Dealing with stress as an entrepreneur part three

Over the last two articles we discussed how to identify the problems that cause stress and then how to measure their severity.

All businesses and business owners have limited time, so prioritising the most severe issues and dealing with those first will result in better results than trying to tackle everything at once.

In this article we are going to share with you the third and final tool in our toolkit to complete the process of dealing with stress proactively as an entrepreneur.

What is the root cause of the issue?

As you have identified the issue against the six key factors that cause stress, now we ask why those issues are affected. A reminder of the factors that increase stress are, change, control, demands, role, support, and relationships. Each issue you have identified should have affected each of these factors to some degree. As these factors are influenced, pressure increases and stress can occur. For example, a high number of emails may increase the demand of your work, and reduce the control you have over the time you spend on them. Take each issue and factor and ask why it is affected, using a root cause analysis technique such as 5whys in order to get to the underlying causes behind those issues.

Let’s illustrate this with our previous example from part two of this series. You have a small decorating business and you have just landed a large order. You have assessed that the factors affected the most are demands, change, and control. The next step is to get to the root cause using these factors. In this case, the business owner has a significant change factor due to not having taken on this type of order before. Out of that, the demands over tools, equipment, and time taken to plan it are significant. And due to this the owner feels a loss of control over having a significant portion of income coming in from one customer.

After applying root cause analysis, the owner discovers that the processes they have in place are set up for very small clients, and do not require upfront payments of any amount. They also discover that their business model did not account for sourcing new resource, including the expense and time it takes to do that. They do not have a process to train or to ensure quality delivery by a larger team. The business owner is now aware of two issues, firstly the personal stress this creates for them and secondly the need to address the issues to ensure timely and quality delivery of the new order in order to take their business to the next level.

Now the owner has a clearer understanding of how well their current business is equipped to service larger clients, they put together clear actions to address them.  Some of these actions may include re-setting their own processes such as around payment terms to improve cashflow.

It is then obvious to the business owner that this approach, while dealing with the underlying issues that cause them stress, has also had an interesting side effect, process improvement leading to a stronger business. Feeling more in control, they are able to address the demands of the new order and thereby reduce stress.