“It’s a way of life.” “It’s my baby.” “It’s all-consuming.” Every business owner has probably discussed their enterprise in these terms, with a mixture of affection and frustration.
It’s a relationship that brings joy, a sense of purpose and its fair share of headaches. And inevitably, there are times when those pressures accumulate.
Three-quarters of business owners admit in private that running a business adversely affects their mental health. And 14% of owners feel that their mental health is a major concern – and yet only a small proportion (4%) seek the help of a mental health professional.
Putting on a brave face
A daily quota of stress is accepted by most business owners as simply part of the deal. But sometimes the pressures can become overwhelming – even if many owners are reluctant to acknowledge it. It’s more common than any of us would like to admit – I’ve seen owners holding their struggles back behind a brave face for years, putting off getting support and winding up with an emotional breakdown.
The first step, is for the owner themselves to recognise that they are failing to cope as they normally would. The facade that everything is perfectly under control may convince those around you, but won’t give you the space to improve.
Who can I talk to?
Knowing who to turn to is the next challenge – after all, no one knows your business like you do. Almost half of business owners are convinced that no one could possibly understand the pressure they are under. However, a network of supportive peers can be a reassuring sounding board. They may be working in the same field or as professional advisors, or they may provide perspectives from running businesses in different sectors.
Seeking help from an impartial mentor can also challenge you to think in different ways, without the fear of damaging an existing relationship. Conversely, it can also be useful to turn to a family member or close friend who has no business involvement.
Sometimes the best advice and empathy will come from someone who may not understand the business, but who understands you as an individual and has your best interests in mind.
Tipping the balance
Of course, finding time to talk – or indeed to do anything else other than work – can be a challenge in itself. Haines Watts research reveals that 73% of business owners have never taken more than a week off and 69% report working at weekends.
A business that we’ve built up can easily become not just what we do, but who we are. When so much time, energy and head space is devoted to this one thing that is truly your own, it can be difficult to separate work and life.
But self-awareness is the solution. If you can spot when business issues are going beyond the everyday and getting you down, you need to act. Your health – and your business – can only benefit.
5 ways to manage the pressure
1. Take a break
Clear the calendar regularly to make time for things you enjoy. Do some sport, spend time with the family, paint a portrait, or just feast on a boxset. If it’s absorbing, enjoyable and not about the business, it’ll help you to switch off.
2. Take the heat out of money worries
Juggling business and personal finance can be the biggest source of stress. Business planning for the short, medium and long term can help you identify future business investment versus the need for personal income.
3. Build a trusted team
No one knows your business like you. But finding a trusted partner or, better still, developing a committed management team, will build business value – and take some of the pressure off you.
4. Regain your perspective
When times are tough, don’t just focus on the challenges – remind yourself of your achievements. Recall why you first went into business and why you’re doing this. If your goals have changed, maybe it’s time to rethink.
5. Talk to someone
Find someone who turn to. This could be someone who understands your pressures and can help put things in place to alleviate them. Or it may be a family member or friend who might not fully understand your work woes, but who knows you well and can respond supportively.
A For Love or Money study by Haines Watts
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