BY Tim Hoopmann
As a Beyond Blue speaker and small business owner, I’m often asked how to maintain and protect the mental health of your small business. In looking after the mental health of your business you need to use every tool, technique and support available to look after yourself, your team, your suppliers and your customers.
Easy to say. But how do you do it?
small business Is different
First, it’s important to understand the common mental health characteristics particular to small business as opposed to larger corporate organisations.
You must be “on”, all the time. As a business owner you have no choice but to take total responsibility for every aspect of your business – from sales and marketing through cashflow, financial management, people, and operations, to ATO compliance.
That massive burden often breeds a deep loss of control – the very opposite of what you hungered for when you established your own business! Bearing down on you every day, that sense of helplessness makes it so much harder to value yourself and your business.
As a business owner you must value and look after yourself first. It’s the only way you can lead from the front.
There are things you can do to regain control.
Take the pressure off by creating clear responsibilities for everyone in your team. This simple measure frees your organisation to be its best. It empowers your people, who will return the favour in spades.
Regular out-of-office breaks are very important to a mentally healthy business culture. Take off a Friday and escape for a long weekend. I always plan my next holiday before I finish my current one. It gives me a focus for the next time I will be taking a break from business.
You should also set boundaries for you and your team. Simple things like only reading and replying to emails at certain times. Try this: no emails to clients before 8.30am and after 6pm. Make this clear up front to clients so you set expectations. Include it in your letter of engagement. It’s often difficult at first to discipline oneself, but it’s wonderful when it starts to become business-as-usual. Your customers soon appreciate it as much as you!
Finding your happy place is likewise critical. The beach is my happy place. Just me, the ocean and some quiet time. It really sets up my day for success. It gives me energy and starts the day positively.
I also recommend connecting to your community both socially and to benefit others. For me, it’s volunteering and speaking for Beyond Blue. Giving back is very good for the soul.
Finally — this is important — be ready to reach out for help whenever you need it. Help is available and there are some amazing resources to support small business and their leaders. Here are some sources I find useful:
Beyondblue HEADS UP resources for small business include actions you can prepare for and plan as a small business owner, including how to look after your staff and prepare your business;
The EVERYMIND AHEAD FOR BUSINESS online program is targeted at actions small business owners can do to look after themselves;
Other free services including BEYOND BLUE NEW ACCESS FOR SMALL BUSINESS – A great service aimed directly at small business owners who need support.