The COVID-19 pandemic shut down brick-and-mortar businesses all across America through parts of 2020, but surprisingly, it blew the doors wide open for start-ups.
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Americans filed paperwork to start 4.3 million businesses last year, the most since the United States Census Bureau began tracking new business creation in 2004, and the momentum continued through the first half of 2021.
But failure rates for new businesses are high, and learning how to endure the roller coaster of emotions in the early years is crucial to entrepreneurs finding success, says Stephen E. Gerard, an entrepreneur and the ForbesBooks author of Stuck in the Middle Seat: The Five Phases to Becoming a Midcareer Entrepreneur.
“The pandemic and its disruptions led many people to reassess their lives and consider a different path,” Gerard says. “It gave some the nudge to take the big chance they’d been hesitant to take, in part because they had job stability.
“But now as new business owners they’ve got to get used to instability. Some of them have run into bumpy spots and others no doubt will. It takes another level of courage and commitment to ride out the emotional swings that entrepreneurs experience. Knowing what to expect can be of help, and knowing how to recalibrate can be of comfort.”
How Entrepreneurs Can Deal With Common Emotions
Gerard points out some common emotions entrepreneurs can expect early in their journey and how they can deal with them:
Gerard says loneliness sets in for an entrepreneur when confronted with the enormity of the task as the actual work starts. But loneliness can be turned into a positive. “Loneliness fuels self-confidence,” he says. “You have to believe in your ability to succeed without any, or much, help. It is a self-confidence born of the belief that you have the right ideas and innate ability to adapt them.”
As for trying to combat loneliness, Gerard says entrepreneurs shouldn’t fall into a trap of bringing on too many partners, employees, or consultants. “Stay lean,” he says, “and stay focused on the things that advance the business and get clients.”
“When you put yourself out on a limb to start a business,” Gerard says, “you are exposed for everyone to see. When you stumble or ask for help, it can be embarrassing. You need to know it is coming, just give it a laugh, and use it as secondary fuel.”
Gerard knows from experience. He once had lunch with someone he had managed at a different company. Gerard was seeking advice and referrals as he began his first start-up. But the person viewed Gerard, the struggling entrepreneur, with pity. “He saw me as a failure,” Gerard says. “It was embarrassing, but it shaped how I went forward in understanding how people would view me in the early days, and helped me prepare accordingly.”
Highs And Lows
Some days, entrepreneurs can feel on top of the world, but other days, they feel the weight of the world. The key to keeping one’s equilibrium, Gerard says, is expecting the lows as well as highs and knowing both will pass. “Maybe a sale or two will happen that provides some nice revenue and good clients,” he says. “Understand that it is a high; ride it, but know that it ends.
“Then there will be what seems like weeks when you are taking a drubbing, and it feels awful. Make sure and take away lessons during the good and bad times. Learn and refine what worked, and adapt to or throw out what did not.”
“Every entrepreneur worth their salt goes through many emotions,” Gerard says, “so they should take comfort in knowing that no matter the degree of success other entrepreneurs have had, they have been there.”
About the Author
Stephen E. Gerard, an entrepreneur and the ForbesBooks author of Stuck in the Middle Seat, worked in the corporate world for nearly 20 years before launching his first business, TGaS Advisors, in 2004. TGaS Advisors became an Inc 500/5000 winner for five years in a row and is still a thriving business. Since that time, Gerard has launched and invested in numerous other global businesses and remains active as an entrepreneur, investor and author.