Each stage of the business cycle – from developing and launching your business, to growing or expanding it and even winding it down – brings unique and ongoing challenges. And despite all the hours, cash and effort you pour into your business, there’s always the chance that it won’t make the distance. 

To survive and thrive as a business owner, you need more than just good ideas and good luck. One of the most important qualities required is resilience. Defined as the ability to adapt to change, get over setbacks and continue despite adversity, resilience has become a buzzword of late. And that’s no surprise, given its importance in helping people manage all aspects of their lives.

What creates resilience?

Some key characteristics that make up a resilient personality include:

  • Being realistic and keeping a positive outlook
  • The ability to form bonds with people and create psychological safety
  • A strong acceptance of reality
  • Robust values that help you create meaning out of life – especially in difficult circumstances 
  • The ability to improvise

Some of us are born more resilient than others. But the good news is, resilience can be developed. Here are seven ways that can help build resilience – overcoming inevitable tough times and creating a stronger business as a result.

1. Plan, plan, plan

As part of its longitudinal study of Australian businesses, the Australian Centre for Business Growth (ACBG) spoke to a number of CEOs about why their business failed¹.  One of the key reasons cited was lack of planning – especially regarding the direction of their business.

Whatever stage your business is at, make sure you know where you want it to go. What are your goals – and how are you going to get there? 

Your business plan should include clearly defined goals and the strategy you will use to achieve them. Refer to your plan regularly and revise it as you learn, so it’s a practical tool that grows with your business.

2. Prepare for every possibility

Surprisingly, unbridled optimism may be a hindrance to building resilience. That’s because a too-rosy view of the future can to lead to unrealistic expectations – ultimately causing you to lose heart during continued tough times.

A positive outlook can be helpful, but it must be grounded in reality – and that includes preparing for adversity. So consider the following about your business:

  • Do you have an up-to-date risk assessment and a strong risk mitigation plan? 
  • What’s your plan if your business has a cybersecurity breach? 
  • Do you have the right type and amount of insurance?

3. Be flexible

You’ve just set up a new business, and a formidable competitor arrives on the scene with enough resources to muscle in on your piece of the market. Rather than throwing up your hands in despair, being flexible could turn things around. For example, this could be the chance to find out the gaps in their offering and come up with ways to service the part of the market that your competitor isn’t reaching.

4. Polish up your people skills

Managing staff, clients or suppliers can impact on your resilience. While you can’t change other people, you can work on yourself and the way you react to others. Establish good boundaries with people and focus on solutions. 

5. Get support

Whether it’s a formal mentoring relationship, a LinkedIn group of peers or regular networking events, having support is critical – especially if you’re a sole trader or the lone decision-maker. And don’t forget to delegate tasks that you don’t like doing, aren’t good at or that are time-consuming and low value, if possible. Over time, it’s likely to save you money and grief.

6. Take time for yourself each day

It’s easy to think you’ve just got too much to do to take care of yourself. But even a short walk in the park or on the beach, 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation or a couple of early nights can work wonders. Be sure to put aside time for personal relationships and non-work activities that you enjoy.

7. Take care of yourself 

In his article The Dark Side of Resilience, peak performance researcher Dr Adam Fraser points out that too much resilience can lead to burnout and poor self-care². So if you’re facing ongoing stress, don’t be afraid to treat yourself with kindness and compassion, and take time out to recover when you can. 

Things you should know

1. Australian Centre for Business Growth, Five Reasons Companies Fail, 16 October 2018
2. Dr Adam Fraser, The Dark Side of Resilience, 15 April 2019

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as financial product advice. Taxation considerations are general and based on present taxation laws and may be subject to change. You should seek independent, professional tax advice before making any decision based on this information.