Six Simple Steps To Perfecting Your Business-Owner Mindset

First in a five-part series

As a 19-year entrepreneur, I can tell you that creating a business that endures is the hardest thing anyone can do. It's frustrating. It’s lonely. It’s always on you. It’s about making tough decisions. It has moments of great disappointment. And, did I say it’s lonely?

But it’s also been the best part of my career journey. I wouldn’t redo these 19 years for anything. I didn't plan on starting my own business. I went into it kicking and screaming, but in the end I learned that with some amazing support I was able to work through fear and learn how to minimize my own sabotaging behavior long enough to build a thriving distributorship. So I promise you, if you’re in this position too, it is possible to create something special and work through whatever limitations and self-doubt you might experience in the process.

There are things I’ve done right over the years, and some I’ve done less right. If I could have a do-over, one of the things I would redo is to have wasted less time overthinking things. Overthinking stops momentum and makes you question your motives, direction and goals. I’m not suggesting you be impulsive, but let’s agree that there is a fine line between the two. Find the line that works for you.

I would also have learned to fire rude and unreasonable clients earlier in our working relationship. No entrepreneur can please everyone every time—it’s a losing proposition. I did everything I could to get business except sell my soul. You need to know what your non-negotiables are so you can feel good when you say ‘no’ to a situation that will make you feel inadequate, undervalued or used.

And, I would have taken a more risks. Whenever I said ‘yes’ to a project that I didn't know how I was going to execute, I ended up learning something new or connecting with someone new. And 99 percent of the time it was a rewarding experience: A new supplier. A new way to manage cash flow. A new product that I could market to more of my clients. Entrepreneurs simply do not have the luxury of playing it safe all the time. Find your own risk level and explore options.

I worked hard to build an independent promotional products business that billed $1 million in its second year and almost $2 million in year four. And, I'm proud of that success. I had to address challenges every day; some in my business, and some in my family. I had to face some fear or another and do it anyway. There was no choice. Failure was not an option. And, once I realized that I was on a journey, the struggles became a lot easier to work through.

So, how did I do it? And, how have other successful entrepreneurs done it? There are some definite differences between being an entrepreneur and being an employee. And, some of these differences start with decisions you make every day before you even get out of bed. The first decision you choose every day is to work your business to the best of your ability. Or not. Another decision is to be the entrepreneur you set out to be. Or not. And yet another, to be the business owner that is in control and leads your business to the results you want to achieve. Or not.

How do you do that? How do you flip that mental switch? Below I offer six simple suggestions to help you prepare your mind for business, and prepare your business for success.

1. First thing in the morning remind yourself that you are a business owner.

It’s a simple thought, to be sure, but incredibly effective. Being a business owner gets you into a decision-making mode that allows you to evaluate actions more rationally. You want to feel confident that you are capable of doing whatever you need to do to run your business with excellence, including finding the right resources to make something happen that you know you cannot do yourself. Remind yourself that there is always at least one solution to every problem. You want to take control of your business mind and be committed to doing what you have to do to get the results you want to get. Be patient, persistent, tenacious and open to compromise. Think creatively. Think solutions.

2. As soon as you get to your workspace, get your day in order. Create a list, or whatever you use to manage tasks, and identify the things that must, should and can be done. Make the list as simple or detailed as works for you. Color-code activities if that helps. Think about the activities you have to do to operate your business, but also think about things that help you grow your business. If you never plan to work on your business you will be doomed to working in your business, and it will feel like a job.

3. Estimate how long each task should take. You’ll find that you may have a lot of things on your list, which can overwhelm a business owner. When you write down an estimated time for each task you’ll see that some activities may only take a few minutes to complete. And, make sure you schedule time for last-minute issues. Most business owners schedule their days so tightly that there is no time for unexpected opportunities or problem solving. Finally, schedule time each day for self-care. Exercise, meditate, write in your journal—do anything that lets you free your mind.

4. Look at your list and choose at least one task to focus on first. Some time management experts say start with the biggest task. Some say complete smaller tasks so you can feel the satisfaction of crossing things off your list. Do what works for you. Then, commit the estimated time necessary to complete the task. And, get started!

Organizational management is a construct of time, but it’s not time itself. Remember that you can only manage priorities. You cannot manage time. Understanding what you do helps you see what’s really important to you. Note the things you’re not doing. Chances are they’re a weak link in your organizational management and something of which you want to be aware.

5. It’s important to realize where you are in the process as an entrepreneur, as a business owner, and as the manager of a project. Learn to celebrate your successes no matter how small. Instead of focusing on the weak links (which is different than being able to identify them), work at making your strong skills stronger.

6. Stop asking for, and listening to, other people’s opinions about how you should run your business. Unless you’ve hired them as a consultant or a coach, unless they have a specific expertise and you've asked their opinion, run your own business. Be open to learning, be involved in your industry, but take the information you gain and use it to make your own decisions. Be accountable to your business.

Being a business owner will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. Take advantage of simple steps like preparing your mind for business and your business for the task at hand, and you will find that these simple considerations make your entrepreneurial journey simpler and more fulfilling.

Watch for Part 2 of this series on branding your company in the December issue of PPB.

Abigail Tiefenthaler is the founder of Aiken, South Carolina-based distributor Sweetspot Strategies, Inc. She is passionate about helping entrepreneurs run the business they really want to run. With 30-plus years of business experience, including 15 years in corporate America working in a variety of marketing capacities, and 19 years running an award-winning promotional products business that put her in the top five percent of the industry, Tiefenthaler understands how critical it is to play full out, and use marketing for the heavy lifting it is designed to do. Her goal is simple: simplify the marketing process and eliminate confusion. Reach her at