I think most people would agree, it’s not easy to run a business. But to explain just how hard it is, and why, isn’t so easy. It doesn’t always feel like a positive exercise to uncover the true cost of business ownership and the impact it can have on the delicate divide between life and work. But doing just that is essential to find balance.
Every business is a family business
For many business owners it is hard enough to simply differentiate what falls into the family bucket and the work bucket. These worlds can become deeply intertwined and too much time commited to one can easily have a negative impact on the other. The Leadership Trust, an organisation we work closely with, found that one in four people admit their family commitments have been a barrier to their personal leadership development.
Unfortunately, business strains and home strains often impact on one another. When we surveyed business owners recently, three quarters say that their spouse works in the business in some capacity or has no other form of income. This can go one of two ways, but the result is always a blurring of the lines of working hours, financial outgoings and personal versus business discussions.
In some cases, employing family members can be a great business decision. If they are genuinely the right person for the role they will also possess a quality that few other candidates will – a vested interest in the success of the business. They are more likely to go the extra mile, make sacrifices along with you and be able to understand the pressures you face and support you. On the other hand, if the business isn’t doing as well as expected, due to either internal or external challenges, the effects are likely to be felt much more acutely and personally.
Even if you don’t have family directly involved in the running of the business, they will inevitably be impacted. In my experience it is not uncommon for business owners to face difficulties in their personal relationships as a direct result of the headspace required by the business – sometimes ending in separation or divorce. The root can often be traced back to two things – business stress and time management. It’s important to mitigate these challenges early by having clear, honest discussions with your partner so they can understand and appreciate the struggles you are facing and the support that you need.
Support that runs both ways
Unfortunately, many of my clients feel they cannot unburden themselves onto their family members. They take their position as the breadwinner very seriously and often do not want to transfer the personal or financial stress they are feeling onto their partner. But these stresses so often bleed into the family unit in one way or another.
The solution all comes down to communication. The further you isolate yourself and hide the stresses you are facing, the harder it will then be to bring them to light. Transparency will help lift the pressure many business owners feel. From an emotional standpoint it is also important that you build relationships that allow you to be honest about the pressures you are facing and begin to breakdown your reluctance to admit that you’ve made mistakes.
Breaking with bad habits
Equally as important as being candid about the difficulties business ownership presents is knowing when to step away and take a well-earned break. Yet, one in ten business owners say they have never fully removed themselves from their business for more than a single day. I always view it as a red flag if a client says they never disconnect from the business. It’s not healthy for the business or the owner.
Holidays are important for everyone, business owners, their families and staff alike. They allow time to reflect, think outside the box, relax, recharge and adjust perspective. Despite this, our research found that two thirds (67%) of business owners report carrying on working while on holiday.
While I would like to advise taking a fully switched off holiday, that’s often too much to ask – it’s something to work on, but that’s a subject for another blog. Perhaps more feasible advice is to adjust your perception of a holiday. The first shift is to view breaks as an important business initiative that should be prioritised. The second is to accept that we live in a connected world. It is much better to take a holiday and plan to check in for an hour each morning or evening than it is to call off the whole holiday due to an unexpected workload.
To help you with the stresses of running a business, get advice and the support of a trusted expert who understands the pressures you face, speak to one of our partners.
Regional Managing Partner, Haines Watts
Our research shows that 73% of business owners admit that running a business adversely affects their mental health.