What to do when the start-up game gets tough

Sam McKeith

Getting a start-up off the ground in Australia isn’t easy and there’s a heap of challenges.

You’ve got to compete with big industry players, figure out how to hire the right staff and then there’s the ever-present pressure of cashflow.

But there’s also another, often overlooked, hurdle which is just as essential to get a successful SME up and running – mental toughness.

Business strategist and mentor Trevor Russell says staying mentally tough is imperative for entrepreneurs, especially in the start-up phase.

Russell, who consults with firms nationwide, says it’s so crucial because entrepreneurs with strong resolve are better equipped to deal with obstacles thrown their way, and tend to dig in when others throw in the towel.

“It’s that ability to stick with it,” Russell says.

“It’s that very important step to staying motivated, especially for people who are launching a business because often it can be the case that they may be working on their own.”

Luckily, mental toughness can be learnt, Russell says.

Plan your time

One piece of advice he gives is to approach each day in a very structured manner to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

“If you’re working for hours on your own you’ve got to have that diary, whether it’s a virtual diary or a written diary where you plan each day,” Russell says.

“I always also emphasise the importance that if you can, get up in the morning, do a bit of exercise and structure your day exactly as you would if you were in a job.”

“Say to yourself ‘I’m going to work from nine to six flat out, do everything that I can but at six I turn my computer off, then it’s rest and family time’.”

Know when to stop

Entrepreneurs should also put an end time to their days to keep from being consumed with start-up stresses 24/7.

A designated clock-off time also helps prevent work impacting on home life, and allows the mind to refresh for the following day, he says.

“Sometimes you just work and work and work late into the night and that cuts into family time, and also the quality of family time when you’re tired,” Russell adds.

“Say to yourself ‘I’m going to work from nine to six flat out, do everything that I can but at six I turn my computer off, then it’s rest and family time’.”

Don’t bottle it up

Another tip is to talk to someone when times get tough.

Russell says business coaches are ideal but can cost up to $300 per hour so for start-ups it is usually more realistic to seek out a friend or colleague.

Failing that, he urges entrepreneurs to attend networking events or find a business group they like.

“For people that work on their own and are launching a business it can be isolating, but where we thrive is with other people,” Russell says.

“It lifts you up and keeps the motivating going.”

Sam McKeith

Sam McKeith is Sydney-based media professional. He has contributed to many leading publications including The Huffington Post, The Australian Financial Review, The Australian and BRW Magazine. He was previously a senior reporter at the Australian Associated Press where he covered national affairs. 

Image: Daniel ZeddaFlickr Creative Commons License