As a business owner, are you sensing some uncertainty emerging as you manage your business? It’s understandable, given the international tensions, domestic volatility, new competition, general economic uncertainty, difficulties with talent retention, and customer demands for low cost and high quality. It’s a long list that demands attention at various times.

As today’s business owners try to deal with the changing world around them, two major approaches seem evident.

One is that most business owners recognize what’s needed and snap into action to deal with the challenges. They make sure they:

Are paying attention to their respective market places

Understand the market dynamics and the implications of changes and plan accordingly

Engage the resources they have within the company

Listen to options to implement and choose one

Find a realistic implementation schedule

There are a few business owners who, for whatever reason, seem habit-driven in their ability to respond to change. They respond to uncertainty with:

Suspicion of new ideas and practices

A return to old ways to deal with the new challenges

Denial of the real situations operating within the firm

A very short-term view of the business, expressed as a compulsive look at daily sales receipts

The underlying dynamic in each of the above expressions is rooted in fear of change. It’s a fear of the new, the unexpected, and the future.

With all the positive approaches to change that meet the new challenges, there’s a slow growing fear of uncertainty in the minds of a few business owners and even employees. It’s not expressed directly but in words of some anxiety. There’s a sense that habits and old practices are being challenged.

Here, without attribution, are some expressions I’ve heard. It’s sometimes a doubt: “I wish I were sure our plans will make a difference,” “We have to make some drastic changes to respond to this challenge; I hope my people can handle it.”

Sometimes it’s a lack of information, or information is difficult to understand: “I’m not sure where the market is headed nor what the competition is trying,” “The complexities of this business are getting harder to keep up with.” If these expressions are persistent, each business will likely not move forward.

So, the first thing they can to do to deal successfully with these changes and uncertainties is make sure they fully understand their circumstances. Ask, “What am I really uncertain about?”

If the intensity required to overcome the uncertainty and be successful is daunting, they can take these additional steps: re-engage their passion for success; take a break; talk to their colleagues and employees; get some new ideas and perspectives; understand the new normal; and turn its ideas into opportunities by not judging them and allowing them to proceed until thought through.

If coping behavior is habit-driven, then dealing successfully with uncertainty requires planning with long-term scenarios in mind, ones that see a variety of options from which to choose: delegating work to others to strengthen those around you; sharing accountability to build a strong sense of urgency in the team; and listening to peers outside your business by attending association meetings and local events.

These times require a lot of energy from each business owner every day. Whether overwhelmed or not, take a break and work from home, or do nothing for a short while. Have a hobby to occupy some of your time. Make more time for family and friends. Take a trip by yourself or with your partner to an interesting new location.

When you return, you’ll be able to increase your awareness of all the forces, both negative and positive, working around you. The temporary disengagement restores some lost energy, so you return refreshed and ready to navigate these challenging times with positive options.

Any fears are often a response to an unknown circumstance. If you didn’t feel it, you couldn’t adjust and deal with it to protect your business from a real disruptive influence. I’m sure you’ve been fearful of situations that, after quick analysis, are nothing to fear. Recognizing a fears lets you quickly subject them to rational examinations and dismiss them more easily. Fear readies you for action.

Replace fear with courage and confidence. Build on your successful experiences dealing with uncertainty, and use what worked to remove any obstacle. The only thing you have to fear is the uncertainty itself.

Bob Vecchiotti is a business adviser and executive coach. He can be reached at