I uttered, "Yes, the business is doing great! We just hit this milestone," when at the forefront of my mind disappointment, missed deadlines and unmet goals were blaring. The intent was not to speak half-truths, but why burden someone with how I'm feeling? Surely they want to keep this interaction brief; they're busy. Everyone is busy. They'd rather hear a bright, one-minute update than a candid snapshot of what's really happening. Sometimes unknowingly, and on other occasions intentionally, you may avoid discussing your flatlining business. It's not just you. I did it too. After taking a step back, I have come to identify a few of the hows and the whys these actions occur. My hope is this post gives you perspective if you are walking through this or that it helps you extend grace to someone you know.
First, let's be honest. When your business sputters, it hurts bad. Like real, real bad. It can immobilize you. Frustrate you. Sadden you. I was stuck for months when my last business failed. Depressed for a few at that. My husband didn't know. My cheerleaders/community didn't know. I didn't realize it until months later when I was avoiding my business like the overflowing laundry that greets me every single morning. There are some people who can bounce back from defeat quickly while others take a minute or two. Those who fall into the latter group may recognize the following avoidance tactics.
HOW YOU AVOID DISCUSSING YOUR FLATLINING BUSINESS
1. When your spouse asks about the business, you:
- Say it's great without sharing details;
- Give a curt response and change the subject; or
- Talk about it with uneasiness and want to discuss ANYTHING else but this.
2. When a friend, acquaintance or family member ask about the business, you:
- Silently wish they would stop asking you about it;
- Cringe internally;
- Say you've been busy (which is probably true, but you just weren't busy making money or progress); or
- Say it's going great.
3. When a friend introduces you and mentions your business, you:
- Discuss it briefly without touching your elevator pitch (business owner fail);
- Give the person the side eye, realize you gave an inappropriate facial expression...and then quickly correct it; or
- Incessantly minimize your work and decide to chat about a more comfortable topic.
WHY YOU MAY AVOID DISCUSSING YOUR FLATLINING BUSINESS
It's okay to be sad about your business. You loved it. You gave time to it. You gave birth to it and nurtured it. You just didn't get to see it grow as you had hoped. That's normal.
2. Guilt and Shame
I teared up writing those two words... guilt and shame. I'd venture to say this is a major reason some people avoid talking about underperforming ventures. As a business owner, you sacrifice immensely for your company and can't get those things back. Things like time spent away from your kids, money, tug-of-war matches with your spouse, sleep and help from friends and family to name a few. Letting yourself down is one thing, but when you feel you let down those who love and support you... man. It can cause guilt and shame to creep in and take over.
After my husband and I married, we invested our money into a company I felt led to start. Money that could've gone toward savings, retirement, student loans, or lovely clothes I never had the chance to afford. We had some wonderful victories, many successes, but in the end I felt shame for not accomplishing all I set out to do. I carried this heavy burden on my shoulders, a burden that got heavier as my disappointment grew. I was disappointed that the business didn't take off. I was disappointed that I was blessed with a successful Kickstarter project and didn't translate it into something supporters could be proud of. I felt like I let people down.
3. You're Unsure of the Future
With your business not performing as you hoped or planned, you're unsure if you want to keep pushing or not. Frankly, it's tough to talk about something that is up in the air. You could round the corner next week and everything could improve (it's possible!)... but in the same breath it could tank. When you are thinking about changing your business model or creating something new, it's hard to convey your thoughts and feelings to someone else. You're still figuring it out.
HELLO. Tap tap, is the mic on? I said it. Priiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide.
QUICK TAKEAWAYS IF THIS IS YOU
Sometimes unknowingly, and other times intentionally, we avoid discussing our flatlining businesses. Read how and some of the reasons why in this post!
- Drop the façade with your spouse or a close friend. Let someone you trust in. Carrying a burden is as heavy as it is tiresome... especially when you do it alone. You'll feel relief when you let someone in.
- If you are contemplating calling it quits, make sure it is what you want. Consider completing a SWOT analysis and see if there is anything left for you to try.
- If you have released (let go of) your business or idea, take heart. It takes courage to change course. Know you aren't the only one.
- Develop a short explanation (if you want to give one) for when someone asks about the business you are closing down. Instead of being caught off guard, know your plan and briefly share the details you want others to know. This is what you call pre-emptive measures ;).
Did anything above resonate with you? Have you ever avoided discussing a business, dream or goal? Please share how or why below...
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