Steve Reid, Director at the Centre for Entrepreneurship at False Bay College, recently launched his first book, Entreprenacity: Developing true grit as an entrepreneur. With over 10 years’ experience in leading 2 incubators and working with a broad range of entrepreneurs, Steve Reid captures their journeys and shares nuggets and tools for aspiring business owners. It aims to help those needing incubation and coaching, and provides advice on pitching to investors, and helps focus on the growth and entrepreneurial mindset.
“Entreprenacity is a source book of tools, inspiration, practical advice, lessons and context for any entrepreneur to reach into when they encounter a particular issue or concern. Where most books on entrepreneurship are based on American examples, what I found most useful here was the extent to which the stories and experiences are South African,” says Allon Raiz, Founder and CEO of Raizcorp, a leading Business Incubator in South Africa.
Below an extract from Entreprenacity:
Chapter 12: Resilience
What is resilience? It’s the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; it’s mental and emotional toughness. It’s the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; it’s elasticity. It’s the mental reservoir of strength that people are able to call on in times of need to carry them through without falling apart.
Dealing with change or loss is an inevitable part of life. At some point, everyone experiences setbacks of varying degrees. Some of these challenges might be relatively minor (missing a train or bus ride), while others are impactful on a much larger scale (think about recent fires in Hout Bay/Knysna).
Why is it important?
According to Dr Russ Newman, a holistic doctor of preventive medicine, ‘research has shown that resilience is not an extraordinary thing, but is rather ordinary and can be learned by most anyone.’ Psychological resilience does not involve any specific set of behaviours or actions, but can vary dramatically from one person to the next.
In the last 12 years, I have interacted with over 200 entrepreneurs, business owners and managers within public and private enterprises. Some of these were start-ups, while others had been running their own business or managing a role for quite some time. What I have noticed is that no-one is exempt from curve balls; challenges or constraints. No-one is exempt from the effects of stress; or from the need to be vigilant and perseverant. Sometimes success itself brings unusual stressors
I also noted that not all clients or beneficiaries responded equally to trying times. Some seemed to weather the inevitable storms in a far ‘cooler’ manner. Resilient people harness their strengths and skills differently in order to bounce back from persistent problems.
I have seen a variety of serious problems that came to entrepreneurs at the most inopportune times. From financial stress, to marital or relational challenges and even serious health challenges.
Some of these entrepreneurs did not become overwhelmed or swamped by the issue or challenge, exemplifying what Winston Churchill had said:
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
Is it possible to learn how to be resilient; to bounce back faster; to get up quickly after being knocked down with regularity? It appears so! There is a lot of research and reading material available on resilience and building resilience.
Here are five characteristics that I have seen and experienced. I trust they will encourage you.
- Grow a support network
Successful entrepreneurs were asked to what they attribute their success. They gave expected answers like ‘Seeing and taking opportunities’; ‘Gathering the resources to take on new opportunities’; and ‘managing the risks and fears associated with the new venture’. What was quite surprising was how they generally all acknowledged the role played by a strong supportive environment. Incubators, accelerators and business mentors or coaches can provide invaluable support, so be purposeful in building your own support network to include such resources where you can.
- Learn to manage emotions effectively
“We are all a little broken. But the last time I checked, broken crayons still colour the same.” Trent Shelton.
We are all subject to emotions and to situations that impact these emotions. We have different personalities and so we process and demonstrate emotions differently. Yet it is the emotionally stronger person who is able to bounce back faster because that person has learnt to process and manage their emotions, rather than to be managed and constrained by their emotions.
Emotional Intelligence (EI) measures our ability to perceive our own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, and to manage them in a productive and healthy way.
When facing crises or stressful situations, practice responding, rather than reacting. Reacting is an unconscious process where we experience an emotional trigger and behave in an unconscious way that expresses or relieves that emotion. Responding, however, is a conscious process that involves noticing how you feel, then deciding how you want to behave.
- Own your vision, purpose and goals
I have noticed that being passionate about your business and life, and having an unwavering commitment to personal growth appears to be a strong antidote to discouragement, anxiety and a host of other draining emotions that can shipwreck your dream. Entrepreneurs who have pushed through to three-, five- and 7-year milestones, all seem to display this focus and passion. They also know when they are ‘leaking’ and pull out the stops to attend to this.
“If you don’t like something, change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” Mary Engelbreit.
- Expose yourself mindfully to material and people that challenge you
I have tried to live by a maxim that I cited before in Chapter 6: “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” Charlie T. Jones.
In times of discouragement or of feeling overwhelmed, I have found very real help in the words of a good book, or in the conversation and presence of a mentor. At times, I needed to be challenged in my thinking and perspective, when I have begun to run out of options and a ‘solutions finding’ mentality. On occasion, the words I heard or read were not easy to embrace, but once I had got over myself, the shift happened, and I was grateful for the challenge they presented.
- Reframe failure and stress, and tap into past successes to face new challenges
Failure is going to happen. All entrepreneurs need to understand this. Clients are going to say No. The bank manager is going to say No. You will struggle for cash flow. You will struggle to make a profit. But, as an entrepreneur you need to be resilient.
Resilience is the ability to get knocked down 99 times and get up 100 times. Learn to fail forward; in other words, let the failure inform which mistakes you will not be making again. Let the failure help you to hone your skills as an entrepreneur. Get up, dust yourself off, and try again.
When facing a new challenge, or a persistent roadblock, one might be tempted to feel intimidated, fearful and unable to take on the challenge. A handy method to build confidence and resilience is to remind yourself of some of your past successes and how you managed to navigate the journey to achieve those successes.
It was our former president who expressed it this way: “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
For further thought:
- What example of resilience/perseverance do you admire? Why?
- Choose one of the five characteristics mentioned for building resilience. What commitment can you make to yourself to grow in this arena?
- Identify a network or source of encouragement for you. How can you incorporate this into the current routine of your life?