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Run your business with your head and your heart

Last year, my friend Leslie won the Today Show “Next Big Thing” contest (kinda like a mini Shark Tank). It was all very exciting, culminating in a spot on QVC where she sold out within seconds. While this is a big boon for her business, it’s a bigger testament to her ability to conquer her fears. Though she didn’t know it, her road to the Today Show started the day she decided to figure out why she was never able to take her products to the next level. And as it turns out, the answer wasn’t found in an Excel spreadsheet. It came from introspection. She realized she was holding onto a lot of anxietypersonally that was stopping her forward momentumprofessionally. With that revelation, she decided to acknowledge her fears and act anyway. And now she’s a big ole TV star with an equally large waitlist to fill.

Her story is proof of something I’ve been noticing for awhile. We’ve all heard someone say that so-and-so has a head for business. Well, I think we’ve been focused on the wrong vital organ. Most of us can be taught to have business smarts, the real question is: do we have the heart?

I try to get this across during my consultations with aspiring entrepreneurs. They always want to talk wholesale prices, collection size and retail strategies, and we do. But I also challenge them to think about whether launching a label is the right move for them because, let’s face it, business, and entrepreneurship for sure, can be rough and tumble. Not everyone can deal with the ups and downs, the uncertainty or the financial stakes. You have to be the right type of person, and, more importantly, you have to have a handle on your emotional baggage.

As businesspeople, we are just that, people. So while we’d all like to think we check our emotions at the office door, the opposite couldn’t be more true. Our emotions motivate our actions, especially if we’re not even aware of the connection between the two. That last time your business off track? That may have been you stumbling over your emotional baggage.

Now I’m no psychologist (And full disclosure: I slept through most of Psych 101. Don’t judge!), but it’s become clear that the things that hold us back (or propel us forward) with our companies are also the things that are the deepest seeded with us personally. For instance, why is production always late? Maybe it’s because you’re still trying to iron out your supply chain—or maybe you procrastinate because deep down you’re afraid of success. Sound farfetched? It’s not really. Fear of success is real, and it can manifest in many ways. As does fear of failure. If you think about it, fear makes a lot more of our decisions than we’d like to admit.

But the good news is we don’t have to be lead around by our insecurities. The first step is acknowledging what they are. No, this won’t make them disappear but I think Leslie would agree that if we know what they are, we can recognize when they’re leading us astray and compensate accordingly.

While exploring those things that trigger our fears is definitely scary territory, in the end, we’re likely to find we’re a lot more brave than we think

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