In my last blog, I mentioned that, many years ago, my wife and I had bought a large pub and B&B on the edge of Dartmoor, that was on its knees and very much in need of some tlc.
And it reminded me of a very stressful time, caused by exceptional circumstances in the economy, that caused me a huge amount of personal pain, and almost ruined us financially.
So, I’m telling the story to try and add some comfort and hope if you’re going through a similar situation at the moment … and also to point out one thing that I have learnt since this painful time: in one way or another, we’re ALL struggling … and it’s OK … there are solutions and it is OK to admit to struggling …
In our situation, we had bought a business on the edge of bankruptcy (on purpose), and had taken out 2 large commercial loans in order to be able to afford to buy as large a business as possible. These loans were pegged at 2½ % above bank base rate.
As the business was so run down, it was necessary to not only work as hard as possible, but also to reinvest every penny into continual repairs and improvements. This was as we expected: are we knew that, if we failed, we were young enough to pick ourselves up and start again.
And so we found ourselves working 7 days a week for months on end, with few, if any luxuries or breaks.
Into this situation, we were thrown a curved ball we had never anticipated: I don’t remember the details, but, basically the Government had a fallout with the European exchange rate mechanism, and bank base rates started to climb rapidly. Eventually they settled at 14% … which meant that our loan payments were being charged at 16½ %!
In this environment, our focus had to change quickly from ‘development’ to ‘survival’, and we put in place some emergency cost saving measures, and upped our own work rate again.
Cutting a long and painful story short, we did survive financially (and we learnt a lot of valuable business lessons), but I personally didn’t cope very well emotionally. I spiralled into deep depression, mixed with anger, grumpiness and despair: all of which was equally difficult for those around me to cope with!
Eventually I ended up with back pain so severe that I couldn’t physically get out of bed, and I had to go to see a chiropractor to help me out. Needless to say, the Chiro work helped like magic and I was up and about again within 24 hours.
I thought that was the end of it, but my wife wasn’t convinced.
While I was incapacitated, our team of workers wonderfully rose to the occasion, and the business carried on seamlessly (a fact I am grateful for to this day), and my wife knew I was physically better, but emotionally still in turmoil: so she gave me an ultimatum.
Either I was to get help, or she wouldn’t be staying …
My first reaction was to see myself as a victim (again), but very soon I realised that she was right, and started a course of hypnotherapy and CBT.
Without going into too much detail, I can remember the one moment when the scales fell away from my eyes, and I realised that I wasn’t a victim: it was simply a tough situation and the only thing I could control was how I responded to it: either I could see myself as the victim (and blame the Government, the bank, the brewery, the customers, my wife etc etc), or I could find ways to respond more effectively and start to climb out of the mess.
From this situation, I learnt two things:
- I learnt a habit of continual learning and working on my own behaviour, which can be very challenging at times, and
- that the key antidote to stress and despair is action, no matter how small, to move forward and start climbing upwards.
By adopting this philosophy and action plan, we were able to pull together, get though the VERY tough times, survive and live to fight another day!
There’s of course a lot more to it that this simple story, but the painful experiences and lessons I learnt at that time set me onto a completely new direction and started the process that has resulted in me wring ‘Slow Selling’ and founding the ‘Slow Sellers Association’.
I know how painful being in business can be: it’s challenging at the best of times, and can be desperate in times of hardship. And the real problem is: who can you turn to? Who can REALLY offer help? Who will genuinely help you climb out of the hole, (and who is instead just looking for a quick buck from a desperate person) …?
And it’s trying to provide solutions to those questions that led me, over time, to write ‘Slow Selling’.
So, here are a few ideas I learnt from this personal and (still to this day) painful story:
- Find a philosophy that’s simple, powerful and that gives you strength. (Mine has been ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ and the principles behind ‘Slow Selling’).
- Accept that struggle is normal and OK: it’s not weak to admit you’re worried and on the edge: instead it takes guts to admit it and then take a step forward. We’re all struggling in some way, and it’s ok.
- Forget quick fixes: they’ll only make it worse in the long run: the answer lies in the small steps: inch by inch: it doesn’t matter how slow you go, just so long as you don’t stop…
- Have powerful personal time management routines to keep yourself going each day.
All of this (and more) is covered in Slow Selling: I guess we’re talking about ‘Slow Selling’ yourself to yourself (first) and others (second) here: if you see what I mean! But, I always like to give one or two simple tips from each blog, and you can hear more details in our podcast on this story.
So here are 3 tips to help you take one small step forward:
- Look for positive, time proven ideas to read and consume (when you start looking, you’ll find them everywhere): a great place to start might be ‘The 7 Habits’. Study them inch by inch: in your car, waiting for appointments, during breaks, before bed …
- Put in a weekly inch by inch process: we call this a weekly compass plan (and please contact us if you’d like more details).
- Have a non-negotiable daily routine that includes:
- Thinking and planning time
- Mindfulness routines
- Exercise and diet
- Getting a good night’s sleep
It can seem like a mountain to climb: but remember: this is just a simple checklist: focus on one inch at a time, and the rest will take care of itself.
Life is a marathon, not a sprint …
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Slow Selling is a UK based not for profit organisation for leaders and mangers in independent businesses.
Our systems deliver peace of mind and confidence to caring leaders and managers who have limited time and resources, want to do the right thing and grow their business … all without sacrificing principles or profits. To find out more, please click here