Tough Times & Business Owners

Hamish Mexted Business Strategy & Planning, Odds & Ends

Tough times amongst small business owners is more common than people think. It’s a lot harder to separate personal from business when the business is your livelihood, when its success depends on your productivity. When your business starts going backwards, the tough times get tougher. The cycle continues and you feel like you’re in this downward spiral, or a whirlpool, getting closer and closer to some inevitable tipping point. Meanwhile, it feels harder and harder to escape. At a level, part of what we’re talking about is depression.

While employees in large corporations can take paid time off to go to doctor appointments or counselling, the small business owner can’t. While employees at least have the security of a regular income, small business owners don’t. Some large corporations even have support networks to help get through tough times – small business owners have to take it upon themselves to identify, prioritise and get help for their illness.

It’s clichéd to say “you’re not alone” but… it’s true. Part of the problem is the feeling that you are isolated, detached from society, your industry contacts, clients, friends, family or your former self. In reality, there are a bunch of people around you who are also struggling. You’ve almost certainly worked with someone in the same (or similar) position without realising it.

There is an abundance of advice for small business owners who are struggling on the internet. Some tell you to pick up the self-help books, some tell you to throw them away. But all of them share at least a few common pointers.

  • Get enough sleep.
  • Take regular breaks.
  • Get a physical check up.
  • Improve your diet.
  • Drink more water, and less alcohol.
  • Cut down on caffeine, nicotine, sugar.

You also need to consider what might be amplifying the issue, or creating stress. For example, it could be one or more of the following:

  • Not having a clear (emotional) division between home and work
  • Not feeling like you can have time out for yourself
  • Your business is going backwards or you feel like you’re a failure
  • Financial stress or the unpredictability of your income
  • Uncertainty of when your next job or client will be coming in
  • Having multiple duties and responsibilities in many different areas of the business
  • Lack of support in your social groups (or a lack of awareness about depression)
  • Huge amount of accountability to other people (your employees, spouse or family)
  • Working when you feel unwell because you feel like you can’t take a break
  • Even longer and more demanding hours than those of a corporate employee (and you might feel that it’s not even as rewarding)

Business owners facing tough times generally say that, somewhere along the line, their business started controlling them rather than other way around. They may even be able to pinpoint a specific time that they noticed the difference, or it might have felt like it just gradually crept up on them.

Any of the above stresses can contribute to this feeling. It’s important to take time out to give yourself a break, and chat to someone about reducing, managing or eliminating these stress points.

Every single person is different, and every single business is different. When we work with business owners who are struggling, we usually say – hey, let’s meet at a café somewhere, or book a call, and just have an honest conversation about you and your business.

We can work out a game plan to help you get on top of your stress points, so they stop having power over you. This can include strategies as simple as setting an alarm to go out for (at least) a half hour lunch break, every single day. But we’ll also talk bigger picture: when you’ll take your next overseas holiday, what your goals are for your business, what the main challenges are in your industry.

If you’re a small business owner, your personal health is often reflected in your business’ health. If this is you, and you’re ready to work on a plan for you and your business, get in touch and we’ll arrange a meeting with you to talk more.