Running A Small Business Is No Small Exercise

Improving your resilience for when the going gets tough

By Garry Mills on 10 June 2018



Five years ago, the idea of running my own small business was not only off my radar, it wasn’t even in the same universe. I was 13 years into a safe public sector job, with a good salary and a fantastic superannuation policy that, in 25 years, would give us a very comfy retirement…

Fast-forward to 2018 and for the past 18 months I have run my own small business. So what happened in those five years that led to such massive change?  What changed the way I not only look at life but more significantly, how I live my life?

In the past five years I changed jobs three times, married my amazing wife, became an Ironman triathlete, did my best as dad for my teenage kids, was an Australian athlete in an overseas reality TV show, left the public sector and started a small business. There have been great times, disappointments, uncertainty, and successes.



[blockquote author=”” link=”” target=”_blank”]Successfully running your small business is no small achievement.  It’s hard and if you’re in this game, you know what I’m talking about.  [/blockquote]


It’s a tough game you need to be prepared for and continuous improvement is essential.  Despite the challenges and setbacks that do come, it’s also an adventure and can be one of your most rewarding experiences.

What about when the business game gets you really down, it all seems too hard, you start to question if it’s worth it and maybe you’ve forgotten the reasons you started in the first place? I’ve asked myself these questions before and no doubt will ask again.  But what have my experiences taught me to help get through the tough times?  More specifically, what skills have I learnt to help make better decisions, find solutions, manage my emotions and not throw the towel in?

I believe resilience is the #1 life skill to help us duck, dodge, prioritise and put into perspective the crap life throws at us. The life of running a small business is no exception to this. There’s plenty of crap in and around your business that can affect your mental, physical and financial health.  The depth of crap largely depends on how much you let it get to you, which will drive your decisions on what you do about it. If you don’t have the right tools, it’s hard to keep the crap below your knees and not get covered in it.



One of my resilience tools is a three-step process, helping me cope and respond better to the crap that inevitably comes my way.  This process helps me put things into perspective and make sharper decisions before I take action.  I avoid using the word ‘simple’ to describe this process for a very good reason.  Although there are only three steps, moving through them can sometimes be really tough, confronting and involve making hard decisions.

Step 1

Face the reality of your situation and don’t be an ostrich with your head buried in the sand.  Ask yourself, and other people if needed, what are the indisputable facts of the situation?  Your positive outlook and emotional self-control do help, but ignoring or distorting the facts can cause more problems. Accept this reality and move to step 2.

Step 2

This is the why and what it means to you.  You can choose to believe a situation is hopeless; your business will never be competitive enough, you’re a failure and may as well give up.  It’s also your choice to believe the same situation has created a new opportunity, taught you something valuable for the future or shown a weakness you can improve.  And maybe your answer is you don’t know exactly why something happened and it really sucks or hurt you, but you will find some good out of it and use that attitude to keep moving forward.

Step 3

This is what you’re going to do about it?  Work through steps 1 and 2 to get a clearer picture of the situation and develop some options to help make a better decision.

Resilience is also acknowledging other people’s emotions and how they are feeling. Having a chat helps lighten the load, provides a different perspective and may help discover solutions. We often find out we have the same crap going on and can support each other.  And don’t forget about your sense of humour.  In my experience, this is the best remedy for dealing with the crap and building up my resilience.

Resilience isn’t about being unbreakable and pushing on regardless of the impact on you and others.  It’s not believing that failing, slowing down, sharing how you feel or stopping for a rest is weak.  Resilience is your ability to recover quickly from difficulties, adversity & problems.

Next time the crap comes your way, and it will, I encourage you to consider giving these three steps a go.  It won’t be easy, requires discipline and things won’t always go your way.  But in my experience, easy doesn’t lead to our greatest adventures and most rewarding experiences.


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