I’m Stressed Out Jerry!
The American Psychological Association conducts a yearly survey of Americans to determine the relative levels of stress we feel. In 2018 a record was set with 90% of respondents reporting elevated levels of stress on a daily basis. Perhaps even worse, almost half of respondents reported that their levels of stress were leading to depression, anxiety and a lack of motivation. We, as Americans, are stressed out, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Stress is also believed to contribute to physical health risk factors like high blood pressure and heart disease, perhaps leading to the markedly shorter and more medically assisted lifespans we have.
So, why do Americans, who have the highest standard of living in the first world and therefore the whole world, feel so besieged?
The answer to this question is, of course, different for different people, so I’m going to focus on the population that I know best – small business owners. If you’ve started, purchased, or otherwise run a small business, you probably have that entrepreneurial spring inside of you that, once freed, sent you on a trajectory of self-determination leading to where you are now. But that entrepreneurial spring is a funny dynamo… once you let it go, it can be hard to predict where it will bounce you, and before you know it you have employees, supply chains, expensive assets, the debt that comes with them, etc. And with those things, despite the joy and rewards of running a successful business, also come immense pressures and obligations.
Chief Cook and Bottle Washer
Compounding the mounting pressure of being a business owner is the phenomenon that occurs when you find yourself wearing more and more hats (CEO, CFO, COO, Marketing Director, HR Director, IT Manager). But even if you could learn to be a CEO, a sales director, an accountant, a CMO, an operations/logistics specialist, an HR expert and a computer whiz, would you enjoy filling all of those roles? Are you the best person for each of those jobs? And if not, might you be doing your company a disservice by continuing to fill them on your own?
Whatever your role, your time should be spent focused on the activities you both enjoy and excel at to keep your energy at its peak and your initial reason for wanting to own your own business in tact. For most business owners, this means providing strategic direction and inspirational leadership for your company, which can be achieved either on the technical or sales side of the C-Suite. If you’re the business owner and you’re spending more time changing the tires than turning the wheel, you’re not in the right seat on your bus.
Working On Your Business, Not In Your Business
When we spend extended periods of time performing duties we don’t enjoy, we drain our energy. When we spend our time doing what we like, we replenish our energy. You might have experienced this if you’re the type of business owner who prefers social activities, like sales and networking, but is forced to work on bank statement reconciliations, payroll, hiring or contracts. Or maybe you love the technical side of running a business but loathe networking.
If you’re like most small knowledgeable and experienced business owners, it’s probable that you could close your doors tomorrow and make more money working fewer hours for one of your larger competitors. But that’s missing the point, isn’t it? The point, for most owners, is increasing quality of life for you and your family, both in this generation and possibly thereafter.
In that spirit, I challenge you to do some introspection on what you enjoy most and least about owning a business. And then, open your mind to letting someone else do the rest – whether that be an in-house employee, a firm specializing in the service you need like a CPA/bookkeeping firm or an HR company, or a fractional business consultancy who can devote a team to your company on a part time basis. Often the second two of these options is less expensive and time intensive than hiring your own employee(s), and gives you more flexibility without the additional management responsibilities.
Whatever you choose to do, stop putting so much pressure on yourself and remember why you originally pursued the dream of owning your own business. Then make a plan to get back there.