Is asking for help difficult for you? No one is an island, but as the leader of a small practice, it may sometimes feel like you are. And never more so than in the current global crisis.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Your business is likely to suffer if you don’t.
Running your own business is usually fuelled by the promise of freedom, flexibility and financial security. Add to that the excitement of choosing the hours you work and taking holidays for as long as you like. Sounds like a dream, right?
Yet the bubble bursts when you have out-of-control overheads and payroll costs, work 80 hours per week, struggle with cash flow, and deal with staff and all the emotional baggage they bring in every day.
(And this is before the extraordinary circumstances in the first months of 2020 that have seen business owners across the world having to furlough staff or let them go all while struggling to even keep their businesses afloat.)
These challenges are universal to business owners, and they’re compounded when you aren’t big enough to afford dedicated HR support. Or you don’t have systems or processes in place to deal with everything you’re required by law to do: strategic plans for KPIs, work health safety regulations and a psychologically safe environment (what does that even mean?).
Yet we rarely hear stories about lack of support or mental health problems, which research reports over one-third of people are reluctant to reveal. Workplaces of all sizes are impacted by poor mental health, with evidence suggesting psychological distress is most acute for sole traders. Statistics from the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman show that 97 percent of Australia’s economy is made up of small business with no more than 20 employees.
Yet more than 60 percent of these fail within their first three years, and the odds are stacked against those that continue. Worse still, research by Everymind, an institute dedicated to the prevention of mental ill health, found that the majority of current workplace mental health programs are not designed or suitable for small business. So what to do?
According to Amanda Keogh from the icare Foundation, these problems could be prevented with early intervention and support. Hence, extending your hand for help is the first step towards gaining a sense of control over your environment. Knowing you can change yourself, your business and your life is crucial: not just to survive, but to progress. It is the silent suffering that is the silent killer of any small business.
The real challenge is that while you may have people around you – employees, clients, suppliers and even friends – you feel like no one truly gets it. So you don’t speak up, you don’t confide in those closest to you. You isolate yourself more and more. This only exacerbates what you are experiencing, as you internalise what is happening.
Your mindset plays a huge role in changing this situation. Your perception of your reality powerfully influences the way you view your world and the decisions you make in business. It helps you move from talking about what you wish for to actually making steps, and asking for the help that will make a difference to your life.
A step in the right direction
Once you start speaking up, owning where you’re at and seeking a support network and counselling advice, as well as the right coach/mentor for your personal and professional work, then you will be able to transition to a space where you’re maintaining your business. But you will still experience a constant, underlying pressure.
Running your own small business is a 24/7 activity. There will always be pressure: it will never go away. There will always be setbacks, failures and obstacles. What counts is how you deal with that pressure, with those setbacks and obstacles. This is why it is crucial you are mentally healthy and have the ability to tell people when things are tough.
Yet through all of the ups and downs, certain things remain constant – your mindset, your approach, your attitude and ability to ask for help. The biggest factor in success is enlisting solid support for yourself and your team. So ask yourself honestly now, what support have you currently got in place? And what support do you need?
On a serious note, if you are in crisis please pick up the phone and call Lifeline on 13 11 14
Anastasia Massouras is a leader, facilitator and coach helping small business owners and teams to overcome barriers that prevent growth and success. She is the CEO of Work Happy, and founder and CEO of Pure Insights.