Stress is a normal part of running or starting a fashion company, but what’s even more important about acknowledging and recognizing stress is to really start to talk about how we manage it and what to do with it.
Today I want to talk a little bit about some tools and techniques that could be useful for you coming straight from what I use and how I’ve been applying these techniques into my life to reframe it. These days we hear so much about work-life balance. As an entrepreneur, there really is no such thing – whether you’re starting a fashion company or a tech startup. You can’t have a balance when everything is everything. There is no delineation between downtime and work time because really, ultimately, it’s a pleasure to have a business. And while it can be stressful and there’s so much going on, it is really a gift. Those of you who are running your businesses, it’s very important that you start to reframe your psychology around what it means to be a business owner.
Let’s unpack and dive into a few key areas…
One of the things I like to do when something stresses me out is to ask myself, “Is there an easy way out of this?” Meaning can I take the road that is going to be the one of least resistance, that’s going to be the easiest, and where I’m still going to get great results? Sometimes I think that when I get emails or I get posed with problems and it can really spiral out into something uncontrollable, I have to pause and say, “How can I make this easy for myself? Do I really need to be the one to do it? Can someone else do it? What exactly is going on here?” And I start to separate myself from that thing that caused me stress in the first place.
In conjunction with that, you also want to ask yourself, “Is this stress that I’m imposing on myself or is this something that’s coming from someone else?” Chances are most of the time it is stress coming from you. When I started running the company, I remember saying to myself, “Everything is on my back. I need to make sure everyone gets paid. I need to make sure we’re doing all this marketing. I need to get out there. I need to be speaking.” Everything rested on me. So I certainly then would take so much stress on knowing that I had to be the workhorse in order to drive everything. That can be a really comfortable place and you may find yourself in the same spot after your first year of starting a fashion company.
In fact, the hell you know is sometimes better than the one you don’t know. And if you’re used to doing all the work and taking everything on, it can be difficult to know what it feels like to not be doing all those things. That’s exactly what I want you to start to think about. What is the stress that you are taking on yourself that you can actually minimize, that you can schedule, that you can parcel out in a way that still allows you to be effective while still getting it done?
If it’s stress coming from someone else or someone else has issues, remember it’s all a projection. It’s everyone else’s BS that comes to you and that is something that I have to remember on a daily basis. I have chosen to put myself in a very high-sensitive and high-touch space where I’m constantly dealing with people’s emotions and feelings around money, around hiring, around strategy, around really the live-and-die moment of their businesses. Because I’ve chosen to put myself there, I have to be willing to weather the storm of everyone’s emotions, all of their freak outs, and all of their successes. Trust me, if I went along with the ride with all of my different clients, I would not be rock solid, I would not be objective, and I wouldn’t be able to be the strength that they need. So what does that take? That takes me reminding myself, “Hey, this is their stress”. This is not my stress. So those are some things that are very important to keep in mind.
Next, it’s time to reinterpret procrastination. Sometimes it might just be the way you work. There are certainly golden rules and tried-and-true strategies for running or starting a fashion company, but we all work in unique ways. For me, I know there are certain projects that I need to give myself a ton of time on to do, and then there are other projects that I can actually bop out overnight. So for me, I’ve had to learn to understand that, hey, just because I don’t do things the way other people think I should do things, doesn’t mean that I’m not optimizing and doing them in the best way for me. It doesn’t mean that my output isn’t strong. It doesn’t mean that I can’t produce great work. And if I understand what projects I can hold off on or what projects I need more time with, I can better manage my time. Which means that I will feel less stressed because I will have more confidence in my approach. Just take procrastination out of your vocabulary. To be honest, you know how you work the best. Whatever that is, that’s what it is. Don’t worry about how other people choose to define it and interpret it.
Expectations include how other people think you should be performing, expectations on what it is you think (i.e. I need to be performing like this person or I need to be like that person). You need to start to understand that expectations from other people are simply just opportunities for mental limitations. You need to be judging and looking at yourself from the perspective of what you truly want. You need to be making decisions and managing your stress in ways that allow you to reach your highest peak performance regardless of how other people choose to express their own ways of performing.
One of the things that I find to be really frustrating sometimes – and boy, can I be a victim of this – is reading a whole lot of books on how to do things. How do I spend more time doing acts? Or how do I shortcut this thing? Or how do I manage my time better? I’m sure all of you read The 4-Hour Workweek. I was like, “This is amazing.” However, as you know, if you’re running a fashion company, there’s no such thing as a four-hour work week. It just doesn’t exist. Stop trying to do things the easy way and try things on for size and see how it applies. You’re never going to find just one book that has all the answers. There’s never going to be one guru or one mentor that’s going to be able to teach you everything. You’re going to pick and choose things that work for you. Try them on for size. See how it mentally feels to accept the way you work, to do things the way you need to, and to manage your time in the best way you can for yourself.
These are just a little bit of the things that help me and things I do on a regular basis to stay on top of stress. It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed and underpaid as an entrepreneur at the end of the day… to ultimately ask yourself, “What am I doing this for?” But you love it, it’s a passion. This is your moment. If you can take the stress out of it, you can enjoy it and be so much more productive in your day to day.
As you start to build your business and corporate culture, make sure you check out our blog post on building company culture. It’s really important that you start to distill all of these different things into things you can enact within your company and small corporation. Personally, internally at the Scaling Retail family, we believe nothing should be stressful so that when things that are stressful come up, we can actually jump to it. It allows us to have a more relaxed and light mental framework during the day to day, knowing that because we haven’t been taxing ourselves daily when things do come to us, boom, we can hop to it. So think about what the mental frameworks are and the ways in which you can start to instill your company culture.
Lastly, check out our download: “The Scaling Retail CEO Toolkit”. These are favorite tools of mine that I have amassed over the years, and techniques and mindset strategies that can really help you optimize your performance – whether you’re scaling up or you’re just embarking on your journey of starting a fashion company. Remember, there’s not one resource that’s a one-size-fits-all approach. So I imagine you’ll take, hopefully, a few of these things after you’ve tried them on for size and take it forward, and hopefully repay it forward to some other CEO that needs this advice just as much as you do and just as much as I did once upon a time ago.