The Anxiety of Growing a Successful Business



Yesterday I met Steve, my business coach, for the first time. Even though we’ve been working together for almost four years now, we’ve never met. It took some getting used to actually being in the same room. He’s over six feet, I’m… not. Looking at him look at me as we talk instead of yacking blindly on the phone was funny-weird and funny-haha. We kept cracking up the first twenty minutes.

Thank God he is very relaxed with himself, casual, and laughs easily. Over the years as we have both grown our businesses, Steve has become a good friend, almost a member of the family. In no time at all we had our heads to the grind stone plotting world domination.

Let me explain this business thing. A professional practice is a service business. We are in the business of providing a service. To survive as a business to continue serving is part of our responsibility. It seems easier to see the business side to things when it comes to lawyers’ firms or medical practices. Behavioral health practices are a bit different, partly because of the professionals involved and the kind of service we provide.

People who choose psychology, social work and other behavioral health occupations tend to have warm hearts and thin skins. That’s what makes us good at being empathic therapists. As a species, though, it doesn’t make us terrific business people.

There are exceptions. Fortunately for me I come from a long line of entrepreneurs (Arg! I can never spell that word without spellcheck correcting me!). Creating and growing a business is in my blood. My maternal grandfather had a very successful dental practice. My paternal grandfather was a gentleman farmer with holdings in beef cattle and coffee that he traded with Europe. My mother created a cottage industry with her hand-made crafts before Etsy, or the Internet for that matter, was a twinkle in anyone’s eye. Three out of the five kids in my family own businesses. My husband has a growing biotech company. My father was the sole proprietor of his psychotherapy practice.

But I don’t want my Dad’s practice. I want something completely different.

So here I am with a solid psychotherapy practice that I love and I now want to grow to the next level. That’s when I get anxious. Having Steve to bounce ideas off of and set me straight regarding my fears is priceless. He encourages me to be creative about growth. Organic vs linear. Turtle slow and steady can still be compatible with strategic.

But first I need to create a vision of what it is I want to achieve, where am I going, what does the destination look like? Do I want to keep things small and contained or larger and spread out? Maintain control or hire people to delegate to? That kind of thing. There are no right or wrong answers. When anxiety creeps up, instead of letting it freeze me out, I ask myself, what is that about? What is the fear masking? The answer rarely has to do with business.

The fear usually springs up when my ambition comes into conflict with that old core belief: “I’m not good enough.” Am I too old? Am I smart enough? Will people still like me if my business grows?

I kinda doubt Donald Trump struggles with any of this.

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