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Stay motivated when running your business

If things are going well and you are enjoying running your business, you should naturally feel motivated. But what happens when things start to go wrong or the pressure starts to mount? What should you do if your motivation levels lessen significantly?

Simon Kilpatrick

“Long hours; heavy workload; unhealthy work-life balance; feeling isolated; problems with staff, suppliers or customers; cash flow worries; poor sales; personal problems - all of these things and more can de-motivate small-business owners,” explains business psychologist Simon Kilpatrick, CEO of Sheffield-based Intrinsic Links, which helps small businesses to build productive teams and keep them motivated.

Kilpatrick defines motivation as “factors that make us behave in a certain way or encourage us to try to achieve goals”. Some are intrinsic/internal, such as enjoying a task or job satisfaction, while others are extrinsic/external (“performed to gain rewards, commonly, pay”). Most people are driven by both, says Kilpatrick (“we enjoy our jobs or aspects of our work, while needing to earn money to live”).

Motivating factors

If running your business is mostly interesting and enjoyable, you should be more intrinsically motivated, Kilpatrick adds. “And if you have a supportive team you should be motivated to work with them to drive the business forward, and they should be motivated to work with you, too.”

Other factors that can affect your motivation levels include your beliefs and values, your resilience and your general levels of health and well-being. “If you have a healthy diet, get enough sleep, take some exercise, take time to relax and enough time off from your business, you should be happier and more motivated to achieve your goals. If your life-style is unhealthier, this may make lower your mood lower and motivation.”

Our motivation levels can fluctuate, whether hour-to-hour, day-to-day or week-to-week, this is normal, says Kilpatrick. “Some people have higher motivation levels on a Monday after being off for the weekend, while others feel more motivated on other days. Motivation levels can be higher in the mornings, afternoons or evenings - people are different.

“Even the weather or time of year can affect our mood and motivation. Owners usually feel extremely motivated when starting their own business, which can decrease over time, although motivation levels increase for others as their business grows, it depends.”

Key dangers

If your motivation dips significantly and stays that way, it can damage your business’s productivity, efficiency, sales and profitability, as well as the productivity and morale of others who work with you. Kilpatrick adds: “Feeling de-motivated and getting less done can increase your stress or anxiety levels, and even make you feel depressed, which can affect your personal relationships inside and outside the business.

“It can also become a vicious cycle: as you become more de-motivated, you become less happy and productive; which de-motivates your further, and so on. The tell-tale signs of being highly de-motivated include: continually avoiding certain tasks; being constantly irritable or moody; a serious decline in the quality of your work or output; taking random days off or being less punctual.”

Re-motivate yourself

If you seriously lack motivation and don’t take time to understand why, so you can make changes, you may never properly regain your motivation. “And that could have serious implications for you, your business, your customers and staff,” Kilpatrick warns.

To re-motivate yourself, first you must better understand why you’re de-motivated, Kilpatrick advises, only then can you address the causes and regain your motivation. “Are you working too hard or not earning enough? Maybe you don’t feel your contribution is recognised? Your working environment could be de-motivating you and others? Ask yourself what is sapping your motivation and how can you change things?”

Reminding yourself of your goals can re-energise you, says Kilpatrick. “You might need to set new goals for you and your business, to provide new direction and purpose. Maybe you need to pay yourself more or give yourself a better work-life balance. Perhaps you could outsource certain tasks or give more responsibility to others, freeing you up to focus on things you enjoy or areas where you can contribute more value to your business.”

Food for thought

Mark Hodges and his wife Laura have owned and run The Tollgate pub and restaurant in the Wiltshire village of Holt since 2012. “Shortage of good kitchen staff is an issue for us at the moment. There’s massive shortage of commis chefs in the hospitality trade,” he reveals.

Hodges says long hours don’t diminish his motivation. “I’m used to it,” he smiles. “Days can be long, but as long as we’re busy, I enjoy it. Quiet times are a different issue, but, thankfully, they’re rare. Rising costs are another big challenge for hospitality businesses like mine.”

What about rude customers? “I don’t let them affect how I feel,” Hodges replies. “And mostly we get excellent online reviews, but the odd nasty, undeserved ones do annoy me. We’ve had them from people who’ve never actually set foot in our restaurant.”

Customer focus

Although Hodges says he never becomes de-motivated. “I enjoy what I do. I’m motivated by love for my work and the fact I run my own business. Obviously, we have to make enough to keep the business going and pay wages for my staff and myself, but I’m also motivated by wanting to achieve good things and make customers happy.

“You can’t be downbeat when you work in hospitality and come into contact with customers, you must be positive, warm and friendly. Customers come here to enjoy a few drinks and a lovely meal, not to look at staff with miserable faces.”

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