5 Tips for Running a Business in Anxious Times 2024

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Or so goes the proverbial wisdom that’s half true. (Sure, “getting going” can be a sign of resilience—but it’s critically important to have a good, general sense of direction, too.)

The economic and social uncertainty of recent weeks and months poses a similar dilemma for many companies—maybe especially businesses that are newer to the scene. These are anxious times, and while successfully running a business takes a certain degree of toughness and rock-hard determination to stay afloat, having a GPS system is also important.

It’s not enough for a company’s leadership team to just “get going.” They also need to know where they’re headed and have some helpful tools for getting there. What follows are five strategies that can help businesses successfully navigate the anxieties and uncertainties of our time, so they emerge with greater resilience in the longer term.

1. Use Data, Not Emotions

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When things are askew in the world and tensions are running high, avoid the temptation to let emotions be in the driver seat. It’s best when you can take a look at the facts, review what’s going on, and think of your options with reasoning, not emotion.

Most people regret impulsive actions made in the heat of emotion. Whether it’s rushing to a conclusion before getting all the information, hitting “send” on an angry email, or making a long-term decision based on how they feel—(think about that car that simultaneously excited you and blew your monthly budget)—most of us can recall a time when our emotions were in the driver seat and drove us straight into a big pile of steaming cow manure.

Each of us is going to be called on to make decisions. These are part of running a business but try and give yourself the tools you need to make an informed decision. Whatever the outcome, you will look back and appreciate that you made the best decision you could, with the information you had.

2. Understand This Is “Survival Mode”

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Lately, so many companies have found themselves in “survival mode.” Being in survival mode can mean, for many people, playing it safe, following the trends, and doing what others are doing—or worse, paralysis, and an inability to make decisions.

Survival mode typically means making it work with whatever you have at the moment. Hold on to money, don’t take big risks, wait it out—might be helpful, but sometimes it’s not. You want to get through today, but you have to also think strategically.

I’ve seen some really inventive stuff with regards to restaurants and how they are using their resources to get some, if not many, customers back. Will it work? The answer is not yet clear but staying closed for a year is probably not going to work either.

How do you get your business to survive for the longest possible time? The answer might mean a lot of long hours; it might mean being innovative; it might mean holding tight until an opening comes up. Regardless of what it is, survival is the name of the game—and it is anything but business as usual.

3. People Matter

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People everywhere are experiencing unprecedented levels of anxiety and stress. (Learn about anxiety treatments at FHE Health.) Many of those people are your customers—they are also your employees and (of course) you. Do what you can for your own health and wellbeing; do what you can for those closest to you, and for your business.

Remember that people want honesty, transparency, and to know that you care. You may not be able to give out big bonuses, but you can take a personal interest in people. An afternoon off can mean a lot. A text message or phone call can really turn around a day. You may not be able to solve everything right now, but you can eat, get to sleep at a decent hour, and be compassionate with others.

4. Know Your Resources

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Resources can be many things. Money, time, goodwill, supports, colleagues, and organizations are among the resources that can maybe make a real difference right now.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t let your fear get the best of you. Let pride be damned if it means saving your business. There are a lot of resources out there to help with running a business. There are no easy answers, but there could be a lifeline to an idea; there could be someone to help with a problem; there might be a step to take that you have not otherwise been willing to explore or take.

All things are open game when the going gets tough. As best as you can, network, get assistance, look for ways you can navigate through something—if only for today. There may be some untapped resources you have not tried. In the end, if you have to wave the white flag of defeat, you will take it better knowing that everything that could be done, was done: You reached that point where you went as far as you could go.

5. Challenges Can Bring Out the Best

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I know this is not what people like to hear, but there are times when we must face life on its terms and it pushes us somewhere else. One of the toughest things to do is to admit that it is time to let go. If you can get through something, tough it out, and come out on the other side, you will have gained something you never imagined.

When President Roosevelt said, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself,” he said a mouthful. Overcoming an obstacle means one is stronger for it. But the paralyzing fear of not succeeding, failing, or making a wrong choice, is no way to live.

Real-life happens moment by moment and day by day. Tomorrow will not be the same. People live their lives constantly dodging from one thing to another. A case in point: First, it was the 2008 crash; now it’s a global health crisis and crash—who would have thought?

Many business owners have been able to look back at the lean times when everyone pitched in and sacrificed. It’s a struggle—but we get through it. This time will be the same. Don’t give up on yourself; do the best you can; be resourceful, and hopefully, with these five tips you can face the challenge and come out on the other side.

This article is provided by Dr. Beau Nelson, DBH, LCSW.