It’s time to address resiliency and mental wellness of entrepreneurs. By choosing a startup, entrepreneurs are choosing chaos. The results of what they are working on are unknown and unpredictable, complex, and risky. Even small changes in the starting conditions of a startup can lead to significantly different outcomes over time. Because this instability is being chosen, entrepreneurs need to have endurance and peace within them to see their vision fulfilled.
As an invited speaker, I traveled to the International Business Innovation Association conference in Detroit, Michigan, to share CIE’s best resiliency practices with the 1,000 conference attendees from 23 countries. When considering the thousands of entrepreneurs that I have known throughout my career, I have always put resilience as the #2 factor of success after grit. But since the pandemic, people are tired, and this is becoming even more important.
First things, first. What is “resilience” and why is it so important for entrepreneurs? Resilience refers to the ability to recover quickly from setbacks, adapt to change, and bounce back in the face of adversity. It is an essential characteristic for entrepreneurs because starting and running a business often involves facing numerous challenges, uncertainties, and failures. Here's why resilience is important for entrepreneurs:
- Overcoming Failure: Failure is an inherent part of entrepreneurship. Resilience enables entrepreneurs to learn from their failures, adapt their strategies, and persevere through setbacks. It helps them maintain a positive mindset, stay motivated, and continue pursuing their goals despite the inevitable obstacles and disappointments.
- Adapting to Change: The business landscape is dynamic, constantly evolving, and subject to unexpected changes. Resilient entrepreneurs are flexible and adaptable, able to adjust their plans and strategies in response to new market conditions, emerging trends, or disruptive technologies. They can quickly assess and seize new opportunities while navigating the uncertainties that change brings.
- Managing Stress and Uncertainty: Entrepreneurship can be a stressful journey filled with uncertainty. Resilience helps entrepreneurs manage the pressures, setbacks, and ambiguity that come with running a business. It enables them to maintain a sense of control, make sound decisions under pressure, and keep moving forward despite the challenges.
- Sustaining Motivation and Passion: Building a successful business requires long hours, hard work, and dedication. Resilience helps entrepreneurs sustain their motivation and passion for their vision. It allows them to stay focused on their goals, maintain a positive attitude, and find meaning and fulfillment in their work, even during difficult times.
- Inspiring and Leading Others: Entrepreneurs often need to inspire and lead their teams, investors, and stakeholders. Resilience serves as a model for others, demonstrating strength, determination, and the ability to overcome obstacles. It creates a positive and supportive environment, fostering a culture of resilience within the organization.
Resilience empowers entrepreneurs to face the challenges, uncertainties, and risks of starting and running a business. It enables them to persist in the face of adversity, adapt to change, and increase their chances of success.
Some of the programs shared that CIE has recently delivered:
- Intentional – Intentionally planning and working towards balance in your whole life (community, family, financial, health, intellectual, spiritual, and career) (delivered this program in January with Tim Howard, co-author of “The Mirror: 7 Steps to Reflect the Life You Want”)
- Helping founding teams understand their own self-awareness and the best ways to interact with one another through The Forte Institute (delivered in partnership with C.D. Hoop Morgan, author of “Communication Intelligence: Leverage Your Strengths and Optimize Every Interaction to Work Best with Others” and Jessica Wolfe)
- Startup EQ – A transformational cohort-based course to help entrepreneurs recognize and restore their energy, have healthy conversations, create sustainable cultures, and build resilient businesses (facilitated by June Gunter and Toula Ousouljoglou from Go-od Consulting; delivered in partnership with Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington (NEW) and the Thomas Hub at UNC Pembroke and with funding support from NC IDEA).
If you missed these programs, no worries! We will be holding more, and there are some strategies that can help in the meantime:
- Build a Support Network: Surround yourself with a supportive network of mentors, peers, advisors, and like-minded individuals who understand the entrepreneurial journey. Engage in networking events, join entrepreneurial communities, and seek out mentors who can provide guidance, perspective, and emotional support during challenging times.
Try: Attend 1 Million Cups Wilmington or a Wilmington Coalition event, or request a CIE Mentor team.
- Practice Self-Care: Don’t de-prioritize your own needs or your mental health. Taking care of your well-being is crucial for building resilience. Prioritize self-care activities such as exercise, proper nutrition, sufficient sleep, and stress management techniques like meditation or mindfulness. Taking breaks and engaging in hobbies or activities that bring joy and relaxation can also help recharge your energy and enhance resilience.
Try: Read The How of Happiness (by Sonja Lyubomirsky) to quickly identify strategies that would work best for you.
- Get your Blue Mind On: “Blue Mind” is a term associated with water-related peace. We are fortunate in the Wilmington region that we can be near, in, on, or under water easily, which has been scientifically proven to make people happier, healthier, and more creative.
Learn more: Read Blue Mind (by Wallace J. Nichols) for fascinating anecdotes and research about why people are connected to water and how that relates to resiliency.
- Cultivate a Growth Mindset: Adopting a growth mindset means viewing challenges and failures as opportunities for learning and growth rather than setbacks. Embrace a belief that skills and abilities can be developed through effort and experience. This mindset shift allows entrepreneurs to approach obstacles with a positive and adaptive attitude, enhancing their resilience. Practice gratitude also!
- Learn from Failure: Instead of dwelling on failure, view it as an opportunity for growth. Analyze what went wrong, extract the lessons learned, and apply those insights to future endeavors. Embrace failure as a steppingstone towards success, understanding that setbacks are often temporary and can lead to valuable insights and improvements.
- Set Realistic Expectations: Entrepreneurship can be a rollercoaster ride with ups and downs. Setting realistic expectations can help manage disappointments and setbacks. Understand that success never happens overnight, and that setbacks and challenges are part of the journey. By having a realistic outlook, you can maintain perspective, stay motivated, and persevere during challenging times.
- Seek Continuous Learning: Stay curious and committed to ongoing learning. Acquire new knowledge, skills, and insights through reading books, attending workshops, taking courses, or participating in industry events. Continuous learning helps entrepreneurs stay adaptable, innovative, and open to new ideas, enhancing their resilience in a rapidly changing business landscape.
By implementing these strategies, entrepreneurs can strengthen their resilience and better navigate the challenges and uncertainties that come with entrepreneurship. The payoff will be founders – and businesses – that last.
Despite the chaos associated with starting a business, it also offers opportunities for growth, creativity, and the potential for success. Entrepreneurs often thrive in such environments, embracing the challenges and leveraging chaos to their advantage by being adaptable, innovative, and resilient. Resiliency matters.
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Feedback or thoughts? Please comment below or connect with me!
Heather McWhorter, MS, PE, is the director of the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. CIE is a resource for high-impact start-ups and the early-stage business community to help diversify the local economy with innovative solutions. For more information, visit www.uncw.edu/cie.