If your business is struggling, it’s absolutely essential to manage your mindset. When things get tough, it’s really easy to enter a downward mental spiral.

You start thinking about all the circumstances that brought you to where you are. You second guess yourself, wondering whether you would be in a better place if you acted differently. You begin to doubt your abilities and whether you can ever succeed. The more you engage in these thoughts, the worse you’ll feel.

As you work to stabilize and turn around your business, it’s important to maintain a positive mindset. Now, to be clear, this doesn’t mean that you pretend everything is okay or bury your head in the sand. It means that you maintain faith in your ability to bring about positive outcomes.

A positive mindset also means that you are resolved to not give up. Keep striving to improve things and bring your business to a place of health.

If you’re struggling to maintain a positive mindset, remember that almost every great business leader has endured struggles similar to yours:

  • Thomas Edison failed thousands of times before he was able to develop a fully functioning lightbulb.
  • Apple almost collapsed under bankruptcy when Steve Jobs was president.
  • Bill Gates’ first business was a complete and total failure.
  • Henry Ford’s first automobile business went bankrupt within a year.

In spite of all these difficulties, these individuals experienced great success. Why? Because they persevered and were incredibly resilient.

Steve Jobs said:

Im convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance. It is so hard and you pour so much of your life into this thing, there are such rough moments in time that most people give up. And I don’t blame them, it’s really tough.

If you want your business to succeed, you need mental toughness. You must be able to persevere in the face of difficulty and keep going even when things look bleak.

Follow these steps to overcome a negative mindset:

  1. Pay attention. It’s easy to let negative thoughts swirl in your mind without putting up a fight. If you’re going to overcome these thoughts, you must be aware of what you’re thinking. You need to be able to identify unhelpful mental patterns as they occur.
  2. As negative thoughts arise, question them. Is what you’re thinking really true? Most likely, it isn’t. Mentally push back.
  3. After you’ve questioned and answered your negative thoughts, begin to silence them. Avoid letting the same thoughts steal your mental energy. You know they’re not true, so shut them down at the start.
    Imagine that you have a remote and that you can mute your inner critic with the touch of a button.
  4. As you shut down your inner critic, fill the silence with positive, helpful dialogue. Regularly remind yourself that you are strong, are able to overcome challenges, and are growing in the midst of difficulty.

As you push through problems and challenges, remember why you got into business in the first place.

What big problem were you passionate about solving? What motivated you to take the risk of starting a business instead of playing it safe and taking a corporate job?

Seek to tap into the emotions and desires that originally pushed you to create your business. They can be the driving force that helps you make tough decisions and get things back on track.

Before you can identify a solution, it’s important to first clarify the problem. Why is your business struggling in the first place? If you don’t have clarity on the specific challenge you’re facing, you won’t know what steps to take to save your business.

Take some time to think about how you got to where you currently are. What happened that you didn’t anticipate? What things went wrong?

Some common problems businesses face are:

  1. Market changes. Economic factors, new technology, emerging competition, and many other things can cause the market to change. Survival requires the ability to adapt to changes as they happen.
  2. Failure to understand the target customer or market. If people aren’t interested in your product or service, there’s a good chance you don’t understand your customers or market. Dig deep to understand what people truly want and what motivates them to buy.
  3. Poor pricing strategy. If your prices don’t match the customer demand, you simply won’t sell much. It’s crucial to understand what customers are willing to pay, as well as where your product sits in relation to your competitors.
  4. Insufficient funds. Not having enough money on hand will quickly tank your business. You must pay close attention to cash flow, financing, sales, and more.
  5. Too much growth. Growth is a good thing except when there’s too much of it. If your business grows too fast, you might not be able to keep up with demand.

Identifying key problems within your business can be a painful exercise. No one likes to be reminded of ways they’ve failed. But if you want your business to thrive during challenging times, you must be able to put your finger on the primary problems.

If you’re feeling sick and go to the doctor, what’s the first thing they try to do? Determine what is causing the illness. Only then can the doctor prescribe the proper treatment. If the doctor has you start taking random medications in the hope that one will work, you likely won’t get any better.

The same principle is true in business. You must identify the cause of the problems before you can determine the proper solution. The sooner you identify the problems, the better.

As Jim Collins wrote in Too Mighty To Fall:

I’ve come to see institutional decline like a staged disease: harder to detect but easier to cure in the early stages, easier to detect but harder to cure in the later stages. An institution can look strong on the outside but already be sick on the inside…

Small Business Survival Guide to be continued with Part 2: Focus On Your Customers