I read a really thought-provoking article on Anxiety in Business last week and how it’s hardly acknowledged. The article lead me on a merry trip down the rabbit hole of Google to read a few more. There seems to be a distinct lack of conversation about emotional and mental well-being in business. If business is really just people, why don’t we talk about this vulnerability?
I then amused myself for a whole few minutes imagining all the things I would say if this kind of truthful conversation actually happened in business meetings;
“Gosh, I am both terrified of you and this job”
“Actually, I cannot wait for you to hand over those reigns because it is so obvious to everyone but you that you are doing it wrong and I just hope I can fix it for you so it doesn’t look like I’ve failed”
“Am I sure? Well, I’ve second guessed every decision I’ve made today, so probably not”
During transition periods; the start of your new business, the franchise of your company, the hiring of new staff, that anxiety increases. I know how that feels. I have months and months of my nights, weekends and family time wrapped up in these first few months of this business. That ‘sweat equity’ only grows as time goes by, right alongside the level of worry.
If you are a business that employs other people, a certain level of truth about mental well-being may also be an important consideration. According to Beyond Blue, one in five Australian employees takes time off from work due to feeling mentally unwell. This costs Australian business an estimated $10.9 billion annually. Ten. Billion. Surely that’s amount alone is worth starting a conversation for?
Financial issues are going to be a concern for any small business person. There it is. This is a truth. I am not a numbers person at all but even I can promise you that. Here’s what we do about it:
Breathe. Commiserate. It’s the same for all of us.
Managing people is right up there with cash flow issues for causing small business owners anxiety. I worked as a manager for a hot minute in my role as employee and I have to tell you, it was bleeding terrible. Not only are you responsible for the outcomes of those working below you, but also their conduct, their productivity and here’s the worst bit – their job satisfaction. My time as manager was the unhappiest time I have ever had in the workforce. I’ve found I work much more productively with people, rather than being someone’s direct line manager. For starters, I can’t bear to see something done repeatedly badly, so I just take that role on myself. I really take my hat off to those of you who run businesses who employ staff and think you guys could do with all the help you can get. Beyond Blue reports that more than half of Australian business leaders admit they do not know how to tackle mental health issues in the workplace. Maybe it’s time we looked at that?
Compartmentalising is also tough for small business owners.
I pride myself on being pretty good at wearing different hats. Over the years I have been in some pretty tricky spots; being on the School Board of Executives to effectively manage my own boss was an interesting structure that required a certain level of hat whipping on and off at any given time. I’ve never had the kind of jobs that are left at the office and now running a small business from home is testing my powers of compartmentalisation heavily. I know I am not succeeding the way I’d initially hoped when my two year old’s most repeated phrases are “put down your phone” or “no, close your ‘puter”. (He also often says “I love cake” in a dreamy and hopeful voice).
Separating yourself from your small business is just so, so hard. I have a dear and long-time friend that runs a very successful salon in the local area. I can count on one hand the amount of times we have managed to get together in the last two months. When we do, we inevitably talk about business. The other aspects of our lives – the children who have known each other since they were babies, our husbands, our lives – these get pushed into the ‘incidentals’ category.
In my case I’ve added to this mix a long term illness that is currently managed with lots of healthy living and a reduction of stressful situations. Sorry, what? Yes, I know that starting my own business is probably not the stress-free lifestyle my Doctor recommended. But there’s something to be said for following your dreams that must be considered too.
Anyone who has met me may attest to the fact that I am pretty excitable. Because I become devoted new projects so heavily, I tend to create an openness that isn’t so protective of myself. There’s a vulnerability that’s required of writers, of designers and artists that cannot be armoured. It’s an interesting mix for a business.
So, I am tackling each new day and each new project with a deep breath and a very, very honest and self evaluating conversation with myself. I also remind myself early that it may not end up being the client of my dreams, nor the project I envisioned.
Not everyone will love everything I do. Not everyone will want to hire me. Sometimes, I will be usurped or replaced. Sometimes, I won’t have the capacity or the time or the resources to take on the project. Especially now, at the beginning, that is probably going to sting.
I find it helps to remember why I began. How I can help. What I am offering. It helps to remember that larger companies than mine have put their trust in me and come up roses. It helped to read article upon article about how business people deal with anxiety every meeting, every interview, every day.
It helps to put on my virtual pom poms in my own head and give myself a cheer.
Jay Crisp Crow
Yep, really my name