From the January 2000 issue of Startups

Late payments, inept employees or control-hungry investors--as an entrepreneur, you face challenges that could cause even the most mild-tempered person to occasionally fly off the handle. And, in most cases, you have good reason to be ticked off.

But if you allow anger to consistently consume you--to the point that it affects your work performance--stop! Unrestrained anger may alienate you from your management team, other employees, customers, vendors or investors--all of whom you need for your business to succeed. And for every bridge you burn, negative publicity inevitably follows, putting your entire operation at risk:

How do you defuse feelings of anger and maintain your professionalism when you're ready to explode?

1.Find a constructive place to vent. When Justin Fallon, 31, launched his company as a freshman at the State University of New York at Purchase, he had no one to share his frustrations with. "I was going through all this pressure," recalls Fallon, CEO and president of SOLDOUT.COM, a premium event and entertainment resource that specializes in sold-out and hard-to-obtain tickets for sports, theater, cultural and other events. "How do you talk with friends who can't keep a job washing dishes, and here you are making decisions that could cost you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars?"

Nor could his college buddies fathom the pressures that come with success at a young age. By his junior year, Fallon's venture had passed $1 million in sales. (Today, the company generates $20 million annually and employs more than 50 employees.)

To cope with the growing pressures, the Darien, Connecticut, entrepreneur sought out relationships with other successful business owners by attending seminars on entrepreneurship and participating in associations. Now when someone ticks him off, Fallon gets feedback from his entrepreneur friends.

2.Ask yourself the right questions. "If something gets bad enough for me to get pissed off," says Fallon, "there's a learning experience there somewhere." And it's the learning experience you should look for when anger wells up inside.

What often happens when people get angry, however, is they ask themselves "why" questions like: Why me? Why don't people seem to respect me? Why can't this person understand my position? Why can't this employee get things right? Why does this customer never seem to be satisfied?

What they don't realize is that such questions actually perpetuate their anger. They begin to feel powerless to change the circumstances that are bothering them, so they get more frustrated and act in ways they later regret.

Instead, ask yourself questions that empower you, such as: What can I learn from this situation? What are some ways to mitigate the problem? How can I avoid this problem in the future? Has there been a misunderstanding? Focusing on ways to make the best of the situation helps you keep your cool.

3.Take responsibility. "If the same thing makes you mad over and over, it's nobody's fault but your own," Fallon says. "If it's the same employee always making you mad, either you didn't train that employee or you hired the wrong employee. Either way, it's your responsibility. Once you accept responsibility for the situation, you have the power to make positive changes."

Who or what keeps crawling under your skin? Confront those issues today--before they fester. Then you'll develop the emotional control you need to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of achieving your entrepreneurial passion.


Sean M. Lyden (seanlyden@mindspring.com) is the principal and senior writer of The Professional Writing Firm Inc., a Kennesaw, Georgia, company that specializes in ghostwriting articles. Lyden writes frequently on motivation, management and marketing issues.

What psychological obstacles to success are you trying to overcome? Tell us at bsumag@entrepreneurmag.com.

Don't Blow It

With your business relationships--and ultimately, your business--at stake, here are three resources to help you defuse angry feelings before you blow your top:

  • The Anger Institute of Chicago's Web site (www.angermgmt.com) has tips on managing anger in the workplace and offers confidential phone counseling sessions ($45 for 60 minutes or $75 for 90 minutes) you can schedule online.
  • Anger-Free: Ten Basic Steps to Managing Your Anger by W. Doyal Gentry (William Morrow & Co., $23, 212-261-6500).
  • Anger at Work: Learning the Art of Anger Management on the Job by Hendrie Weisinger (William Morrow & Co., $12, 212-261-6500).