The Guilty Business Owner

What is guilt? In this context we are talking about the following definition; “a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offence, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.”

Just as all parents have their personal version of the perfect parent, all business owners have an image, or even a real life role model, of business owner perfection. The gap between their idea of perfection and their perceived performance is their “wrong”, and it triggers their guilt.

Next time you are at a business networking event, listen to the words that people are using. You will find that most sentences include “should”. These are some examples I have recently heard; “I should do more networking”, “I should work more hours.” “Should I spend more time on Facebook?” “I shouldn’t spend so much time on Facebook”. Every time you hear the word “should” you are hearing the guilty cry of someone feeling that they are not performing to their perception of business owner role perfection.

Perhaps you have recognised that you fall into the Guilty Business Owner category too. Don’t worry, it’s all going to be ok. Before we go on with a few tips to help you feel less guilty, lets discuss whether feeling ‘guilty’ is actually a problem for you and your business.

Like a child, a business is hungry for attention; more hours, more goodies, more money. To coin a phrase- “a business owner’s work is never done”. It is normal to be overwhelmed at the thought of never being able to meet the demands of a business, and for many business owners this induces paralysis and they begin to feel helpless and hopeless. Some withdraw their time and attention and the business fails. Other ‘guilty’ business owners are stubborn and they desperately throw their time and money at their business, looking for ways to assuage their guilt. The results include exhaustion, of all their resources, and bitterness. Statistics tell that 40% of businesses have “failed” by the 3rd year. I bet that the majority of those businesses had guilty owners.

It isn’t smart, positive or useful to be a ‘guilty’ business owner. And it isn’t fun. Like a child, your business will flourish when you are happy, positive, forgiving and loving. Here are some tips to help you. And don’t feel guilty if you don’t apply any of them! If you have read this far into the article you will already be a little more aware of the negative impacts of guilt, and that little bit of added self-awareness will help.

Tip No. 1 The Guilt Dial
Imagine a dial (like the rev counter in your car) where the red zone on the right is guilty stress and the bigger green zone on left and centre is relaxed ease. When you feel yourself feeling guilty and veering into the red zone, turn the imaginary knob on the imaginary dial gently to the left while breathing deeply until the indicator is comfortably in the green. You will feel calmer and less guilty.

Tip No. 2 Stop “Shoulding” on Yourself
Pretend that “should” is a really nasty swear word. Be very aware of when you say it, and try not to unless it is absolutely necessary. Try “could” instead. It returns the choice and power to you. When “could” is in a sentence there is a subliminal “if I wanted to.” “I could do more networking, (if I wanted to).”

Tip No. 3 Please Yourself First
It’s your business, remember? If you don’t want to do something, don’t. Say “No” and that’s fine. Look for the “Wow” factor. Is this action going to make you happy either directly or indirectly? Does it feel right for you? If not then don’t do it. If unsure walk away and think about it.

Tip No. 4 Forgive Yourself
The most precious resource your business has is you; a confident, happy, positive you. In order to grow your business you are going to take action that will, occasionally, not work out. If you don’t try you won’t know. Apparently Thomas Edison tried over 10,000 tests in order to create the light bulb. Thank goodness. Would you be nasty to a child that is learning to walk? Or to someone learning to drive? No. And yet we speak so cruelly to our inner selves if something we try does not work out. Be gentle on yourself, everything is going to be ok.

Tip No. 5 Say Thank You
Every so often, at least once a day, take a moment to be thankful for everything in your business that is going well. Remember to show appreciation, not only to others, but to yourself too. The ‘guilt free’ business owner knows that if she appreciates herself then others will appreciate her too.

Owning a business is exciting, scary and challenging enough without adding guilt into the mix, I hope you find these tips useful in easing your business day.

Sue Vizard. Fresh Start expert and Author of “Jump Start” The Start Up Book for your Dream Business (£12.99 Panoma Press). To find out more visit