Four entrepreneurs were interviewed for this report--Brian Quebengco of the industrial design firm Inovent Inc., Dondon Atayde of the events company Wishcraft, Richard Cruz of the real-estate consulting company INSPIRE, and Jonathan Dee of Alliance Tuna International Inc.--all agree that instead of yielding to the stress caused by economic instability, SME owners and operators should see the situation as a challenge for their businesses to do even better under great pressure.
"The true entrepreneur is one who doesn't succumb to stress, for where some people see problems, the entrepreneur sees only challenges," says Quebengco, who is the founder and "chief inoventor" of Inovent, the only industrial design firm in the Philippines that is an accredited member of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design.
Atayde, founding member of Wishcraft and currently its managing partner for corporate affairs and finance, adds: "The stress of a business owner is different. In business, there's an equal chance of success and failure. But for someone with an authentic entrepreneurial spirit, the risks are always outweighed by the prize of success."
Cruz, a consultant at INSPIRE (acronym for Innovative Solutions by Professionals in Real Estate) and an MBA professor at the Asian Institute of Management, has this to say: "It's easy to succeed in boom times, but a recession is actually an ideal time to learn to run your business wisely because the margin for error is smaller."
On the other hand, Dee, CEO and president of Alliance Tuna International, says there's really no way for an entrepreneur to dodge stress during bad times : "The buck stops at your desk. The only way to get through a crisis is to stay focused working out the problem, working out the scenarios, and making the hard decisions with or without assistance."
So then, for those who are in business, the four business veterans offer the following tips for thriving instead of perishing no matter how difficult the business environment might become:
1. Know your strengths
Quebengco, a motivational speaker on strength psychology, says that a major source of stress for entrepreneurs is trying to do everything on their own. "A strength is an activity or talent that makes you feel good while you are doing it, and leaves you energized after," he explains. "A weakness, on the other hand, leaves you stressed out and tired. Instead of trying to DIY [do it yourself], you need to get partners who are strong where you are weak. You need to build a strong team."
Cruz says that another way for entrepreneurs to relieve themselves of too much stress is to downsize the company so it can focus on what it does well. "Instead of spreading the resources of the company thinly, go back to your strengths as a company and focus your resources there," he explains.
2. Share the load
Quebengco says it is highly desirable for entrepreneurs to know at least a little about all aspects of their business, but they need to hire an expert to run the areas they are weak in. "Know something about accounting, but if numbers leave you drained, hire an accountant," he suggests.
For his part, Dee says that when his company (it was then called the First Dominion Group) collapsed during the 1997 Asian financial crisis, he found great relief from stress by being with a supportive group of friends and by spending downtime with his family.