Small Business Stress – How to reduce it

Small Business Stress – How to reduce it

As a small business owner, no-one knows better than you that the pressure to succeed is immense.  A silly business decision can make or break your company, and will impact the livelihoods of the staff you personally have hired.

The corporate executive on the other hand, has a powerhouse of contingency plans, financial options and no real connection to the person answering the phones on the help desk that supports him.

A few years back, having a conference call with the executive team of an Australian telecommunications company whilst riding the bus home, I looked up to find all eyes on me.

Initially I was startled but then I realized the reason for the attention.  Moments ago I had made a statement that I considered to be commonplace in the world of corporate.  To the other people riding the bus that day, it was as if I was talking about my latest mission to mars.

What was that statement?

“All I need is permission to write off $2.7Million”.

To me, as the program in conversation was worth $54 Million, after doing the numbers every which way I could, my request was under the executives expectations so I knew they would agree.

Now imagine sitting in a room filled with Small Business owners who have to make difficult business decisions that could impact a $25,000 shortfall, and suddenly my statement sounds ludicrous.

I realized I had no emotional attachment to that money.   I had no skin in the game and numbers such as these were commonplace in my role.

Just one year later after that conversation, I tried my hand at opening a small business.

I worked until midnight every night, my passion was intense, nothing was going to stand in my way.

However as I spent weeks trying to understand all the systems and processes, and operational manuals that I would need, my stress levels went through the roof as I watched time go by with little or no income.

What I found out very quickly, was that the return on investment for small business was actually that – small.  The effort involved is a labour of love when first starting out.

The stress I felt was of a different level to the heightened stress I had fought against within the corporate world.

Your manner directly impacts your staff.

Your confidence or worry is silently witnessed by all.

Your P&L statements impact your ability to hire or keep staff.

And the stress you feel from owning the outcomes is reflected in the quality of time you manage to spend with your family afterhours.

I have friends who call themselves an “Entrepreneur Widow” meaning they are raising they’re family alone whilst their husbands work long hours and are literal vegetables when they do come home.

Is it worth it?  Yes.  Without the flexibility of Small Businesses, the world wouldn’t move as fast.  It’s a paradox, but with it comes the real issue of entrepreneurial burn out.

In the larger organisations, there is a budget set aside for wellness programs.  For small businesses this type of budget is a luxury meaning those people who are working the hardest are left to suffer on their own.

The answer is to understand that every other Small Business owner is either going through or has been through what you yourself are now tackling.  At some point in the past Steve Jobs was on the brink of losing everything; Richard Branson struggled to pay the bills; Donald trump lost his millions more than once; but still they made it through.

The first rule of being able to conquer the effects of Chronic stress is to always reflect on your WHY.

  • Why did you start the company in the first place?
  • What problem were you trying to solve?

You may even have lost your passion for your business, but surely you can tap in to what it was that made you START in the first place?  Find that why, and you’re passion may be reignited.

With passion comes more resilience, more clarity, more intention.

Which brings me to the next rule: Make an intention.

Each January, business owners reflect on the previous year and set new business goals based on margins and formulas.  This is the way of the large enterprise, but shouldn’t be the way for small businesses.  With your “why” in mind, sit with your most creative decision makers or colleagues and identify a path for the year that leads to how you want your business to evolve.  Instead of stating a profit forecast of $100,000 over the next 12 months,  list outcomes such as increasing motivation across all teams thereby creating a raving fan base of the staff.  You’ll be amazed that instead of focusing on the tangibles, when you focus on the intangibles, the profits will come.  When staff are engaged and part of your emotional drive to succeed, they will often move mountains on your behalf, or ‘tweet’ about your product without you asking them to do so.

The third rule for building stress resilience is to know the difference between an Urgent task and an important task. 

This statement may sound silly, but it’s remarkable how few people understand what this actually means.

The 200 emails waiting for you each morning are possibly “urgent” in other people’s eyes.

None of them are important enough if they are sitting waiting to be read.

Have 3 or 4 strategic goals per week and prioritise all work items as it relates to those goals.  If they are not aligned, then either delegate the task, or worry about it later.   Warren Buffet doesn’t even have an email account. Reflect on that for a moment.  His belief, as is mine, is that if something is important enough to warrant my action, someone will find a way to get my attention.

As a Leadership Burnout Coach I have an armoury of techniques that I could list for the purposes of helping the Small Business owner, but if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that not one shoe fits everyone.

Start with the basics, remember why you’re here, pay attention to who you are, and stop concentrating on what’s outside of your control.

You were built to succeed.

Trust and get emotional if you need to.  And above all else, remember to breathe.


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