The Key to Managing Stress for Small Business Owners

by Roxanne Calder 5th of September, 2023
The Key to Managing Stress for Small Business Owners
The Key to Managing Stress for Small Business Owners

Ever since the pandemic, the world has touted the importance of managing stress, pressure and providing ample wellbeing for our employees. So, we should. It is morally critical and commercially vital. Healthy, happy, and long-tenured staff are fundamental for good business performance. 

Business owners, too, are central to business performance. But post-pandemic, I wonder just how our small business owners are faring? Not that great it seems. Small business owners face more mental health challenges than the general population and Australian small business owners have the second lowest level of wellbeing.

When 97.5% of all business in Australia are small businesses (0-19 employees), and responsible for employing 42% of the private sector, up from 41% in pre-COVID times, we should be concerned. So, what is the key to managing stress for small business owners? 


Not a day off!


A lovely thought from the well-intentioned. Every business owner knows you pay dearly for any time off. Even when you delegate, you can’t distribute all the work. It piles up, waiting impatiently for your return, and to make sure you never leave again, somehow balloons in size and consequence. Just enough for you to think twice the next time you browse ‘holiday destinations.’ 

And if you are tied directly to service delivery and away, add the inevitable loss of revenue. Your holiday cost just quadrupled. So, is it any wonder 34 % of small business owners take less than four weeks of holiday a year, and 14% can’t recall the last time they took annual leave at all. 


Stress in today’s environment


It’s different. Small business owners are accustomed to business pressure. It is inked invisibly into their job description. But today’s environment is a cardiac test, even for the strong-hearted. Chasing revenue, countering rising costs, the hyper-focus on health and welfare, the struggle to find staff, rampant resignations, remote work or not, business efficiencies, cyber-attacks, technology advancements and much more.

Business owners must be mentally nimble, adjusting on the spot and sometimes mid-pivot to stop and change again. Have you accepted the new reality, or waiting for the old normal to return? That’s undue stress right there, accompanied by a sprig of disillusion and an invitation for continued pressure.  Accept, adapt and redivert your fight or flight stresses to energies to reinvigorate and inspire your business. 


Good or bad long hours? 


The debate is aplenty. As is the research. Tell a motivated person not to put the effort in. It doesn’t work. Equally so is the suggestion to an inspired business owner not to work long hours. But a demotivated business owner, that is another story. 

Of course, putting in longer hours has its costs. But it is not a clear-cut translation, ‘extra work = decreased wellbeing’ equation. Rather, focus on recovery. Quality, not quantitative time on wellbeing and restorative sleep, creating the buffer against stress and the risk of burnout.


The skills shortage and stress 


This could be your bad long-hours story. Nearly 40% of small business owners work over 60 hours a week. Press pause and ask yourself why? Your ongoing 60-plus hour weeks is the equivalent of 1.5 headcounts. Are you doing someone else’s job? Hire the resource or hold your staff member accountable. 

The skills shortage and record-low unemployment rates make the task of hiring tough, but not insurmountable. Look to use specialist recruiters, outsource, or upskill your existing employees. Patience and training are necessary ingredients to counter current hiring conundrums.  


Are you the problem?


Regardless of the advice, some of you just prefer to do everything yourself. 30% of you feel you are ‘the most capable’, 20% don’t have employees with the right skills, and another 20% are in a hurry to get the job done. You need to let go. Alleviate the workload with upskilling and reskilling your employees. Nearly 20% of you like doing the tasks, which I can’t disagree with!  

I am a small business owner. I also fit into all the above statistics. 

Owning a business is tough, and at times, a lonely place. Most people will never understand the weight of responsibility. Nor the intrinsic pleasure. But it is our choice. Manage your stress the right way to continue the inspiration and motivation you first set out with for your business. This is a noble job.

Tags: small business business owners tips

About the author

Roxanne Calder

author of ‘Employable
Founder and managing director of EST10 – one of Sydney’s most successful ...

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