Entrepreneurial Tightrope: Clarity will keep you on track

— -- Hi, Gladys, I enjoy your columns and I have a question that you might have answered in the past. What do you do when you find yourself in a negative environment? More often than not I find myself being lured into lending money to friends and relatives that is never repaid. I recently experienced a slowdown in my business and so-called "friends" used my misfortune to gossip about me. Even my husband has made remarks that make me wonder if he is on my side.

I have been in business for 17 years and have had steady growth until a year ago when one of my clients went bankrupt while owing me a lot of money. So, how do I stay positive and upbeat while trying to function in a negative environment? — L.B.

How you overcome negativity depends on how you handle your environment. It's difficult to put the life back into a business when you have distractions going on around you.

You need to clear your head, eliminate distractions and stress-makers and lay out a strategy that will revitalize your business.

Most entrepreneurs have had setbacks; we have also had our share of gossipers, betrayers and doubters. They have been found among our family, friends and enemies.

I have found myself in your situation more than once in my life and as former President Clinton once said, "I feel your pain."

My first suggestion is to identify a few good friends. They are folks who have said uplifting things to you. Recall at least three things from these friends that were spoken directly to you that made you feel good about yourself. Write their statements on paper and post them where you can see them. It doesn't matter if the people are living or not. Your intention is to build up your business, so use statements affirming your business acumen.

On my desk, in a frame, are three such quotes friends said to me that are worth remembering.

Next, you need a stress-buster. A simple 30-minute walk daily will work wonders. Don't cheat yourself on this one. It really makes a difference. This routine will allow you to think more clearly.

From there we move on to the people in your life. It is easy to get so caught up in the business of life that we lose sight of what kind of people are occupying our space. As you can see, when that happens it can become a problem.

If you stand at your window and look out you will see all sorts of people passing by, whether they are walking, running, jogging, biking or driving. Just because they are passing by doesn't mean you have to be available to them or invite them in. Set definite boundaries and stick to them. Stop being available to the borrowers, and ignore the gossipers. Usually we identify a betrayer because they have violated some confidence that we have shared with them. So, learn to keep people at a distance until you get to know them better.

As for your husband, that is a more difficult situation. Perhaps he is unaware of how you feel. After one of your or daily walks while your mind is fresh and clear, sit down and write him a letter expressing how you feel about what has happened to you and your feelings about his level of support. Make it perfectly clear to him what you expect him to do or say to make things more comfortable for you as you rebuild your business.

"Learn to keep the door shut, keep out of your mind and out of your world every element that seeks admittance with no definite helpful end in view." I don't recall who said that or even where I read it, but it's sound advice for an entrepreneur rebuilding a business.

A strong, viable enterprise needs a strong, viable entrepreneur. Make all the necessary moves to strengthen you and your company.

Gladys Edmunds' Entrepreneurial Tightrope column appears Wednesdays. As a single, teen-age mom, Gladys made money doing laundry, cooking dinners for taxi drivers and selling fire extinguishers and Bibles door-to-door. Today, Edmunds, founder of Edmunds Travel Consultants in Pittsburgh, is a private coach/consultant in business development and author of There's No Business Like Your Own Business, published by Viking. See an index of Edmunds' columns. Her website is www.gladysedmunds.com. You can e-mail her at gladys@gladysedmunds.com.