These six critical mindsets help you set up strong and be strategic about the risks you take in your business
You know your craft, but do you have a business mindset?
Some people set up in business and know automatically how to think like a business owner.
These lucky people have backgrounds where a business mindset dripped into them through family or education, or they were born with business-friendly personality traits and characteristics.
You may never have had a business before, let alone wondered what a business mindset means. Yet, you’re excited by the thought of having your own business. You’ve got an idea. You know you can do it and independence and freedom matter a lot.
Of course, you have worries too. And they’re plentiful:
- You’ll choose the wrong idea
- You’ll make bad decisions
- You’ll fail and let everyone down
- You’ll lose your money
- You’ll lose your home…
So how do you get a business mindset when your mind tells you you’ve failed before you’ve begun?
Here’s the thing — you’re right to be worried. Research says 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, 30% of small businesses fail in their second year, and 50% of small businesses fail after five years in business.
Business is a slippery tightrope and you don’t want to fall off. You manage your risk by choosing a strong rope and building a strong grip.
So, this is what we’re going to do:
- Explore the six elements of a business mindset that keep your tightrope strong and sturdy
- Outline crucial tips with real-world examples to help you create tactics that work
- Highlight ways to protect yourself from the danger zones.
Sounds good? Let’s dive in.
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1) The Beehive: aka the Mindset of a Business Owner
Business is a beehive.
From the outside, you see the production of delicious honey. Inside, there’s a complex dance of strategy designed to keep the queen alive. The bees have strategies to:
- Collect food and distribute it to all the bees
- Guard and maintain the hive
- Evacuate the hive in an emergency
- Look after the baby bees
- Take out the waste and the dead
Nothing’s done for the sake of the task itself. It’s all done to protect the queen because she’s the only one who can lay eggs and ensure the continued survival of the bees.
If you ask a successful entrepreneur how they get a business mindset, they’ll tell you your business is the Queen Bee. The business mindset is a dance of strategy.
Without strategy, the business depends on blind luck.
To think like a business owner, let long-term goal (strategy) lead your daily activities and decisions (tactics).
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.
Tactics without Strategy is the noise before defeat.”
– Sun Tsu, The Art of War
A frazzled startup mindset is typical of entrepreneurs rushing in without a plan:
- Spending money on impulsive, short-term, or temporary solutions (and spending more money in the same way when those solutions don’t work out).
- Building a large social following of people who will never become customers (and not being willing to give up their follower count to start anew).
- Focusing on their website and branding without understanding their brand or their market (and being so attached to it that it’s hard to recognize it needs changing).
- Setting up their “shop” on someone else’s platform (and having no way of communicating with customers if Facebook or Etsy vanish or change their algorithms and rules).
When you think like a business owner, this won’t happen to you.
Solution: Add strategy to your business mindset
Let’s get back to the metaphor of the tightrope. There are two parts to your business: Landscape and Tightrope. You need them both, but not in that order.
Step 1: Tightrope
Always start with building your tightrope. It gives you something firm and stable to stand on and a direction to walk in.
Your tightrope is made almost entirely of strategies, and thinking them up might give you a brain-ache. Do it anyway because the brain-ache is worse if you step onto that tightrope and find it’s loose or frayed.
Your business strategies are the individual strands of your rope. They work together to create your vision. If one strand is weak or missing, the rope feels it.
Your business strategies include:
- Identifying your customer and their mindset
- Money-management and cash-flow
- Website, branding, and marketing strategies
- Budgets, constraints, and revenue sources
- Pricing strategies
- Industry-specific problems (e.g. food allergens for restaurants, or medical emergencies in doggy daycare)
- Time and energy for personal relationships
- Timely triggers to alert you something’s not working…
Step 2: Landscape
Landscape is anything that supports the strategies you built in your tightrope:
- Social networks
- Business cards and stationery design
- Staff uniforms
- Freebies and promotional items
If you work on these “scenic” items first, you’re building them without understanding where you are and what you stand for. They could potentially become the siren that leads you to the rocks.
Yes, you could do it all on the hoof — but there’s fallout. It’s messy, draining, and stressful. You’ll waste a lot of money (which you can make back, possibly) and time (which you can’t).
Examples of strategic business thinking
- Selecting a point-of-sale system that not only rings up sales, but also generates reports for deeper analysis of trends, costings, and growth indicators.
- Having a procedure that stops client appointments from running over.
- Monitoring product preparation, storage, and delivery points to spot and reduce wastage.
When you make plans with a strategic business mindset, you’re doing a lot of the hard work upfront. You’re reducing risk and putting your energy into operating, not flapping and double-doing.
It calms your fears, too. Instead of living with a general doom that things won’t work out, you start to think like a business owner and take charge, designing systems to protect yourself.
2) The Business Mindset 101 for Overcoming Weaknesses
A business mindset knows you don’t own a business — you’re in a relationship with your business.
Your business looks to you for nourishment, protection, and growth. And in return, it makes you feel alive in a way few other things can.
Business is a Shakespearian drama with tension, deception, frustration, joy, euphoria, and every other emotion you can think of, including some you haven’t experienced yet.
It riddles your nights with worry and sprinkles your days with hope. Self-doubt chomps at your brain and brash confidence appears from nowhere to work its own agenda.
And this begs the obvious question… how the **** do you deal with this?
The short answer is that you think like a business owner by getting stronger and faster at dealing with whatever your business throws at you.
- You’re shy? You still need sales.
- You suck at time management? You still need to get things done.
Here’s the big secret: You’re not a rock and your personality isn’t set in stone.
Solution: Add personal development to your business mindset
The human ability to adapt mentally and physically has made it possible for us to survive almost everywhere in the world — and heaven help the aliens, but we’re getting into space too.
Your ability to mentally and physically adapt to your own challenges and get this far is proof positive that you’ve got it in you to think like a business owner and go further.
There are three things to do:
a) Trust your inner drive
You have an inner drive that won’t let go of what you want.
You recognize it like a hungry focus that leads you into situations you’d normally avoid. It’s OK to let it take over the part of your mind that’s still stuck in a more conservative way of behaving.
Your inner drive is resourceful, and it can solve a lot of problems.
You’re Scooby-Doo. Your inner drive is Scrappy-Doo.
Don’t get in its way.
b) Open your vault of hidden reserves
Remember that time you did something that surprised you?
What was it?
Standing up to someone? Taking a road no one expected? Sticking to your guns even though the world was against you?
You believed in the cause so completely, that you did what you had to do.
You found the key, and your hidden reserves came out to help you and dimmed your nerves, your insecurities, your fears, and your need for approval.
Everything you need is already accessible. It might be sitting there in various stages of formation, but when you believe in the cause completely, voila, out it pops.
If you can’t reach your reserves, there’s a business mindset solution for that too. You take steps to actively build those hidden reserves, like so…
c) Make personal development a habit
You’re a blend of fixed and flexible traits that can be developed through effort, good strategies, and learning.
Use your business like a mirror that shows you what needs building or reinforcing. After all, self-reliance is the quintessential entrepreneur mindset. Don’t get scared at what you see — no one’s pretty first thing.
Remember, it’s not just about the technical and business skills. You want to work on everything the mirror shows:
- Communication blocks and shyness
- Posture and style
- Anger and stress management
- How to maintain your personal relationships
Successful entrepreneurs keep on top of their personal growth, and there’s a plethora of good books, courses, and personal coaches/mentors. It’s easy to find something within your budget.
They send you on
training courses when you’re in a job. In business, you have to make yourself
ride that horse. It’s how you stay upright and stable on your tightrope and
keep your mental health strong.
3) When Business Mindset Quotes Aren’t Enough to Inspire Your Motivation
So, you’ve got plenty of drive for your business. But have you thought about that thing that powers your drive?
It’s called motivation.
Drive: The mental brawn that gets you to take action.
Motivation: The mental fuel that decides whether or not you’re going to.
These are some signs that you’re running out of motivation:
- You can’t get your priorities straight.
- You desperately need to generate revenue but still can’t get a wiggle on.
- You’re missing deadlines and appointments a lot but don’t mind too much.
- You’re stuck on needing your business to fit that domain you bought five years ago…
Say you love your business idea but struggle to make time for it. You tell yourself you’re busy, even as you close your laptop on your marketing strategy and zombie on Netflix for the next two hours.
It’s not you. It’s your motivation. Strong business mindset or not, motivation will bring you to a stop when it thinks you’re going against your values in some way.
Your subconscious conversation could be this:
Values: I’m a serious and intelligent person.
Motivation: Cool, let’s crack on with the marketing plan!
Values: Oh look, it’s got social media in it. Full of trolls and negativity. That’s not for people like me. It’ll destroy my reputation.
Motivation: Social media is evil ughhhhh! I can’t let this marketing strategy happen. Let’s watch TV instead.
What do you do?
Solution: Add choice to your business mindset
The above conversation is going on at a subconscious level. A logical argument probably won’t help.
Fortunately, distracting your motivation is easier than you think. You just have to give it something else to do. Preferably something that changes your relationship with the original value.
Think about the blockage, and then think up some appropriate actions around it.
a) Personal Development: Is there anything you can do to fix the block yourself?
e.g. Hire a social media coach to teach and develop your confidence and knowledge.
Your values will learn that you can do social media in a serious and intelligent way, and if you want, you’ll have fun too, thank you very much. Your motivation has nothing to argue with.
b) Outsource: Can anyone else deal with this for you?
e.g. Outsource the social media element or hire somebody to do it in-house.
You’ll only have to deal with it in an intelligent overlord kind of way.
c) Change your strategy: As an entrepreneur, this is your right
e.g. Remove social media from your marketing strategy (for now).
What a relief, you don’t have to think about it at all
d) Stop: As a human being, this is your right
e.g. Decide this business is not for you and pack it in.
Errr, say what?
Choose the easiest and most appealing option — the one that appeases your values and gets your motivation to fuel your drive and move your business along.
Even if you choose to pack it in, you’re directing your energy better. You can always adapt your strategy once you’re energized again.
standing still, swaying on that tightrope… and it’s swinging… and it’s tornado
4) Failure: It’s Not Personal, It’s Business
With the best of intentions, you’re going to make some bad calls in your business. One or two might even be H-U-G-E.
James Altucher says, “Failure is one thing of many that happens on the path to success. It’s not a badge of honor to fail. It sucks to fail.”
Too right, it sucks. People get slayed by entrepreneurship, but if you pussy-foot your way around, too afraid to do anything, you won’t actually get anywhere.
It’s crucial for your business mindset that you change your relationship with failure. Don’t focus on avoiding mistakes. Focus on making risk-assessed decisions, and keep moving your business forward.
Failure is a necessary part of the process. It’s negligence that isn’t.
Yes, failure feels terrible. Nobody likes to lose money, clients, time, or reputation. Failure is not personal, but it hits you with emotions that are. That’s its nature. To drive something home so you’ll learn from it.
Solution: Wrap your business mindset in bounce-back rubber
Think of business as the lovechild of daredevil Evel Knievel and personal development guru Tony Robbins. Taking risks is a necessary part of business. But so is using your noodle.
Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose.
a) Always get up
Taking failure personally is like cutting off your leg to punish yourself for falling over. Even if you lost all your money and your dog ran away, it’s your human responsibility to hang onto your leg.
Accept yourself wherever you are on the spectrum of shock, shame, and guilt, and make amends with the people who’ve been affected. If you need help, get help. Whatever you need — therapy, a financial re-jig, or a bolt-hole to lick your wounds and recover.
Reflect, analyze, review.
What wasn’t in place? What allowed it to happen? What have you learned? What would you do better?
Dust yourself off and set your clever startup mindset to work again with integrity.
b) Block out the well-meaning doom-mongers
Those lovely people around you — the ones who love you so much and want you to be safe — might keep framing failure as a nastyass disease.
The voices may not even be real — residual echoes from childhood and the ghosts of past failures are just as critical in their haste to be well-meaning.
Don’t listen to the “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s.”
They didn’t put anything on the line. You did. You took a business decision, and it didn’t go your way.
Weed out genuine advice and golden nuggets (there will be some) from uninformed criticisms. Re-evaluate from where you are and begin again with the resources and the new information you have.
Your only obligation is to not make that same mistake again.
c) Stay with the times
Don’t hang onto outdated procedures or beliefs that no longer fit.
Even your business plan becomes a liability if you depend on it as a fixed set of instructions that don’t change when new information comes in.
Think like a business owner by building your mental flexibility. Ask questions and explore different viewpoints. Be curious about things you read in the news and hear from friends.
Your business mindset must stay agile so it’s ready for a change when you need it to be. Your foot slipped off the tightrope, but you’re strong and flexible like rubber. You can haul yourself back on.
5) How Do You Get a Business Mindset About Money?
Yes, to think like a business owner, you have to get comfortable with money.
The money side of the business mindset is tricky for a lot of people. Perhaps because there’s so much emotional meaning tied up in it. You know you need to turn a profit, but it’s still comforting to think it’ll work itself out if you stay focused on sales and promotion.
The trouble is that your pricing and growth strategies depend on you knowing the numbers. And if your business is holding your house deposit, life savings, or a bank loan, you want to get that money back out.
They say you shouldn’t go into business just to make money. No one ever said ignore the bottom line.
Solution: Add numbers to your business mindset
Your decisions need to be financially viable so your business can sustain you, your family, your staff, and the people you serve.
To do this, here’s the absolute minimum information you must know at any given time:
- How much money do you have?
- How fast are you spending it?
- How much could you get a hold of if you needed to?
- Do you maintain enough cash flow to cover all your bills comfortably?
- What margin do you need to make?
- Do your freebies and promotions cost more than they bring in?
- How much do you need to sell every month to keep your business viable?
Even if someone
else handles your accounts, you should always know your numbers. It’s the best
early warning system you have.
6) The Entrepreneur Mindset Shows Up Every Day
Your business success needs you to show up every day like you mean it.
How do you mean it? I’m glad you asked:
- Don’t make Boss decisions: Make considered Boss decisions. Think before you speak. Research before you implement. Ask for advice, but always make your own decisions.
- Ouch is OK: Even mistakes move you along. Sometimes you have to take one step back to move two steps forward.
- Develop a persona for your business: Your voice, posture, and clothes matter. The things you talk about matter. You don’t want to be someone you’re not, but your clients want you to be someone they can work with.
- Hiring: Know when to hire and when to learn. Sometimes you have to learn a skill, and other times paying someone generates more money. There’s an opportunity cost to everything.
- You’re not your competition: You have your own goals, strengths, and ambitions. Know who your competition is, but act like you’re in the field by yourself. Price for your target market, not your competitor’s market.
- Family: Your business isn’t your most important relationship. Fit in your family and friends because you know they’re vital. They give you relaxation, laughter, closeness, and comfort.
- Household Obligations: Don’t forget to account for childcare, dog walkers, and cleaning.
- Patch holes: Think about “mates rates” and freebies. You want to help your friends and have fun, but are they putting you into loss? Check the numbers.
- Develop a network: It doesn’t have to be something formal or scary, and it’s better if the people are local so you can meet up. As well as opening doors with business opportunities and advice, human interaction stops you from closing in on yourself.
- Get help when you need it: In a workplace, there’s an abundance of skills and resources to call upon. In your own business, it can feel like you’re stuck all by yourself. You’ve got limited funds and too many obligations, but you can’t do it all yourself. Outsource when you need to because some of the things your business needs are a necessity, not a luxury.
- You always have a choice: You can change suppliers, products, and website copy. You can change almost everything in your business. Be strategic with your decisions, but know they’re not set in stone.
- Choose your mentors carefully: Ask for help by understanding what you need. It’s easy to hire a compelling marketing guru without realizing what you really need is sharper clarity on your product and customer.
- Know yourself: Know who you are, where you are, and what you want. Plan your steps in stages. You’re going to have lows as well as highs, and so include contingency plans where you can, with people to help you with them.
The Business Mindset Combines Work and Play: It’s All Living
Running your own business gives you a satisfaction you can’t get from anywhere else.
What’s the mindset of being an entrepreneur? It’s simply an ordinary mind that’s been trained not to leave success to chance.
To think like a business owner, there are six critical business mindsets to work on:
- Work with strategy
- Be pro-active about personal development
- Power up your motivation
- Change your relationship with failure
- Know your numbers
- Show up every day like you mean it
You’ve learned how to create resources that add grip and direction to your tightrope. No more feeling your way along in the dark, hoping that what you’re doing will lead to something better.
You have the confidence to thrash out your own winning strategy because you know you can think like a business owner. It might take practice but you’ll feel yourself develop and fit into the role.
You can do it! Take your new business mindset and go and do justice to that primal urge for independence and self-sufficiency beating inside you.