I’m on a mission to change the conversation around business money stuff, and that starts with removing the shame we have about money. I talk to business owners every day and there is a single issue that seems universal. They are filled with shame when there is a money mistake or money misstep. Business owners are okay if a marketing promo doesn’t have the expected return, or if there is a product that didn’t sell. But the moment you ask about or learn about a money thing the willingness to learn from a business decision turns into an attitude of self-blame and shame. We tend to marinate in the emotion of shame about money stuff, and it is blocking us as entrepreneurs.
Research professor and shame expert, Brene Brown, talks about how shame works,“The less you talk about it, the more you got it. Shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgment.” And boy are we ever secretive and silent about the money stuff. We don’t want to talk about it or admit that perhaps we don’t know how to manage some things around money. There is almost a universally accepted attitude that money stuff should never see the light of day, and that it is not okay to talk about.
Before I go further, I want to tell you that I get it. Mike and I had severe money management issues in our first business, and I didn’t want to tell anyone or admit I needed help. We just needed to make more money, and we’d be fine. Sound familiar?
Well, you can only, “out earn your mistakes” for a short time. It will catch up with you eventually, and in the current Covid-19 situation around the globe, many business owners are being caught up to. I’m no longer quiet about my money mistakes.
They are on my website, and I talk about them freely. Because I don’t want to have shame anymore about money and how my mistakes affect running my business. In reality, it’s a chance to grow and learn and become better. But shame proliferates. Here are three effects of shame on entrepreneurs that contribute to stress, relationship issues and ultimately business failure.
1. Many business owners have shame around things they did not even know to do.
Entrepreneurs, like people in general sometimes “should” all over themselves. Like, “I should have” had an emergency fund, or “I shouldn’t have ordered that additional thing.” Both of those things may be true, but once these types of things are done, they are done. Feeling shameful around our decisions blocks us from growing and learning.
I want to say for the record right now that business money management is not intuitive.
Managing cashflow when people pay you late isn’t a skill that you magically gain when you open a business. We don’t call and ask for an extension on a bill because as business owners we should be successful and able to pay everything on time, right? It doesn’t always work that way. Shame is preventing us from getting the help we need, from putting processes in place, from not taking it personally when money stuff hits us in business. It needs to stop. It is hurting entrepreneurs. For my e-book, Three Steps to Protect Your Business Income, with advice and tips for your business money visit here.
2. Shame stops people from getting the help they need.
“I should already know what to do, I’m just not doing it,” is a refrain I’ve heard enough to make me scream. People think because they may “know” something that they don’t deserve help or support to integrate what they need to do into their systems. And it’s the feeling of shame surrounding what we expect from ourselves. We own a business; we need to do it all- perfectly. Bunk. So many business owners are in their passion project, without a passion for the business side or the money stuff. They excel at their core business, but not the “other stuff.” This doesn’t make them poor business owners, or failures, or whatever other negative description you can give. It means that they know and flourish in their zone of genius.
Those business owners can and should get support in the rest of the business stuff. It’s smart and protects their livelihood. But many don’t, until they get into trouble. Because they don’t want to admit they don’t know. Maybe they can’t read a profit and loss report from their accountant, so what, but they think they should. Maybe they don’t really understand the roles of the financial experts of accountants, bookkeepers, and payroll specialists, and their role in protecting the bottom line. But they don’t ask about these things because, “I ought to know, I’m in business.” Not so. The help you need is available, you can reach out and get support on things that aren’t your passion. And you should.
3. Shame makes business issues personal, and traps entrepreneurs.
I think one of the most devastating things about shame and money is that we turn business cycles and events into our own personal money failures. We don’t know how to ride the cycles of business and to even plan for how businesses work. They are dynamic. Many small businesses have irregular or inconsistent income months. Many have cycles of feast and famine in their earnings, particularly in the beginning. But this can happen really at any time. The current Covid-19 situation is causing income insecurity that is preventing many people from spending money at the rate they did even a month ago. This will impact some businesses. At the core, there must be a buyer of your goods and services.
But one of the first places we look when there are business money things is at ourselves. Maybe we did make a mistake. But we refuse to think that there is a learning curve in business. There may be some shame around some decisions, and those feelings of shame continue to hold us in a cycle of personal feelings of failure. In those feelings we cannot solve problems creatively, seek help and support, and put systems in place to protect the business and prevent future issues.
So, how do we fix it? We talk about it. All of it. We take the advice of Brene Brown, “Here’s the bottom line: “Shame cannot survive being spoken,” Brown says. “It cannot survive empathy.”