By Younas Chaudhary
Entrepreneurs face anxiety from insignificant things to major decisions that determine the fate of their businesses. In 1979, I named my first oil and gas company in Kansas, Al Fazal (Grace in Arabic), a common Eastern name. But I was in the middle of Kansas trying to lease oil and gas lands from local farmers while the Iranian hostage crisis was at its peak. The foreign company name caused issues with rural farmers, and they thought that I was an Iranian invader who was right in their backyard trying to take away their oil.
This caused me stress as it was not my intent, nor was I an Iranian national. So, I changed the name of my company to a local friendlier name, Petro America. I started dressing as a cowboy to ease the pressure on me and my clients.
In our business journey, entrepreneurs face stress because we venture into the unknown. Entrepreneurs are faced with challenges, the possibilities of failure, and our own internal apprehension regarding the risks we take. One of my first businesses was selling pots and pans in Edmonton, Canada. I had three partners, but it did not take off and we failed.
Start-up owners routinely have anxiety about cash flow, lack of credit opportunities, creating cashflow to pay business related obligations, meeting office payroll, and the need for funds to manage their own personal affairs. Most entrepreneurs start small with big dreams and, most of the time, they will fail several times before they succeed. However, the stress of dealing with failure should not stop us from getting back on our feet and trying repeatedly, harder, and more determined to succeed.
The destiny of any successful entrepreneur is filled with stress and begins with a host of failures. You can compare it to a person riding a bike and I am sure all of us have fallen several times while learning how to ride a bike.
Anxiety can make us fear change and prevent us from getting out of our comfort zone. I often notice certain managers face the fear of letting go, they hoard work and opportunities instead of delegating it to others.
One of the first things I did in my early days as an entrepreneur was to delegate work to others so that I could focus on the bigger picture. That action reduced a lot of worry in dealing with daily issues as I empowered my team to manage most daily tasks, and this gave them an opportunity to improve their own knowledge base for their careers.
I planned my weekly, monthly, and quarterly tasks and this lessened the stress of facing unknowns that came in as business grew. Proper planning, preparation, and timely actions help entrepreneurs reduce anxiety when dealing with unknowns.
I am blessed with a good memory. I take notes as I relied on pages of notebooks in the early days to jot down conversations, numbers, and the intricacies of deals. This helped me immensely and armed with an old Pentax camera I would take pictures of important well sites and acquisitions data.
Like any other oil and gas producer, I have faced stress of the outcome after drilling a well and I have seen several come back as dry holes. Geology does not work in your favor all the time. There are well completion issues and, despite the best technology available, our predictions can be wrong.
I was anxious when approaching lender banks for loans as rejection was in the back of my mind. With the passage of time, I gained confidence and I learned to negotiate with banks whereby all parties were happy with the end goal.
Anxiety is a mental health issue that is widely prevalent in today’s world. Here are some tips I often use to deal with business-related stress:
- If you fail, do not get anxious and brood over it for days and weeks. I try not to extend my worries beyond a couple of days.
- Take responsibility as a manager for failures, instead of causing stress to all team members in an organization. End the blame game and move on.
- Be flexible, calm, and adjust quickly to the situation at hand.
- Do not go overboard and create a ruckus for a failure that happened as it causes anxiety across your organization. Instead, analyze what happened, take certain actions so you do not repeat the same mistake.
- Humility is the best antidote to anxiety. Be humble, stay down-to-earth, show love and kindness towards anyone and everyone.
- Try to think of the worst-case scenario. How bad can it be? In my case, I came to the West with $30 in my pocket. If I lost a big deal, or all of it, how bad can it be?
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. Further, I make no warranty regarding the accuracy or effectiveness of my recommendations, and readers are advised to consult other advisors as well as their own judgments in making business decisions.