Building your resilience to help you cope with the ups and downs of starting your own business

Everyone has to cope with the stresses and strains of everyday life. Challenges and changes are constant, and this is especially true if you are starting up your own business.

Adverse situations may be familiar or unfamiliar to you depending upon whether you have experienced them before, or whether you have experienced circumstances that may be similar. You will have developed coping mechanisms and these will help you in dealing with familiar adverse situations and, if you’re launching a new business, many unfamiliar ones.

Resilience in business

Resilience is often described as “the ability to bounce-back from challenging and adverse situations”. This popular view of resilience is a metaphor borrowed from Material Science and applied to the field of human and organisational behaviour.

It is rather an unfortunate definition as it tends to look at events after they have happened.

A more helpful definition of resilience defines three core characteristics:

1. An ability to accept harsh reality – to take an objective view of the situation without subjective views, denial or emotion.

2. An ability to find meaning in adversity – to build bridges from an ordeal in the present to a fuller, better future.

3. An ability to continually improvise – to put resources to unfamiliar uses and imagining possibilities that others don’t see.

Fortunately, you can learn to develop all these levels of resilience.
Building resilience in business
Recent publications by Professor Nassim Taleb, Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering, have introduced the concept of anti-fragility, which goes one step further.

Anti-fragility suggests that certain systems (often seen within computing and engineering) can actually get better when subjected to stress and strain. In other words, they are able to adjust to changing circumstances and so can become more adapted to their environment.

As a human being, you evolve and improve yourself by learning from your accidents and mistakes and in this way develop your resilience.

Like anti-fragile systems, you are able to self-adjust to dynamically changing circumstances and environments.

You are able to organise yourself in a proactive way so that you can determine your best strategies to become sustainable, to achieve high performance and to be energy efficient. You are able to personalise your attitudes and reactions in a way that is unique to you and you can learn how to get better while doing it.

Action strategies to develop resilience in business

Building your levels of resilience will help you to cope with the ups and downs of starting and running your own business, so here are some practical steps you can take to become more resilient;

1. Feel in control

  • Be realistic about what you can and can’t do
  • Learn how to say ‘No’ so that you don’t commit to too much
  • Set small, short-term goals that you know you can achieve
  • Tell yourself you can do it and prove yourself to be right
  • Communicate your intentions clearly to others, delegate and encourage their support

2. Create a personal vision

  • Set yourself clear goals and objectives focusing on what you want to achieve
  • Establish a plan that will accomplish your goals
  • Ensure that the plan is made up of small, achievable steps
  • Remain committed, even if events take you away from your plan for a short while
  • Remind yourself of what you want to achieve and why

3. Be flexible and adaptable

  • Anticipate change so that you can be prepared for it with a series of contingencies
  • Accept that situations are going to change
  • Positively move forward rather than dwelling on how unreasonable or unfair the changes may seem
  • Remain focused on your goals and adapt how you work to accommodate the change

4. Get organised

  • Create a plan or draw up a list of tasks
  • Create systems and processes that make you efficient
  • Be realistic about how you can manage your time
  • Avoid putting off anything that eventually needs to be done
  • Tackle big projects by breaking them down into smaller chunks and start to work on them one chunk at a time
  • Be aware of, and avoid, anything that you find distracting

5. A mindset for problem solving

  • Gather as much information about the issue as possible
  • Define the problem precisely and accurately, evaluating it objectively
  • Look at the problem from different perspectives
  • Generate a number of options, drawing from your experience and the experience of others
  • Critically review the options and decide what will work
  • Be decisive and start to put agreed plans into action

6. Get connected

  • Look for new opportunities to build your network
  • Proactively seek out the chance to engage with different people
  • Look at ways you can get involved and help others with their problems
  • Be willing to seek support for yourself

7. Be socially competent

  • Evaluate your existing network to ensure that you can draw upon a variety of backgrounds, skills and experience
  • Be selective about the support you need
  • Ask people for help on both a practical and an emotional level

8. Be proactive

  • Act decisively
  • Keep on top of less urgent tasks
  • Identify and develop the skills you will need in the future
  • Don’t waste time on truly unnecessary tasks

About the author

This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Robin Hills is the director of Ei4Change and author of The Authority Guide to Emotional Resilience in Business. His special interest lies in emotional intelligence and linking together the outputs from assessments to give real practical relevance to improve effectiveness and productivity.

More help on starting your own business

ByteStart is packed with help and tips on all aspects of starting and running a small business. Check out some of our most popular guides;

Starting Up

Finance & Funding

Tax & Accounting

Pitching and presenting

Promoting your business



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