Are You Stuck In A Mental Rut With Your Small Business? Learn How We Got Out

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Every entrepreneur has gone through it at least once. It’s not pleasant. It’s not fun. But things will go wrong and you will feel like quitting.

Especially early on when your business is fragile, it doesn’t take much to get yourself into a rut. It could be something as simple as dealing with an irate customer or losing a big deal or contract with a large account. Maybe the lack of profitability and frustration has finally caught up to you. Whatever it is, you are going to want to throw in the towel and you’ll have to dig deep to snap yourself out of it.

Our Story


Photo By oOOJasonOOo

With our online business, my wife and I fell into a deep rut a month after the launch of our business when no one was visiting our online store.

We had the merchandise ready. The website looked good. We were ready to process payments. But damn it! No one could find us online. We could’ve offered our products for free and still not have converted any sales because we just didn’t have the traffic.

As thoughts of shutting the store down went through my mind, I remember thinking to myself that our online store was just a bad idea to begin with. I remember having discussions with my wife about her going back to work and searching for day care for our child. Worst of all, I kept having visions of months and months of hard work going down the toilet.

It is difficult to put into words the anguish that my wife and I felt early on with our business. The closest analogy would be to imagine yourself working nights and weekends for months and months planning a big party only to have no guests show up.

In short, it sucked. But you know what? It was painful but we got through it. Looking back, I think the mental anguish was especially bad for us because we were unprepared. Like Kevin Costner in The Field Of Dreams, we built it and thought that they would come. But when they didn’t, we were in a state of shock. Here’s how we got through it.

We Developed Confidence In Ourselves

People who expect to be successful are more likely to succeed.
People who expect to fail are more likely to fail.
We live up to our expectations.
(Self-fulfilling Prophecies, Terry Bragg,

First of all, I want to thank Sid Savara for the above quote which I found while reading one of his excellent blog entries.

There is a lot of truth in Terry Bragg’s quote. Even though we were down, we kept telling ourselves that our store was well done and that there was a place for us in the market. We had confidence in our online store so we expected to succeed.

During that first month of no sales, we routinely visited our competitor’s websites to measure how our value proposition compared to theirs. And every time we performed this exercise, we would come away feeling better about ourselves. Our store was competitive, unique and no other store offered the same diverse array of products and content.

Confidence is crucial, but it is also important to make sure that there is a basis for your confidence. You can’t just tell yourself that you are better than everyone else. You need to prove it to yourself through research and competitive analysis.

Whenever we visited our competitors’ websites and found a feature that we lacked, we went back to the drawing board to see if we could add that feature ourselves. Over time, we refined our site until we felt good about our chances and that became the basis for our bravado.

We Maintained Alternative Sources Of Income

When you are running a business, the last thing you want to be is desperate. You never want to feel like money is tight and you don’t want to place yourself in a position where the lack of money can force you into making a drastic decision.

That is why it is so crucial to maintain an alternate source of income while you are starting your business. It’s tough but you can always find the time. My wife and I both held full time jobs working 9-6:30pm. We would come home, eat dinner and then work from 8-12am on most nights of the week. We also worked on weekends as well. If you have the energy and motivation, keep your day job until you are ready to quit.

Why is this important for your online business? By maintaining a constant inflow of cash, you can afford to keep the business running indefinitely even though you are losing money.

Having this cushion is crucial in order to make sane decisions regarding your business. If we were in a situation where money was tight and we had to chose whether to maintain the business or pay the rent, we definitely would have closed up shop. Keeping our full time jobs provided us with an unlimited runway for our business to take off.

We Talked To People Who Had Been There Before

When things aren’t going well and you’ve exhausted all of your ideas, get help as soon as you can. During our dark period, we confided in our friends that had experience with running online businesses. Whenever we questioned ourselves, we gave them a call and they reassured us that everything was going to be ok.

It is always helpful to run through a play a play with someone who has experience. Perhaps your business is slow because you’ve made some mistakes. Perhaps, you are doing something fundamentally wrong. Don’t be shy and let things drag on. Find someone who can help you out to make sure you are on the right track.

If anyone is trying to open an online store, feel free to contact me with any questions you may have. Use me as a resource if you have to and I’ll try and help you out.

We Were Patient

If you’ve done the analysis, the due diligence and your business execution is fundamentally sound, it is just a matter of time until business will start to pick up.

We didn’t get our first sale until a month had gone by. But that first sale gave us an enormous amount of confidence. Hell, I even remember the customer’s name and exactly what he ordered. Troy of Texas, if you are out there reading this, thank you for that first sale!

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?

If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

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34 thoughts on “Are You Stuck In A Mental Rut With Your Small Business? Learn How We Got Out”

  1. It’s great to see that everybody out there suffers from insecurity and frustration; it helps you know you’re not alone. While building my business, I found the best thing to do was, as you’ve said here, to look at those who were already successful and why they were. I tried to learn from the best, while still maintaining my unique skill set. Luckily, I have found great success, but it did take a while. On top of that, it’s good to keep in mind that there are peaks and valleys. There will be times that are a bit slower than others. But, as you build your business, you will find it gets much easier to ride those slower times out.

    1. @Scott
      Yep, everyone is insecure and frustrated every once in a while and it’s good to let everyone know it. When I read other people’s success stories, I rarely hear about the hard times but it’s the hard times that interest me the most. Would love to hear some of your stories sometime Scott.

  2. I think patience is one of the most important personal attributes in running a business.

    We live in a culture where people are looking for instant, even amazing results when most of those simply do not come along without much sweat equity on our parts.

    Sure, life expenses do weigh in, but if you’re able to keep other income streams going while building your business, then you should be able to ride out the tough times such as those we’re all going through right now.

    1. Hey Matt
      Could agree with your comment more. I’m an impatient person at heart so it’s been a learning experience for me. But I’ve become a believer in patience and persistence.

  3. Interesting. Especially to me today.
    I checked out some books from the library and one I was looking for, was check out, Dale Carnegie, how to win friends and influence people, which I probably have in a box somewhere, so on the computer catalogue they also had a book by him called, how to stop worrying and start living, and I just started reading it. I think that me and you have some kind of weird connection that I don’t understand, but that could also be from the other book I just read about the brain. Anyways, I am glad that we are internet and blog friends. I love your style of writing. Your personality comes through and it’s easy to understand and read. I think that you should write a book also. I know that it would sell, and also would probably help and inspire many people.

    1. Hey Shea,
      Thanks for the support. I do plan on writing a book someday but not anytime in the near future. Appreciate your time and your friendship and you’ll be the first on my list for a free copy of my book when I get around to writing it.

  4. This is really good advice. One thing I had to learn was patience, especially when it comes to SEO and getting your website seen.

    1. Hey Carla,
      Yep. It takes time to get indexed in the SEs. There’s no avoiding it.

  5. B7 says:

    There you go again! Another great post. I really like how instead of feeling discouraged you asked a high quality question: How are we creating value for our customer, and is that value creation crystal clear when you go to the site?

    Also known as the Value Proposition.

    I would go a lot farther about that successful / failure expectation idea. If you expect to succeed and never give up, you are guaranteed to succeed. If you expect to fail you are guaranteed to fail.


  6. It’s all about sticking to your guns and constantly taking action towards improvement. Love the quote from Terry Bragg … we do manifest what we expect. Rather than focus your energies on quitting or failure, you chose the other direction. That’s cool.

  7. There’s always such an authority to your post because it comes from a real-world experience. Awesome.

    One thing I’m having to do differently for my go at this is that I, for better or worse, don’t have an alternate income source. I don’t know why, but I’ve never been able to juggle more than one job — for example, I had never been able to secure a new job before quitting or getting fired from the old one. For me, I always have to create a space before new things can come in, apparently.

    Definitely not something I’d recommend to someone, but that said, I still think the damage a wrong job can do to your psyche and body is still worse than losing money.


    1. Hey Ari,

      So good to hear from you again. It’s been quite a while. I can completely understand how it’s hard to juggle two things at once. It’s especially tough if you hate your job. As you said, the damage to the psyche and body is worse than losing money. Everyone has their methods and you just have to do what works! Hope you stop on by again Ari. Appreciate your support.

  8. WOW! I am going through this ruff time right now. Its very difficult to run a business and maintain a full time job. I feel like this article was written for me. I maintain a full time job and work nights on my business.

    The problem for me is that not only are we a online business but I am also manufacturing my product. I constantly question myself. Part to do with the fact that when I present my product to people they get very excited and I have had sales. But online the sales have been few and far between.
    I look forward to more of your post. I just happen to find you through a LINK on twitter and now you definitely have a fan.
    Thanks for this post!!

    1. Hey Ruben,

      I’m glad this article struck a chord with you. Handling sales, manufacturing and marketing can be a huge drain. My brother in law is actually in the same boat as you. He manufactures his products as well as sells them. But he devoted a good chunk of time into hiring a few people to help him make his product and so he could concentrate on selling it. Have you considered getting some cheap labor to help you out?

      In any case, you are not alone. Keep with it and make sure you are doing things right. We all get frustrated and question ourselves sometimes. It’s perfectly normal!

    2. Hey Ruben,

      So my wife and I just went to your site and we both think that you are onto something big! Your shoe decorating kits are an excellent idea. Remember those little custom charms for crocs? The person that invented those made millions and your product reminded me of that. Best of luck with your business!

  9. This is the first time I’ve commented, but in the few weeks I’ve been visiting your site, there has never been a better time. I started my online store (in conjunction with my main blog, Makeup I figured since I had established myself in the beauty blogging community, that my readers would flock to my new online store. Boy, was I wrong. I found your site doing research on ways to promote your online store. I don’t know how you do it, but everytime I am dealing with a certain issue, I get an email from you with just the right topic for whatever I’m dealing with! Your style of writing is funny, down-to-earth and enjoyable. Thank you so much for your wonderful tips. I’ve put various ones into practice and this past weekend I had so many orders I’ve been a “packing fool”!

    1. Hi Toma,

      I’m so glad that you finally decided to comment! Believe it or not, every now and then I get stuck in a rut with this blog. Your comment just made my day!

      I’m so happy that some of the material on this website has helped you out with your online store. It’s people like you that provide me with the motivation to write . Thank you for your kind words!

  10. Hi Steve,
    Thanks for the words of inspiration. I’m glad you and your wife like our product. I look forward to more of you articles.

  11. I did the ‘research those who are already successful’ deal when I started selling stuff on ebay a good few years ago. They have a nifty feature that might even help those who do not sell on ebay, but do on their own site.

    It’s called ‘search completed listings’. I purchased collectible cards from people used, and then would sell them for a mark up. Before I purchased anything I looked through the completed listings to see who much I could potentially make from that item, how many other people were selling it, what key words they used, selling formats, starting prices, and even what time of day they started the auction or how long it lasted.

    It helped me dramatically to increase profits on auctions! If you’re interested in seeing the popularity for a particular item on your web store it might be good to give a search there too. Ebay listings always pop up on the first page for anything I search for to buy, and you will be competing with those sellers! : )

    Great post.

  12. Your story is very inspiring, Steve. I gave it a stumble so others can be inspired, too! :-)


  13. This is a great encouragement to all of us who are looking to start small businesses in the future. We all hope for an “overnight success” but reality is that perseverance and hard work is what will pay off. Thanks for sharing that you had to push through the tough start up period until you found some traction.

    Thanks, this is a great site.

    1. Hi Greg,

      Thanks for the kind words. I hope you find the time to stop on back!

  14. After years of listening to classical music I discovered that my favourite period is the late 19th century with composers like Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Richard Wagner and Vaughan Williams.

  15. Tyrone says:

    Thanks for your words of inspiration – it puts a new spin on the direction of my business site.

  16. Hi Steven, I am a handbag designer and have just opened my online store a few months ago. My site is getting less than 15 hits a day and nobody seem to be interested in buying. My stuff are priced much lower than similiar items out there with the same quality. I am going through the same phase right now as you mentioned in your blog entry. Is waiting the only solution?
    my size is and my online store is there is a link to my online store on my website…thanks!

    1. @zhanga
      I’ll take a look and provide you with some feedback.

  17. Alyssandra says:

    hi steve, i’m from singapore & stumbled across your blog and now i’m hooked on reading every single article! me & my husband just started an online store specialising in boutique ladies office wear, & i totally can relate to the emotions you described in several of your articles. our motivation is the same as you.. i wish to quit my day job eventually and start a family :)

    we are in the first month of business and have since received around 30 orders, which is ok for a start. there’s a couple of things i’m keen to do for our business now: 1) Build a good relationship with the exisiting customers so that they will come back to us for more 2)Increase the conversion rate of traffic into my site. our main advertising avenue is via facebook ppc. that drives a significant amount of traffic, but conversion rate is lower than desired. it would be great if you could take a look at our store, & share we us your feedback on how we can improve

    thanks for your advice and do keep on churning out these great articles! :)

  18. Bugaboo,The blog help me solve my problem. Thank you very much. May you happy everyday!

  19. Hi Steve,

    Thanks so much for this article. I have found it super encouraging! It is just what I needed to read cos I feel this is exactly the stage that my husband and I are in right now with our online business! Patience, patience, patience! :)

    Many thanks
    Andrea from Two Pearls In A Pod

  20. This is very encouraging article. A good resource actually for struggling business man. All you talk in here is really very true and must be learn.

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