How to regain your motivation as a small business owner

It's inevitable that your motivation levels will take a hit at some point near the beginning of your business journey. Grainne Kelly gives some top tips for regaining your work mojo.

Since setting up BubbleBum in 2009, I have experienced some great business highs – such as successfully breaking into a new market, winning awards and reading happy customer reviews. However there have been testing times like when the first factory I had commissioned to manufactured the prototype let me down in so many ways. It was a big testing point in my business – I could have given up but have been determined and realise obstacles are there to make you stronger and learn valuable lessons. Looking back, I realise that it was good that it happened as in truth that factory would never have been able to handle all the orders that quickly came in.

Don’t let your inner worries affect your team

If you are managing a team, being lacklustre about the business can be demotivating. It’s your responsibility to pick yourself up if you are the boss. If you are feeling down or angry about a challenging work issue be careful to ensure your mood does not affect any of your staff. My office is a glass box so the team can see my reaction to everything. I am always conscious of how I come across and what I say to the team. We always talk about what we want rather than what we don’t want or our fears. This change of mindset is the easiest way to motivate even a team member who struggles to be positive. Negative talk and feelings are kept at bay when you talk about the outcome that you want. Sometimes a change of scenery can work wonders; take time out of the office for at least an hour and go for a long walk where you are surrounded by nature and away from the hustle and bustle.

Call people who understand your situation

Be aware that your close friends or a partner may be great for chatting through certain personal issues but may not get the ‘work’ issues if they don’t have the experience of running their own business. It is difficult to share your business goals with someone who doesn’t fully understand. I make a point to contact the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Alumni group as we have all had shared experiences and committed to helping each other where we can. Look to create or reach out to a group of mentors for different needs. Sometimes you need someone to give you a motivational boost, sometimes you need a rude awakening and sometimes you need help to find an answer to a specific problem. If you can build a group of mentors, with at least one being in your industry (but non-competing), you will always have an ear to bend.

Don’t lose the vision of why you are doing this

Take time out to remind yourself why you set up the business and keep the a vision of where you see the business going front of mind. It’s not just about the ££, it’s about being passionate even when it is hard graft and at times it will be! Your enthusiasm will also be infectious amongst others in your team – who will also respond better and produce better results!

Share one piece of good news

Make sure your team are continually feeling motivated. You can look at regular away days but back in the office at our morning meetings before we discuss specific work issues, we all share one piece of good news – it doesn’t have to be work related. Sometimes finding good news is motivational in itself and it sets the right tone for the meeting. Occasionally we may have some serious topics to discuss and the outcome is not always what we would like it to be, but by starting the meeting on a positive note the time spent is more productive. Using accusational language is damaging to the team so avoid apportioning blame to staff either in public or private staff meetings. It is far better to help the team be more resilient and support each other in similar circumstances in the future.

Never stop learning valuable lessons

Finally don’t be too hard on yourself if you lose a customer or client or things didn’t go quite to plan. Learn, learn and learn has always been my motto – it’s from valuable lessons we get things right and see new, and often, greater opportunities.

Grainne Kelly is CEO of BubbleBum

Further reading on business advice

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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