The Secret Entrepreneur: Keeping your game-face on

Why bosses should feign confidence, even when really they want to scream…

Being an entrepreneur is exhilarating, but many people don’t realise exactly how much of a roller-coaster ride it is – and that no matter how scary the ride gets, you can’t afford to scream in public.

In the last week I’ve hired some great new people, kicked-off major new projects, been massively disappointed by someone I trusted and also lost a major client. I’ve worked six consecutive 18 hour days and haven’t seen my better-half for much more than an hour in the last two weeks.

I’m knackered. But not because of that.

Throughout it all, no matter how stressed or (occasionally) panicked I get, I have to ensure that I always give my team confidence. I must provide a stable base that they can rely on. Nothing destroys morale in an organisation faster than people thinking their leader isn’t in control. If you show confidence, your team will too, and you need them confident if they’re going to perform at their best.

This is hands-down the most stressful part of running a growing business. It’s mentally exhausting and at times seemingly unrelenting. It’s also the thing that a lot of people are really bad at, so if you can crack this, you’ll make succeeding an awful lot easier.

I have to remind myself though, that no matter how turbulent things get, I love it. I’d be bored doing anything else. The exhilaration of winning a new deal or smashing targets on a new project is amazing, and whilst crises are tough, there’s always an opportunity in there if you can keep your head clear enough to see it.

This week was a case in point. Finding out we were losing the client was a blow, but the way we lost them was actually massively positive – we’ve achieved our goals and they’re delighted with what we’ve done for them, but as a result their needs have now changed. We parted on good terms and with plenty of notice.

That’s not to say that this didn’t depress me. For about half an hour. Then I started to think through the situation clearly.

No doubt, losing a big client will put a dent in our short-term revenues, but the work was becoming a major distraction from our core activities and this frees up resources to go after a new opportunity that I’ve been eyeing up for a while. When we crack this, the profit will far outstrip the lost margins and it’s a much more sustainable proposition.

Communicating this kind of news back to the team in the right way is vital. If it depressed me, it’ll certainly impact on them. People need to know what’s going on in situations like this, and have confidence in the boss, or they’ll fear the worst. It’s simply human nature.

Bad communications is the source of almost all team problems. But that’s a subject for another time…

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  1. You raise an interesting point – I had been trying to be honest and open with staff after a previous life working for tight lipped bosses, but I can see how a little too much openness can be a risky thing and how the team can also look to you for a calming influence when things get tough!