Stress as a small business owner

Having run a small business, both as a partner with a team, and as a sole trader, I have tasted firsthand the stresses and anxieties that doing so brings about. You have to do everything, especially at the beginning, and later when you have a few people working in your business, the stresses as well as the satisfactions seem to get more intense, rather than lessen.

You have to train colleagues in the ways you want the work done, in the relationship- building with clients, then there’s performance management, time management (theirs as well as yours), the inevitable fall-outs that occur between staff members in a small team where there’s often nowhere to hide and a big impact on the workplace atmosphere. It’s more like a family than anything else, with both the close-knit feel and the tensions that happen in families.

As the person fully responsible for a small business, it can feel a heavy burden. I remember how that felt it in my 20s and 30s, and back then didn’t know any better as to how to deal with it more effectively. So, my working week often ran to 12 hour days, with few holidays, not enough quality time for my home life and so on. I’d be doing my own work, watching the work of everyone else, running all the timelines and projects, meeting the clients, doing the accounts and generating new business to keep everyone in their job.

In later years, I began to realise how unsustainable that was. Or at least, yes I could carry on, but the cost became rather high. If I had my time again, and knowing what I do now, I might have learned to work ‘smarter’, to invest some of the meagre profits in some basic training both for myself - for example in delegation skills, in having better performance conversations that motivate the colleague rather than depressing them, in saying ‘no’ and managing clients’ expectations better, in communication skills that actually worked.

Well, if this is you now, think about what you might do different. Ask yourself these five coaching questions, and give yourself time to let the honest answers come to you:

What do I want my work life to be like? 

How is it right now, and how do I feel?

What could I change right now that would enable me to work ‘smarter?' 

What skill gap have I got that, if I paid attention to it, might reduce the stresses a little, and amplify the benefits?’

What might the consequences be for my life, for the business and for my team if I keep on “firefighting”, working and living out of a stressed state?

Think about it.


© paul crummay 2018