The key to this for me is being forced into it. There is always stress in small business and by just doing small business I have had to confront it and deal with it.
If I was faced with the things the business currently faces (three years old, high overheads, large tax bills, unreliable suppliers etc.) in the start up days, I do not think I would have handled it and would have quit years ago. But as the business grows and the pressure does, gradually you adjust and deal with it.
On the flip side things that caused me to lose sleep in the start up days are a walk in the park now. We even find ourselves laughing at the things that almost pushed us over the edge back then. One story in particular always resurfaces when we discuss the issue of stress management with anyone.
The first Christmas we encountered as GDL Automotive Services would have only been a few months after starting up so our cash reserve was very low as was our client base. Something I have always insisted on at GDL is sending out Christmas cards to clients and suppliers. So many weeks before Christmas our custom cards were designed and a bulk order made for about two hundred cards. They arrived some time later and we were happy with them.
At the time we were still working from my parents place and my Mum owned a very old black cat she named Mr Cat. In its last year or so it started to lose its mind and mixed up any cardboard box with its litter box. One particular day the box it chose was our Christmas card order that now stunk of cat piss and stained all the cards.
I was furious as we were now getting close to the date we planned to send them and a rush order from the printers came with extra costs that we felt we could not afford (nowadays I rush orders of ten thousand flyers, just for some perspective). Somehow we came up with the money and the important marketing tool that is Christmas cards still happened. But on that day a little black cat nearly ruined Christmas.
The cat has since died and we have grown and are now dealing with much greater issues but this funny little story helps remind us that back then a bit of cat piss was the worst thing that could have ever happened to us and my little world came crashing down for a day. Years down the track, we have faced much greater things, but the little cat helped us learn to cope with whatever gets thrown our way.