The Unwritten Rules of Business Behaviour

If I had a fiver for every time a dear friend or relly has told me how brave I am to have started my own small business, the income column on my cashflow spreadsheet would be looking pretty damn hefty. Of course, having the backing of family and friends is nothing short of stupendous, and this middle-aged media mum certainly couldn’t manage without it. But I dunno, brave? Bravery has been in pretty short supply at Word Up this week and I sure as hell haven’t been feeling much like Princess Merida.

Because business start-up is tremendously taxing, and I’m not talking HMRC. And these last few days have been especially choppy on the stormy seas of start-up. In fact, right from the start of setting up my own small business I have been careering about like a madwoman on the BURST scale (BUsiness Rollercoaster Severe Terror).  The stomach lurching heebie-jeebies are interspersed with spells of exhilarating euphoria and bouts of I Can Believe I Can Fly world-beating determination. In between times however, bravery is often in somewhat short supply, and there are long spells of self-doubt. But the Unwritten Rules of Business Behaviour don’t seem to allow for spells of self-doubt, let alone holy terror.

There seems to be an unwritten acceptance that in business you just don’t talk truthfully about how hard it can be, how scared you are, how overwhelming it all is, how worried you are that you’ll be able to pay the mortgage. Heaven forfend you would ever blurt out that some days you just want to curl up in a corner and have a right good greet.

Emotional self-censorship plays a big part too – even if you’re down in the dumps and riddled with regrets, you MUST NOT wallow down there for long because in business it’s Not Allowed. After all, you’ve got a spreadsheet to finish, clients to find, a meeting to go to, a smile to plaster on, deals to strike and a blog to write…

Yes, the consensus of business behaviour seems to be one of shiny, happy, uber-confident people primed for smooth professional self-promotion. Or at least that’s what it seems like.

But I’m 100% sure, even when I’m in the middle of my own weekly wobbles, that all this relentless positivity, rictus grinning and competitive business boasting is mostly just performance. It’s all part and parcel of the public face of enterprise and entrepreneurship, some kind of unwritten code which demands positive spin no matter how you’re really feeling. After all, business is only for tough nuts – isn’t it?

Well, just at the point where I was about to curl up in the corner for a good greet, I heard from three, yes THREE, bold business buddies who all spoke up about their own hopes, and fears, for the future. They all bared their souls, and said it how it really is. They exposed their soft centres willingly, and I wept, with relief. How brilliant not to be alone with my anxieties in these early stages, and how heart-warming and soul enriching that others don’t necessarily want to play by the Unwritten Rule Book either.

And we all agreed, even if starting a small business is terrifying at times, we CAN do it, especially when we’ve got friends who can lend an ear, pick us up, dust us down, and dry our eyes before sending us back into the fray to fight another day. Now that’s what I call brave.