives & key results) are typically written with an Objective at the top and 3 to 5 supporting Key Results below it. They can also be written as a statement:
I will (Objective) as measured by (Key Results).
For example, “I will improve my sales skills as measured by 7 out of 10 people saying yes to my offer, versus the 4 out of 10 I am achieving now.”
Here is an example of setting an Objective and defining the Key Results (KRs) you will use to measure it:
Key Results benchmark and monitor how we get to the Objective. Effective KRs are specific and time-bound and aggressive yet realistic.
Most of all, they are measurable and verifiable.
You either meet a key result’s requirements or you don’t; there is no gray area, no room for doubt.
At the end of the designated period, typically a month, we do a regular check and grade the key results as fulfilled or not.
Where an Objective is long-term, rolled over for a year or longer, Key Results often evolve as the work progresses. Once they are all completed, the Objective is achieved.
So to determine what numbers to track in your business, first assign Key Results to an Objective.
Then and only then, can you identify what other numbers would add up to that Objective...and you can track them!
This is the system I use to create my dashboard, which serves the dual purpose of keeping me focused on the right actions to achieve my goals, and also helps me battle my anxiety, depression or overwhelm when I need it, as I told you!
No matter what systems you use in your business, the most important thing is to keep your data in graphs, not just a spreadsheet or buried inside Quickbooks.
Only when you can see at a single glance whether you are making progress or not, will you be able to make smart business decisions.
About the Author
Sarah Nicole Nadler is a business + balance coach for 6 & 7-figure business owners who want to build a dream team & profitable biz so they can spend more time on the things that matter. A digital nomad, she currently calls Tampa Bay, Florida home.