How to cope with the pressures of running a business

For many people, working, providing for a family, trying to find time for yourself and managing the many pressures of everyday life is tough. This could not be truer for those of us who run our own businesses, especially in a challenging economic climate.

The data in this area is stark. For example, Mental Health UK suggests that four in five small business owners have experienced poor mental health, manifesting in anxiety, disrupted sleep, panic attacks, and even depression. The question is, what can we do to better support this group and what learnings can be shared?

Being a founder is hugely rewarding but it’s also stressful and frustrating – that’s not news to anyone. The sheer breadth of business functions we must be across is vast. Daily tasks range from accounting, billing, supporting and leading a team, finding new business leads, meeting clients, marketing products, negotiating with suppliers, M&A, seeking investment and then managing investor relations... the list goes on.

This juggling act can feel overwhelming at times. And for those who lead businesses, the pressure is compounded by the responsibility for others’ livelihoods as well as your own.

As a business owner, it’s taken years for me to fine-tune how to work with stress. The pressure of starting your own business will often push entrepreneurs to be at their best; without it, most startups wouldn’t get off the ground. Stress and pressure are therefore unavoidable and something we must not just learn to manage but thrive off, too.

Finding a balance where you are motivated and pushed, but not overwhelmed, is key. For those struggling with to strike this balance, here is some advice based on what I have learned along the way:

  • Reset your focus every morning: Before I dive into the day, I always make sure to establish what's important and what's urgent. It's easy to get swallowed up by the endless stream of emails and demands, that suck up both time and energy. By resetting my focus every morning, I make sure not to lose sight of what matters most for the business and our long-term goals.
  • Stay nimble: As a small business, being quick and adaptable is one of your biggest strengths. Unlike bigger companies, you can make changes fast, which gives you an edge. Embracing tech has always helped us stay ahead, and this flexibility also reduces stress by improving our operations. By remaining agile, we can handle challenges better, keep our business running and compete against the larger, more established providers.
  • Build a talented team: Founders are unlikely to have the depth of expertise needed across every department to support the business as it grows. Honestly assess where your own strengths and weaknesses lie and then assemble a team of likeminded people who complement your skillset. Bring in those you trust, enjoy working with and who bring things to the table that you cannot.
  • Don’t be afraid to seek outside support when you need it: whether that’s speaking to family, peers, professional advisors, a mentor, or equally turning towards online resources and platforms. There are many more resources available now than there were when I started out on the path of building my own business. For example, I would encourage founders to use online resources and link with professionals through digital consultations and online forums to get the support and advice they need. Use social media groups to find professional meetups in your area or make use of co-working spaces to network with those from your sector and help foster creativity. 

Entrepreneurialism is built into the DNA of all startup founders. However, a go-getting spirit alone isn’t enough to sustain growth in the long-term and founders need support to help their company develop and thrive. I hope this helps the next generation of founders to reach their goals – I can say hand-on-heart that all the late nights are worth it in the end!