Tips for Staying Motivated in Your Small Businesses

By Jennifer Craig | November 16, 2012

Three Women Business Owners Share Their Obstacles and Triumphs

As an observer by nature, I am always amazed at how individuals operate within a variety of settings and circumstances. One of the most fascinating topics to me has been motivation. I have seen people, who were driven by success or responsibility, push themselves and their families to the point of exhaustion, and wondered if they felt the results were worth it.

Naturally, if you live long enough, you get the chance to see just about everything. I know that I am old enough to have witnessed how my, my daughter’s, and now my grandchildren’s generations, differ in their motivation. Naturally, we are motivated differently. In my youth, our life styles were not the same as my grand children’s. I was more motivated by money and what it could buy, simply because my parents grew up during the Depression and were conservative in spending.

I hear employers complain about their workforce not being motivated and I naturally ask what motivates their workers. Usually, the clients look at me blankly; answering glibly, “nothing”; they shrug; or make assumptions. Their reactions cause me to offer my “free” speech about self-worth and how it is important to know what motivates others so they, the business owner, can be a better manager. It is not always well received, but the facts are true. If an employer dangles a 25-cent- to a dollar-an-hour raise over someone’s head who is not motivated by money, but instead by “time off,” the effort is wasted.

Since I feel motivation is something of great value, I am interested in finding out what motivates business owners and how they stay motivated.

Over the past 17 years, many women-owned businesses have especially intrigued me regarding “What motivates them.” I have watched women arrive at 4 a.m. to bake bread and stay until 11:30 p.m. to clean floors (small business owners wear many hats). I have seen clients, week after week struggle to balance their business (paying bills, working late, and marketing during their off hours) with their family lives (often being threatened with divorce from their spouses).

Naturally it seemed reasonable to ask a few business owners about motivation, hoping that their answers would be of interest to our WESST Blog readers.

1. In general, what motivates you?

Jackye Meinecke, owner of Enchanted Gardens (in business for over 15 years) said she is not motivated by money. “I’m motivated by having control over my own time and decisions,” Jackye admits, “In the Briggs-Meyers test, my rating fell way off the grid. I hate supervision, but I love to produce or complete a project.”

Marilyn Mayse, owner of Mountain States Escrow (over 25 years) and a new business named Crazy Maizy’s Fabulous Popcorn Factory (for a year), said she is motivated by money and the potential of creating something that will make money.

Diane Barrett, Diane’s Restaurant (over 16 years), said, “My family and knowing that I am responsible for what I have created (in the business); having a successful business and being proud of it.”

2. How do you stay motivated when the economy is down (or when any other obstacle occurs in your life)?

Jackye says, “I remind myself that if I don’t succeed at this business, I’ll have to go back to work for someone else! I choose to look at this economy and other bumps as challenges. I just have to work smarter, run leaner, think better, educate myself more, and make connections – and so on – to succeed.”

A side note here to explain about Jackye’s approach to “challenges”. This woman operates a seasonal business in one of the poorest states in the nation (aside from this nation’s recent economy dip). She has weathered a partner loss in the business, two major moves (one of which was not of her choice, but a change in landlords), and singly paying off large debt (incurred by herself and her business partner). She is a survivor who takes her role as a business owner seriously and is constantly educating and transforming herself as well as her business to stay ahead of trends.

Marilyn responded by saying she, “focuses on a goal, prepares a plan to reach that goal,” and she moves forward. Marilyn is the type of woman who never stops to rest, for fear of getting bogged down. If she isn’t networking and marketing 90 percent of the time, she feels she isn’t producing. However, both businesses are successful so she has proven these methods work well for her.

Diane said that she has been fortunate not to have too many personal obstacles in recent years. However, the economy can keep her up nights so she decided it is best to get a good bookkeeper or accountant and let them do the worrying, that way she can get a good night’s sleep – able then to work hard for the dollars needed in paying taxes, payroll, rent, etc.

3. What causes your motivation to be zapped?

According to Marilyn, she gets zapped when she has “multiple distractions over which” she has no control.

Since Jackye volunteers for many outside projects, she recognizes that, “I’m overwhelmed with deadlines. I spend all my time on other projects and too little time hanging in the garden, cuddling my cats, and reading popcorn mysteries.” She admits she needs to set priorities and block out schedules to control her time. Another zapper according to Jackye is “Too much negativity and too little time alone.”

Diane said that dealing with a thief, liar or greed (in people). These are distractions she does not need. Working in a competitive industry and juggling many roles takes its toll on Diane. She likes to keep her head clear and focused.

4. What seems to be your biggest obstacle (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.)?

Small businesses face obstacles daily from staff problems to customer complaints, balancing family with business issues, time constraints, financial concerns, and burnout. However, Jackye was stumped by this question. Yet, her friends recognize the fact that she takes on fostering kittens, helping women in business, banging into things in and outside of her building (remember, she has a physical business), and marketing for all of her customers’; hers and other peoples’ projects. I find it interesting that she didn’t’ recognize any of those things as her biggest obstacle.

The biggest obstacles that Marilyn faces, she says are, “difficulties in finding answers to technical questions or dealing with technology, which I have little knowledge or understanding, and the lack of funds to finance or purchase services and/or equipment to solve the problem.”

Diane said, “I can be my own biggest obstacle – believing in me and that I am a deserving person can get in the way.”

5. How do you overcome that obstacle?

Marilyn says, “I consult with a recommended expert in the field, get an estimate of costs to fix a problem, or sometimes I have to wait until funds are available to engage work.”

Something for people to understand is that Marilyn is always balancing herself between two businesses with equally challenging issues, but completely different. A new business always requires more nurturing than an older business, but both demand the owner’s touch to succeed.

Diane said she has to look at her career – how she has helped others succeed, what she has created (accomplished from the beginning to present) and maintained (when times were tough). Those thoughts help to keep her on track.

6. Give an example of your triumphs in regards to your motivation.

“Being able to take trips” (something that she could never do before), Jackye says, “I’m very stingy with myself. I plow everything back into the business.” Yet her longevity in Enchanted Gardens, her ability to keep debt paid off (in a retail business), and good employees have afforded her the opportunity to get away from the grind occasionally to enjoy life.

Usually it takes a new business a few years to have a huge triumph, but this year, Marilyn was invited to present her products at the 2012 Sports Emmy Awards in New York City. That was extremely motivating to her. Based on a product recommendation and her website, she participated in an event beside long-standing competitors.

Diane started her business in a rural town (population less than 15,000) with only $5,000. Over the past 16 years, she has expanded three times, restructured and opened a second location. She employs over 40 people in a bad economy and has sales beyond six figures. She said she has learned to prioritize, save her energy (using it well), and staying focused. She also hasn’t been afraid to take chances.

7. What do you do to help others to be motivated?

When asking three separate people with totally different businesses the same question, it was interesting to hear similar responses. Marilyn said, “I show enthusiasm for others’ ideas and projects, helping them in any way possible and as a role model (when necessary).” For example, she has taken her staff on exotic trips, assisted other women as a mentor, and worked on committees to help women achieve success.

Jackye said, “I share some joy and enthusiasm, reminding them of their successes and what they are doing right.” Jackye has been a mentor to women in the community as well, sponsored community activities and has been a speaker at numerous events. She says she rewards her employees with what is most important to them.

Diane said that she has learned that praise (sincerely given) works wonders because people know they are appreciated for a job well done. Diane has given to the community, been available to women who needed assistance and advice, and she has often hired individuals that other businesses would not – hoping to give them a better chance.

8. Do you ever deal with total burnout?

“In the beginning of this recession and earlier when the business was dealing with financial issues, I felt burned out,” Jackye admits.

Marilyn said she doesn’t totally burnout even though she has had a lot of fires to put out!

Diane said when things get tough, she tries to get away for a few days to avoid burnout. Her sons and staff are able to run things without her.

9. How do you overcome it or work toward getting back on track?

In dealing with burnout issues, Marilyn says, “When one aspect of the business begins to tire me, I divert my attention to another that requires creativity. That’s one of the things I like about being an entrepreneur.”

When dealing with financial issues (a burnout for most) from my past, Jackye said, “Every day I had to decide whether I would continue or begin the process for quitting.” Since quitting was not an option for her, she said, “I just kept working at better understanding the numbers of my business” – what worked and what didn’t. In doing so, she came through the fire triumphantly and has a solid appreciation of what it takes to stay on track.

I remember where I came from and where I am, Diane said. She knows what she has built is worth the effort and she finds a new project to develop.

10. What would make it easier for you to stay motivated?

“Higher monetary compensation (more money),” Marilyn says with a laugh (something she does a lot to balance in her life). She is certainly one person who does not take life too seriously. She sticks to her guns, perfects what needs to be perfected, offers an excellent work environment for employees (at both locations), provides outstanding products and services to customers, and expects hard work and laughter in the workplace.

“In a perfect world, we could all stay motivated,” Jackye says. However, “In my perfect world, the cash flow would cover the myriad expenses with some to spare. I would have a regular income and savings – all that cool financially security stuff.” Yet, Jackye admits that “the world is truly not perfect. Money and cash flow (aside), I still have control of my day, my priorities, and my business.” She admits to being a control freak of sorts but that’s what motivates her and keeps her happy.

In essence, these three women are high-energy, A-personalities. They are driven to create something of value to the world (so to speak). So it is easy to see that their motivation is spurred by interest, passion, and their expected results. What interests them may not interest the next person.

Motivation is internal and is something each person has to kindle themselves, business owners (as well as others) need to decide what motivates them and be true to it. Since the human race only has one life to live and that (according to the scientific world) is about 75 years, it is important to live life to the fullest. The first 18 years are spent growing up. That only leaves 57 years to develop a career, marry, have children, build a business, retire, or do the things that will make you happy.

All of the women in this article are examples of a growing majority in our society (women-owned businesses). They approach things differently or the same and they work hard to achieve what is meaningful to them. Individually they know what motivates them each day to rise, dress, work, and contribute to society.

What motivates you as an entrepreneur? Please share your tips for staying motivated in with our readers by leaving a comment below.

About the Author

Jennifer Craig

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