There are many great things about running your own business. You’re following your dream, you’re managing yourself and you get that extra satisfaction of earning money that’s come from something YOU built. However, there are also many darker parts to owning a business that we don’t often talk about. So, let’s talk about it: the mental health impacts of running a business.
If you are currently growing a business, you may understand how it can impact you mentally when you’re constantly putting out fires.
This is something I never really thought about in the early days of my business, when it was just me working from my spare room at home. But once you start with staff, then bank facilities, then chasing clients, trying to find sales and dealing with the morale of the team… All of this builds up in the back of your mind before it eventually shows its ugly face in the form of mental health issues.
Busting the stigma
It’s hard to get your head into the space that is required to run a business when you have all these things on your shoulders. Sometimes, you just end up sitting there and looking at a blank screen, with all these things that need to get done but you don’t really know where to start – or you’re not in the right ‘zone’.
Mental health used to be a pretty taboo subject, but these days it tends to be at the forefront of people’s minds – especially in business. The suicide rate in entrepreneurs and business people, especially men, is HUGE.
Running a business and all the negativity that can come with it can be a huge burden. Often, it’s 80% wading through the dirt versus 20% the positive stuff, such as winning new clients.
The mental health impacts of running a business can really weigh down on somebody, which means you’re going slower and you’re not running on full energy levels.
Stabbing in the dark
Ultimately, it all ends up having an effect: at this point that I’m talking about, the business ended up having its worst financial year on record. The business was a million miles away from where I wanted it to be. As a result, I was frustrated, I had confidence issues and I was making decisions I really shouldn’t have been making. Out of pure desperation, I was stabbing in the dark just to see if anything stuck – and it just wasn’t working.
Apologies if you feel a little depressed after reading this post – but this is what happens in business, and transparency is exactly what I’m trying to achieve by sharing my stories.
Remember – you’re not alone
I have so many conversations with people I know who are in business in which I start talking about what I’m going through and you can just see the relief in their eyes. Thank god. The conversation then transcends sales or anything else, and becomes a like-minded exchange between people who are going through the same thing.
I think it’s really important for people to hear about this side of business – both for those who aren’t quite there yet, and for those who are currently struggling to hear that they’re not alone.
I’m going to share when the wheels really did start to fall off at Stada Media, starting in early 2018. However, at the time, I just didn’t know it.
Empty sales patches
I’d taken my eyes off the ball when it came to sales – instead, I was too focused on other areas of the business. The team had grown – we were up to about 11 staff at that time. Plus, I didn’t really have a proper level of management to help me.
As a result, there were too many team members for one person to manage and I wasn’t delegating enough. I was doing a lot of the work myself (repeating the same mistake I made when I hired my first staff member!) – so this left some very big, empty patches in sales.
There was also some stuff going on in my personal life – and that’s what we often forget about when running a business. We’re humans! We have relationships, families and friends, and a mixture of good and bad stuff happens in life.
Those empty patches in the sales pipeline were definitely going to set us up for almost-disaster. This was our toughest period for cashflow – our overheads were at an all-time high, specifically on the payroll side of things.
Thinking with my heart, not my business brain
The way I was running my business was re-investing so I made sure we had the power in-house to service our clients. However, the business was growing very disproportionately – I was growing our infrastructure slightly too quick for the amount of clients we were actually getting in.
This meant we were vulnerable. If we were to lose a client or encounter ANY cashflow issues, it would make things incredibly tight.
The biggest problem was this: instead of acting quickly and reducing costs, I just kept fighting. I was thinking entirely with my heart, and not with my business brain.
I was holding on with the hope that a few new clients would come knocking on our door to save the day. But that just didn’t happen – and month after month after month, I just kept on fighting.
Low energy and depression
At the same time, my mental health was deteriorating. I was self-diagnosed as being slightly depressed at that time. It was physical, it was mental, and it meant that I just wasn’t firing in all cylinders. I wasn’t able to affect the business in the way that a CEO or business owner NEEDED to in that moment of desperation.
I’d go from working 100% flat-out, to 5% and depressed, with the rest of that time being spent putting out mini fires. When those fires were put out and I was finally left to grow my business, the energy levels were LOW.
Being in a situation like this takes up a lot of time – and it’s not just sending emails, making phone calls and strategising. There are moments where you’re just thinking, trying to remain focused on what needs to be done – but it’s intangible stuff. I didn’t have anything to show for the amount of headspace I had to allocate to this monthly cashflow dance.
Even strong characters struggle
Anyone who’s been through difficult times in life, businessperson or otherwise, will understand what I’m talking about. Everyone’s different; I’m quite a strong character who can deal with a lot, and even in those times of stress I could still handle that to a certain level. However, even I think that one person dealing with everything I had to go through was really tough.
I’d spent so many years all-energetic, all-optimistic, chasing the dream, building the empire and not looking over my shoulder… that naturally, I think there’s always a bit of a comedown. You realise things aren’t always as positive as you like to believe.
Life comes at you fast
When you add age to that (I was in my early 40s at the time) you start to think about life a bit more. Where am I heading?
10 years ago, I wasn’t as bothered about not having lots of money in the account – because I knew I was building something. Now, I was looking at what I was building and getting a little impatient – and this had resulted in depression sneaking in over the 1-2 years prior.
I wasn’t getting up as bright and early as I used to – I used to work 15 hours a day, but at this point I was struggling to find reasons to get out of bed. I would sit at my desk in my office, knowing there was a lot that needed to get done, but things weren’t as clear as they used to be and I just didn’t have the energy.
Working it all out
Being honest and open about this was half the battle. I’m a very proud, stubborn person, but I admitted that I had a problem. Was it lack of exercise? Was it my diet? Was it that I wasn’t getting out of the house and socialising enough? Had I, in fact, fallen out of love with the business and what I’d spent the last god-knows-how-long doing?
One thing I knew for sure, I had to figure all of this out and know what I wanted from my life and mental health. Only then would I know how to move forward with my business.
If you’ve experienced problems similar to what you’ve just read in this post, my door is always open for a chat. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want a friendly ear from someone who’s BEEN THERE.
Of course, I don’t replace proper medical help if you’re really struggling – always talk to a doctor or other professional for that proper long-term support!