Uncertainty & Entrepreneurship: My Journey
By Anouk Geene By definition, entrepreneurship is filled with uncertainty. After all, the whole point is to build and create something that doesn’t exist yet and for which there is no template or rule book. However fun and exciting that may be, no entrepreneur could honestly say that the uncertainties these kind of business ventures also inevitably bring, don’t ever get to them. Uncertainty can create stress and anxiety which can in turn be incredibly unpleasant and have a negative impact on your business as well as your personal wellbeing. If anything is for sure, it is that the current Covid-19 pandemic sh*t show has filled our world with unparalleled uncertainty, which affects not only our business ventures but our personal lives a great deal too. But as with many challenges in life, the key is in how you go about handling this uncertainty, how you choose to deal with it and what you decide to take from it. Let’s start with unpacking what uncertainty looks like and feels like to you. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, right? Ok, I have an issue with that phrasing because being affected by uncertainty isn’t a problem, but we’ll get back to that! Here is what uncertainty does to me: Uncertainty has a paralyzing effect on me as I have a tendency to wait it out, hoping for a more predictable, certain time ahead. Is that a smirk I see on your face? Haha of course; there is no such thing as a certain, stable, predictable, no setbacks, perfect future! But that’s not what my anxious, stressed out self wants to hear. So, instead, I nervously wait, which neither makes me feel better nor calmer. Most of the time I am able to talk my confidence back up, but I have to admit that this Covid situation brought me to an all-time low. I lost motivation and thought, “what is the point anyway — the world has changed too much, it’s probably not going to work out etc etc”. Yeah, I know, it was bad… Whatever your version of struggling with uncertainty looks like, there comes a point where it either permanently paralyzes you or you decide to take action, which is where the good stuff of this post comes in! There is no right or wrong way of dealing with whatever is causing uncertainty in your life and business ventures but here is some advice/food for thought that is hopefully helpful and applicable to you in some way. Cultivate some self-awareness — it’s ok to feel anxious, stressed and tense. But let yourself feel it instead of bottling it up, only to subconsciously project it again as anger, frustration, depression or idleness. Try it out — find a quiet, private spot and think about “what does uncertainty look like to me”? Lose control! — ohhh what a scary and unnatural thing to say! It is something that I myself struggle with a lot, given my tendency to want to control everything around me and about me. But, I am learning that trying to do so is not only fruitless and a waste of energy, it also means I miss out on fun and otherwise “unpredictable” opportunities. Prepare for multiple scenarios — we’ve established that we cannot control let alone predict the future, but we certainly CAN use our imagination, creativity and out-of-the-box thinking that we entrepreneurs are good at! So, prepare backup plans, have multiple strategies and different untapped markets in mind. And most importantly, when your planned circumstances unexpectedly change — ADAPT and implement any necessary changes! Focus on what you DO know — when dealing with uncertainty, falling back on what you do know can be very reassuring and take some anxiety away. To facilitate this, make sure you have a strong base to fall back on in the first place. This means: know your numbers, understand your target audience inside and out, focus on your KPI’s and believe in your USP *. When it comes to you personally, know what makes you feel good, what allows you to relax and what you need to do to get over a motivation block. For me, I know it’s any kind of physical activity, a long shower and going to a café two hours before it closes to smash out what I need to get done. Choose to see the positives and the opportunities — every cloud has a silver lining and it’s up to you to remember that. Life will throw things at you, whether that’s changing markets, finances or consumer habits impacting your business or family dynamics, illness or major milestones affecting your personal life. By practicing seeing the positives in these challenges, and it really does take practice, it will become a habit, making you more resilient and most importantly, happier. Remember that learning from an unfortunate situation is a positive thing and that opportunities are everywhere; you just need to be curious and open minded to see them. And finally, although it may not necessarily be wise to share your thoughts and feelings about the future of your business with your clients in your weekly newsletters, it is important to remember that you’re not the only one struggling with uncertainty. Especially during these strange times, it helps to share and discuss with fellow entrepreneurs, with friends and family going through similar challenges. So, we would love to hear how you guys deal with uncertainty! What does it look like for you and how does it affect you? Do you have any tips or pieces of advice to share? Please do let us know in the comments below and until next time! * Confused by these seemingly intimidating abbreviations? Fear not and look out for an “entrepreneur lingo” blog post coming your way soon!