Despite their best efforts, small business owners may face chaotic scenarios early in their entrepreneurial experience. This can come in a variety of areas. Just to scratch the surface, there’s securing funding, getting established as a reliable business, keeping clients and employees happy, and taking the right approach to marketing to maximize sales.

One key skill to dealing with these issues is composure. The ability to stay calm and make well-thought-out decisions will not only help the business stay on the right path, but will also help the owner’s leadership style, and potentially reduce overall stress.

In a story for Entrepreneur, psychologist and author Sherrie Campbell writes that practicing techniques related to composure leads to building “your personal excellence.”

“When you are composed, you seek respect, not attention, because you know that respect lasts much longer,” she explains. “Composure puts you on the path to strive to continually be at your very best.”

Here’s a look at how composure can assist a small business owner.


This is a natural need for entrepreneurs, as long as it doesn’t veer into arrogance. Those who are unsure of themselves when it comes to innovation, management and leadership may struggle with the day-to-day fires that small businesses have to put out. As Campbell writes, “… You must feel sure of yourself.”

“Choose to believe that you are capable of handling any problem placed in front of you,” she explains. “This belief is the foundation for your success. When you are self-assured, people get the vibe that you like, respect, appreciate and value who you are and what you bring to the table. Know your value, appreciate your talents, show a steady work ethic and you will be taken more seriously.”

Think before reacting

This isn’t necessarily easy for a small business owner to accomplish, especially in times of high stress. Developing the ability to take a step back, consider the options and weigh the pros and cons will serve them well. Campbell calls this “self-regulating.”

“When you neglect to taste the words you speak before you spit them out, you can end up creating irreparable damage in your relationships,” she writes. “To be effective with others you must be aware of what your triggers are, so you have the wherewithal to quickly refocus yourself on the bigger picture of what you’re striving for.”

Coping in crisis mode

All the composure in the world won’t prevent difficult moments. It can be helpful for small business owners to ponder stressful scenarios — not to dwell on potential dangers but to consider what solutions may be needed if that situation emerges. In a story for, Kira Deutch writes that when tough times arise, some semblance of normalcy should remain.

“Stick to your regular routine even in the face of total chaos,” Deutch says. “Sure, at high-pressure times the workload may be hard to handle, but do what you can to maintain a sense of normalcy. Try not to jettison regular check-in meetings, town halls, or any week-to-week events that keep you sane and your business afloat. Important business functions, like hiring and partner relations, should always stay moving — even when things are crazy. Also, focus on the fact that the situation is temporary. Things will eventually swing back to a slower, more manageable pace.”

Avoid personal reactions

It’s wonderful when we achieve positive things in business. The good feelings can serve as a boost of self-confidence, which can then help innovation and decision-making down the line. But there won’t always be victories. Small business owners will need to understand that professional mistakes aren’t necessarily personal flaws. Glenn Llopis examines this in a story for Entrepreneur.

“Business decisions and circumstances don’t always play out logically because office politics and other dynamics factor into the process,” he says. “Don’t get defensive or think that you always must justify your thinking and actions when they do. When you take things personally, it’s difficult to maintain your composure and make those around you believe that you have things under control. In fact, when leaders take issues too close to heart, they allow the noise to suffocate their thinking and decision-making capabilities.”

Body language

This is one of those human quirks — when you say or intend to mean one thing but your body or face betrays those words. This can matter a great deal in business. Positive words won’t mean much if the facial expressions don’t match up. And outwardly showing frustration can lead others to feel that frustration, or to develop concern about the owner’s approach and stresses. Bruna Martinuzzi writes about body language for American Express’ OPEN Forum.

“ … We can all be mindful of our facial expressions when we find ourselves in heated negotiations or important meetings where maintaining a calm attitude is crucial,” she notes. “Raise your self-awareness about your habitual facial expressions. Do you frown a lot? Are your facial muscles tense? Catch yourself, and relax your facial muscles. Try it right now and see what happens.”

Accept responsibility

The owner sets the tone, even when things don’t go well. How owners handle moments when they stumble can have an impact on relationships with clients and employees. Campbell explains in her Entrepreneur piece that an important way to develop composure skills is “to accept responsibility for the outcomes, both positive and negative, which result from your efforts.”

“If you make a mistake, see it as a self-created learning experience,” she writes. “Figure out what needs to shift for you to be more successful going forward. Always be flexible when it’s necessary to change your approach. Composure is not about ego. It is about humility and a willingness to learn. When you’re composed enough to take responsibility for your outcomes, this will inspire in others the willingness to accept responsibility for the outcomes in their lives.”

Listen, don’t lash out

When dealing with employees and clients, small business owners should strive to develop the ability to truly listen to questions and concerns. Having a measured response, one that doesn’t go to extremes or add to the stress of the moment, can help to diffuse a problematic scenario. As Llopis writes, it helps “to act like you have been there before.”

“Leaders that make others feel they have been through the problem-solving process numerous times before are those … who approach the matter at hand with a sense of elegance and grace,” he explains. “They are patient and active listeners, and they will genuinely take a compassionate approach to ease the hardships that anyone else is experiencing. They give you hope that the problems will soon be solved — and they are affected as deeply as you are.”