Tips and habits of small-business Optimists

Question: How important is it to practice optimism when starting or running a small business on Cape Cod?

Answer: Being optimistic is fundamental to being successful through business launch and growth, whether establishing a new business or buying a business or franchise.

Sarah A. Scala, leadership consultant and coach, addressed this topic at Cape Cod Young Professionals Shape the Cape Summit this spring. Optimism is the belief that things will turn out for the best. Proven benefits of optimism include stronger health, happiness on the job, resilience during business challenges, and being more likely to be 100 years old.

Below are some tips and habits of optimists:

Gratitude: Being thankful for what you have. Gratitude for what you are about to receive in the way of help or assistance in making your business goals a reality goes a long way in creating a network that will support you throughout the time you own your and manage your business. Let people know that you are grateful for their advice, counsel, links to information, or funding can help create real relationships.

Smile more: Smiles are positive nonverbal signs communicating welcoming and friendliness. When you smile, others feel warm and comfortable, and will smile back at you. A true sign of optimism is beginning every encounter with a smile. If you are a retailer, a greeter that engages every potential customer with eye contact and a smile begins the experience on a positive note that may culminate in a sale. Without it, customers fail to engage with you and your establishment. Smiling also helps to lower stress and anxiety for you and those you are around.

Understand that the past is not a blueprint for the future: As business owners, facing and overcoming challenges is part of our work every day. Our ability to remember that although entrepreneurs will fail at times, we are not destined to always fail. Optimists adopt this mindset to build energy from past successes to overcome business challenges today and tomorrow.

Forgive: Most of the time, there are no mistakes that are so grievous that they will take a business down. If an employee makes an honest mistake, forgive them instantly (this includes yourself). Part of owning and managing a business includes making mistakes. Forgive yourself. Learn from the mistake and drive on.

Listening: Listening is the basis for great communication. Part of being optimistic is being able to listen and internalize what others are saying. Listening requires you to understand, not just respond. When you understand, you are able to respond in positive terms and share your point of view. People love being listened to, and this leads to more open sharing of ideas. This also allows others to feel like their ideas and contributions are important.

Exercise and eat healthy: Being healthy is a key ingredient to running a business. Optimists take fewer sick days and are stronger athletes. Both a healthy diet and regular exercise also give you more energy which can help with the many daily tasks entrepreneurs encounter. When we take care of ourselves, we are best able to take care of our clients.

Share your stories: Your stories are the inventory of your experiences from which others can learn. By sharing, you are opening up yourself to others and they can learn from your past. When you share, others will share. And you will learn from their past experiences what to do and what to avoid.

Be positive and focus on the future: As easy as it is to get caught up in the day-to-day details of business ownership, giving yourself time to look toward the future with a positive mindset will help to position yourself and your business for future growth. Defining your vision, identifying strengths, and dreaming about the future of your business is exciting, and also activates parts of the brain that are tied to sustained change and motivation.

Turn jealousy into energy: As a small-business owner, you have little control over your time. It is an all-out affair. Envying those that go to work at 9 a.m. and are home for dinner is easy to do, but it won’t help you. If you can turn those negative emotions into positive energy, you will be ahead of the game.

These tips can all be used to support your mindset as an optimist. Optimistic people are more successful and enjoy their work through both challenges and success!

— Contributed by Sarah A. Scala, leadership consultant and coach. To learn more about building optimism for your business, contact Sarah at or For free and confidential mentoring, contact SCORE at or or 508–775–4884. We offer nights and weekend mentoring.

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Serving as consultant, coach, and educator, my work transforms performance of executives, leaders, and teams, helping them reach their highest potential.