Business Warfare: When Emotional Terrorism Takes Over Your Business
Now that I've been in the trenches of my business for almost 5 years it's hard to imagine a time where I wasn't trying to "protect the flag". By "flag" I mean an unbalanced mix of personal lines quotes, Starbucks coffee cups strewn about a desk, and an inability to ever get to inbox zero.
This is my battleground. My War Zone if you will.
Regardless of the amount of time I spent in the insurance space prior to opening my agency (9 years prior in the producer/captive space) there was nothing that could have prepared me for becoming the waiter, owner, and chief spoon washer in my own business. If you are familiar with my work (it's no Netflix special but I'm working on that) you know that I believe to my core that being a business owner is not sexy. Do me a favor, google image search business owner. I'll wait...
What I saw when I opened this was a display of adorable hard-work looking people who are living their best life (I realize I overuse this phrase but I also have teenage daughters and sometimes I use their phrases to make myself feel cool- so just allow it). Do you see anyone in that display of business owners crying? Nope- how bad for google image search would that be? Do you see any of them in gym clothes with 8 day unwashed hair (I'm not ready to talk about it)? No. Not even for a teaser photo. The point is being a business owner is 2 % of the time sexy and the other 98 % of the time it's questioning whether or not you have enough dry shampoo in your gym bag or if you just need to succumb to the Bruins hat you have now worn for 6 days in a row.
In my experience as a member of the entrepreneur club, it is not our ability to complain about how crappy business is that gets us to the top right? It's not our ability to air our dirty laundry to the world so that we can actually get the help we need without going bananas. It's our responsibility to say cliché words like Hustle (yuck) Grind (forgive me forever using this one), or dare I say it? #bossbabe
We have been taught by a glaring world of social media and lack of communication that it is not in our best interest to talk about our or strains in the business space. It is not socially acceptable to talk about how your business almost imploded because you didn't have the mental health you needed to run on all axis. I said it, and I am addressing it. The one thing no business owner should ever talk about, the struggle with mental health that is breaking you and your business.
I researched for days about what was wrong with me, why I had been so motivated for so long to go so hard in my business and then all of a sudden woke up one day checked out. I found countless articles about how to reduce stress in the workplace for your employees, how to look for signs of depression or anxiety, or even how to create the environment that is going to help "cure" mental health issues in the workplace (#Bless).
The point is there was a ton of information about how a business owner can help their people, but who is going to help the business owner. Who is going to help Captain Crazy as her ship is trying to reach maximum speeds while dragging an anchor behind her?
After finding a few things here and there I knew I had found a void. And ladies and gentlemen... I hate VOIDS (my 4 year old just said "we don't say hate"). The price of neglect to yourself as a business owner is much too high to sit back and watch you implode your own company. And some of you might be reading this and say " Nah E I'm good". Others might be reading this article of mine for the first time and think "this chick has lost it and there is no need for vulnerability about mental health in the workplace". Wherever you are in this minute, just know there is no wrong or right answer. There is just this 34-year-old (drinking a Skinny Cinnamon Dulce Latte with Almond Milk- millennial) who can tell you
"I've been here. I am here now. And I will continue to be here until business owners start making it a priority to discuss how little we take care of ourselves in our own companies".
So how do we battle the emotional terrorism that is happening within our businesses?
We Run! Kidding... (insert adorable side smirk emoji here)
Baby Sharkkk.. Do do do DO NOT
If you've read any publication I've ever written then you know that I am a mama to 4. No I didn't mistype, yes I own a television, and yes they drive me nuts and bless my life all at the same time (that should cover the typical questions). They also are the 4 people who stood in between me and working 80 hours a week. Messed up comment? Absolutely. Did I mean it at the time? Without question. I was failing miserably in the one arena that I had no idea how to succeed in. Everyone else always did it so much better.
If there was a "filter" for being a Mom I would have used that proudly on the dozen a day basis. But alas... no Mom filter for real life. So I created my new norm. And hear me, I'm not saying it's cool to be neglectful ok? So let's be real clear before Jason Cass turns me into social services. I am going to tell you that I get it. And this is how I handled it.
It is 100% acceptable to not volunteer in your kid's classrooms, it is 100% ok to not be a member of the school's PTO, and it is 100% without certainty acceptable to give your child a Lunchable. Let me say it again for the people in the back...
My kids have eaten Lunchables. Maybe not today but this week? Hell yes. Does it make me a bad mom? No! They are loved beyond belief. Not one time have any of my kids complained to me about their bonus Oreo in their lunch. Mom didn't think twice about the 1,988 preservatives in the pre-packaged time-saving BEAST that is a Lunchable.
5 things I do on a weekly basis to keep a semi-strong Mom game:
- Group Text- My two oldest are living in the digital world and I am a digital girl. Group text saves my life. Mostly because it kills two teenagers with one stone and also allows us to send gif's. #gifgamestrong
- Dinner- I have one hard rule. One that is a challenge to keep together when volleyball schedules interject, after school functions, friends, work, dates, etc. A family that stuffs their faces together is forced to see each other for at least that time every day. *Notice how I didn't say stays together*. The reason is because I get it. I get that 50's style sit around the table doesn't work for everyone. Find your version of consistency and run with it.
- Cozi App- Let me declare it loud and proud. I SUCK at scheduling. Imagine the worst person in your life at scheduling... multiply them by 10 times and throw some CrossFit shoes on them and you have ME. In my household we run two households. That's right this hot mess express recently went through a divorce that for all intents and purposes actually brought my family closer together. So we use the COZI app. I am blessed to have an understanding co-parent in that my mind is in 198 places at all times so this allows me to shorten the list. If you are like me in any way shape or form and run on E with the light on (proudly) then this app is for you.
- Transparency- I have been criticized at times for how honest I am with my kids. I'm not saying that telling your kids about your cycle schedule (although three women in the same house always makes that interesting) is the way to go but I am saying that I have struggles. I am emotional, I bring work home with me, and I 100% tell my kids if I'm struggling. Don't throw up your horrible client at them by any means, but don't also create a curtain that makes them think everything is always rainbows in the business owner world. It's like social media. When you put a ton of "make-up" or filters on it you are creating the illusion that life is flawless. How are your kids supposed to flourish if they think they can't struggle or have off days because you don't? Show them.
- Spontaneity- This one is tough for me. I'm the woman who always says no when people ask me to throw off my schedule... and I'm working on it. My kids know that they aren't allowed to call me during the workday to ask me to change our nightly plans but other than that- everything is fair game. I've started trying to take impromptu trips to the library when we can fit it in, the park when it's not 116 degrees outside, and even more extreme things like going to dinner on a school night (WHAT?! Who am I?).
It is completely natural to have the outside stresses of being a parent while trying to combine them with the already hard task of being a business owner. Compartmentalize the parental part and don't beat yourself on both sides of that spectrum. If you have unique ways of preventing your Crazy Train of parent life from bleeding into the business, let me know. I love to learn and am pretty sure I'm at least doing 87% of it incorrect (insert awkward smiley face emoji here).
I'm not Crazy You're Crazy
Alright, I'm a little crazy. But that's a relative term, right? My level of crazy being a business owner is truly that I allow the overwhelming amount of task work to supersede the creative mind that has actually made me successful.
When I started in this business owner gig there wasn't anything out there that prepared me for the emotional torment it would eventually have on me. The burnout. There was no handbook that led me through what self-care for the business owner looked like (oooo a future book shall we?). So I struggled. I struggled with anxiety and depression.
This is the part where we have that weird awkward moment of am I oversharing or just the perfect amount? And in my world, my biggest wish as a business owner was that someone came to me and said something along the lines of "Get out of your own way." So I am going to have that mini-coaching session with myself right now and hopefully help the 1 person out there who was like me in month 3 thinking WTF did I just do.
- Breathe- Sounds dumb really. Like I just rolled up out of a motivational speaker caravan and am now the end all be all of breathing workshops. But seriously... breathe. Time that ish'
- Get a hold of your budget- There is this Victorian Era quote that I love to use and I will share it now. Money does not fix depression but I'd rather cry in my Matte Black AUDI . Get a hold of your money. I was the queen of "OMG I have no money". This would send me into a panic about how much money I didn't have etc., when really what I just needed to do was put pen to paper and see where the money was going. It would have saved me tears, years, and a whole lot of beers friends. Run it lean and smart.
- Get help- Above all else. Seek out help. My version of help ended up being a therapist. A therapist who specialized in female business owners. She was and will always be the reason I am able to even discuss the struggles I had and have with anxiety and depression. It's amazing how no one wants to talk about it. Your version of help might be a coach. It also might be a mentor in the form of a book. Whatever it is, get help. You are not above it. I am not above it and let's talk about it.
- Get physically healthy- I promise you I don't care what your version of health looks like. Maybe it's kicking back a big gulp from 7- Eleven on the daily and dubbing that your own version of #self-care. Whatever it is- be healthy. You can't run an empire folks without your health. I neglected that for years. Opening the business, finishing out my baby-making career, and working from home crushed my health and therefore my mental health. I'm not saying you need to sign up for a CrossFit Competition and join the protein monthly shipment plan (although such a great money saver) but I am saying that in order to keep your business healthy you have to get your body and your mind right. Take it from Captain Crazy here- she knows.
I have about 1,987 more things I would say to myself but my recommendation would be to focus on these three things and with a natural work ethic (obviously you are a business owner I don't need to explain why work ethic matters right?). I can't stress enough that it is normal to have the crazy set in. It is normal to fight demons because you are exhausted and unsure. You are not the first person to have to deal with this. And you for sure won't be the last. Maybe by normalizing the conversation we can combat it together instead of pretending like it doesn't exist.
The Highly Functioning Depressive
If I didn't own my business I would have been fired.
Let that sink in. In year 2 I was heading down a slope quickly of personal exhaustion, growing too fast and not spending enough time to put processes in place, and pretending on every avenue of social media that I had it together. Which is actually ironic because it wasn't until I started being honest about my struggles that I was worth paying attention to (who knew).
In the business of insurance you absolutely can be fired by a client. Let me rephrase- you will be fired by a client. Those all too humbling phone calls of cancellation that make you feel really good about yourself... ah yes. Those.
But have you ever been fired by a friend and referral source? Have you been told that you aren't cutting it for them anymore because you aren't organized, you don't do what you say you are going to do, you operate as Freddy Fast Feet because you are just go go go. Of course, you aren't doing it on purpose but it's happening.
So depression sets in. No one sees it because you don't allow anyone to. You blame everything and everyone else because it's easier than accepting the one truth of you need to slow down. Sounds simple right? But it's the entrepreneur goal isn't it? To be creative and to function highly so we can have no ceiling when it comes to our security and income. The problem with the entrepreneur dream is that we forget about our mental health through the process.
In year 2 I had booked 8 speaking engagements. I had just signed up to blog for a large publication in our space consistently (because I wanted to make an IMPACT so no one else had to go through it alone), I was getting ready to be at the final end of my marriage and I was a highly functioning depressive. This is as real as it gets. I had everything happening for me yet my largest referral source called me and so boldly told me that he could no longer work with me because I was single-handedly imploding my own business. And get this.
So as mentioned above, I got help. The point of me telling you this is that we all too often feel the effects when we are having to act in a reactive state. For someone who has depression or anxiety, it hits you like a ton of bricks when you are having to react to something instead of just simply taking a breath and giving yourself the #businessselflove you deserve.
Regardless of the size of your business. Whether you are a producer, an agency owner, or someone who is trying to make this incredible industry grow. Or shoot, maybe you aren't even in insurance and it repulses you to think that you are giving your money to a company and may never need to actually use your insurance (had to). It is our responsibility to remember our brains. To have the conversation no one wants to talk about and the emotional terrorism that is happening outside our agencies that is completely normal to let into our agencies. I want to see the heartbeat of your agency. I want to see the struggle and the pain before I read any kind of motivational quote- all.day. And that is coming from a girl who has 47 motivational quote Pinterest Boards.
I want to feel like I'm not alone, and I am here telling you that you are not alone. I don't have anything figured out yet, but I do know this. Part of the reason I am able to talk about this today is because I was at a point where I was so bare that I had no choice but to battle the emotional turmoil I was going through. So this is where that stops. Let's have the conversation and help Captain Crazy lift that anchor. Lord knows...it's heavy.