For Mental Health Awareness week, our Managing Director, Chris Jones, has written a blog discussing the pressures of running a business......
It is Mental Health Awareness Week which is garnering a lot of attention across the general media, social channels and reaching the wider public, which is great to see. With many of us confined to our homes over the last several weeks, the topic has become even more relevant as we all struggle to maintain our mental health in such strange and stressful circumstances.
With mental health and well-being being such hot topics at the moment, I thought it an opportune time to put together a blog about the stresses and strains business owners (and many employees in general) go through on a day to day basis. I’ve also included some insight from the current experiences we are going through!
I am sure there are many people out there that deal with similar pressures, so I hope my very honest and up front thoughts might help others realise that they are not alone!
- Making the right decisions
As a business owner, we have the final say on any decisions that need to be made. It is down to us to make the right choice for the company, even if it negatively impacts on some or might not be a popular decision. Any wrong turn that a business makes is down to me and that is a lot to deal with. Ultimately the success of the company falls at my feet – that is a lot of responsibility! This is true in “normal circumstances” but becomes an even bigger pressure as we work out how best to navigate the fall out of Covid-19.
- Setting high expectations
My target since I started Think in 2011 was to grow the company turnover and profit every year. It is great to set targets, be ambitious, motivated and driven. But there is a downside with regards to the burden of meeting the goals we have set ourselves that can easily weigh us down and cause anxiety. Setting manageable goals, ensuring targets are ambitious but achievable, driving a company forward without sacrificing your ethics and culture is an incredibly difficult balance to attain. The impact Coronavirus has had on our plans (and the fantastic momentum we had gained!) means a change to expectation and targets, which is a bitter pill to swallow, but yet has to be accepted.
- Taking things personally
This is something I am definitely guilty of! When somebody is perceived to have let you down (clients, candidates, suppliers, colleagues, team-mates) it is difficult to not take it personally. I often have to remind myself that in business you have to make the assumption that it is not personal. Because I employ like-minded staff, they also struggle with this and it really does affect your mental state in the workplace and often ends up being taken home with you. Thankfully the current set of circumstances are mostly outside of our control so I have learned to deal with them in a fairly reflective manner and not take it personally that our business has been so impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. However the actions of others are still causing unneeded stress and anxiety (see below!)
- Setting and maintaining high standards
Again, I really struggle with this. I believe that I am an individual with high expectations and a strong moral compass. I think that my staff should follow that example and it is my duty to lead from the front when it comes to honesty and integrity. However, it is difficult to understand when we work with those that have different ways of working and/or morals. Communication is key and even in the current times where you would expect clients to want to help in every way they possibly can, we have some that have overdue invoices who have chosen to just ignore our request for payment and won’t even pick up the phone to have a conversation, even when offering to put together a payment plan. I could never treat a supplier that way and it is so difficult to understand how others can operate in such an unprofessional and impolite manner.
- Taking time off!
As a business owner, I feel guilty when I take time off! “But, you’re the boss you can do whatever you like?” – unfortunately that isn’t the way my mind works and it is hard to “let go” when you’re not at work. Now we have more staff it makes taking time off far easier in one sense, but harder in another. Working from home has not proven to be the work-life bliss that so many in the business world are constantly promoting, especially with 3 young children in our household! How on earth do you warrant taking time off at the moment?!
- The pressure of supporting others
I have staff (and many temps) that rely on me to pay their wages – obvious, right?! If their wages don’t get paid then they can’t support their families, pay their mortgage or bills. If I don’t ensure we have money in the bank, good cashflow and a steady income for the company, then I can’t pay my staff. That is a lot of responsibility but one I take incredibly seriously. That is why I have never run my business as a ‘lifestyle company’ and we retain a lot of our profit in the company for investment, security and so that we can deal with adversity if needs be. This has stood us in good stead for the current crisis and ensured that we can continue to pay our furloughed temps every week, pay our staff their full salaries and ensure that they have the reassurances that their jobs and livelihoods are therefore protected.
- Ambition Vs work life balance
Back in 2018 I attended the Business Growth Programme at Cranfield University. Covering a multitude of topics, one of the final modules was around personal goals and understanding the impact of the business and growth plans on these. If I want to grow the business quickly, does that mean I need to work more hours and miss out on time with my young family? What are the financial pressures of growth and do you want the extra associated stress? It is so hard to balance ambition with work/life balance and I think many business owners, and employees, struggle to maintain a healthy mix. Again this has really come to the fore at the moment! Balancing the needs of my family and the business has not been easy. There is guilt about having to say no to my children and the guilt of not doing enough for the business.
- Fear of failure
This keeps me awake at night and is by far my biggest driving force! The thing that causes me the most anxiety is the fear of failing. How would I support my family if the business isn’t successful? What would my friends, family, ex-colleagues, peers, competitors etc think of me if the business failed??? I try to turn this fear into motivation but it certainly causes me the most stress and anxiety that I continually have to learn to cope with. I have a great deal of confidence that our business is in great strength and we will come out of the current circumstances well placed to succeed, but that does not stop the negative thoughts or fear of failure creeping in!
A business owner has a lot to think about and a lot of weight on their shoulders. You can see why Directors/Owners of companies burn out, suffer from stress, anxiety and many sleepless nights. Managing the day to day pressures of running a business is such an important topic and all too often we are more worried about our staff and customers than ourselves and neglect our own well being! I’m also sure that we can all help to ease the strains of work by being more aware of our behaviour and making life easier for everyone involved. Take time to think about the result of your actions (or lack of) and always put the shoe on the other foot to see things from all perspectives.
Which of the above do you have to deal with? How do you cope with the stresses of business?
Chris Jones is the Managing Director of Think Specialist Recruitment, an independent recruitment agency set up in 2011 supplying permanent and temporary head office staff. If you would like to contact Chris please call him on 01442 531156 or email email@example.com