Successful entrepreneurs achieve hero status in our culture. We idolise Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg; Sigma Capital’s Phuti Mahanyele and property mogul, Ipeleng Mkhari founder of Motseng Investment Holdings. We celebrate the exponential growth of their businesses and other “disrupter” organisations.
Despite the public achievements, however, many of these entrepreneurs carried secret demons on their road to success. They struggled through moments of near-debilitating anxiety and despair. There were times when it seemed everything might crumble, times when the rejection and closed doors sent them packing while others struggled with simply facing a new day.
The entrepreneurial journey is typically characterised by working around the clock, caffeine fixes and binge drinking. There is a culture of winning at all costs and enduring extreme stress, laced with tantrums here and there. While, they also often juggle many roles and face countless setbacks, lost customers, disputes with partners, divorce, increased competition, staffing problems all while struggling to make payroll.
Unfortunately, all these stressors can lead to anxiety and depression. As we commemorate World Health Day in April, we reflect on the mental health of business owners, as this significantly impacts on business sustainability.
How to succeed in the battle against stress
In our 10-year experience as Property Point, we have observed that supporting entrepreneurs through the various stages of business is critical, as mental well-being directly impacts the ability of making sound and progressive decisions. A healthy business is built by a healthy individual who is able to lead a healthy organisation that makes profit and creates jobs.
There is no moving away from this fact is there is a psychological price to starting and running a business. However, the ability to weather the storms is the ‘secret factor’ in the winning equation. From our experience working with dozens of entrepreneurs and SMMEs, we have the following advice in the battle against stress:
1. Treat the entrepreneurship journey like a marathon
Learn to accept that business success does not happen overnight and mentally and financially prepare accordingly. The most enduring businesses have taken years to become sustainable and so will yours.
Celebrate every success as another kilometre covered on the journey to the finish line – the goal.
Take a moment to appreciate paying the rent, or finishing a proposal, or landing a new client. These wins are an important to staying positive in the race when the finish line seems so distant.
2. Have an identity beyond your business
Most entrepreneurs take their businesses extremely seriously and rightly so. However, often the business consumes the owner to the point that they forget that there are other facets to their lives.
While it is nearly impossible to have a balanced life you’ll still have to take care of the other areas such as family, friendships and physical fitness. These pillars can also be a vital support network during the most challenging times.
3. Strive for Wellness
Entrepreneurs tend to de-prioritise wellness. It’s important to take care of yourself and make it clear to your employees that they should do the same.
Mental health affects everyone so find opportunities to talk about it, you’ll more than likely find others in similar situations. The stigma around this issue is real so make a conscious effort to end the negative associations and make it a business imperative.
In between the blood sweat and tears, make time for yourself, make time for breaks. It may not be possible for you to take two weeks’ off but you can schedule weekend breaks every couple of months or simply a day off to recharge your batteries. After all if the entrepreneur is not well the business won’t be either.