Business & Economy

Tuesday, 13 November 2018 11:37

Managing a Business is More Stressful than Raising Children

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Stress – the health epidemic of the 21st century

The World Health Organisation (WHO) identified workplace stress as the greatest health epidemic of the century. Stress can lead to depression and anxiety disorders, something a WHO-led study estimates costs the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity. 

What’s more, entrepreneurs and more specifically, small business owners claimed last year, according to Bank of America, that “managing their business is more than four times more stressful than raising children.” 

There’s no doubt that entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted and that they are more likely to be more stressed compared to the employee workforce, and that they are more likely to worry a lot more. But, stress can lead to depression and other mental health issues. 

When people talk about the challenges of entrepreneurship, they seldom discuss the impact that running a business can have on mental wellbeing, and neglect can take its toll, warns Pieter Scholtz, Co-Master Franchisor in Southern Africa for ActionCOACH. A recent study approved by the UC Berkeley Institutional Review Board, revealed that entrepreneurs were more likely to experience depression, ADHD, addiction and bipolar. 

“The reality is that many entrepreneurs have to invest more hours in their business than salaried workers. At the same time, they face a degree of uncertainty, fatigue and isolation that’s unknown to employed people. This is especially true at the early stages of a startup, when they cannot be sure if all the hours, and capital, they’re investing in their venture will bear fruit. The constant pressure if often compounded by financial stress, which can lead to burnout, i.e., the owner loses sight of what life is truly about,” he says.

Exacerbating the situation further is the fact that the entrepreneur seldom has a colleague with whom to discuss their anxieties. Moreover, social interchange of any sort – one of the most pleasant aspects of the workplace – is in short supply for the entrepreneur: that stereotype of the ambitious business brain working alone from her dining room table is often all too true.  

This isolation can contribute to the depression that arises out of anxiety – plus, there’s the ever-looming spectre of burnout. After all, it’s rare that entrepreneurs have the resources to support a workforce – which means that they carry the brunt of marketing and finance activities, in addition to their core business duties.  

“All of this creates a scenario where the entrepreneur’s sense of identity and purpose is strongly bound to the success of the company. While this is understandable, it can have a negative impact on the individual’s self-esteem if the business goes through a rough patch or even fails,” Scholtz points out. 

He adds that this is where the tools provided by a business coach can prove extremely useful. “It’s not that the business coach fulfils the role of a therapist – although, inevitably, entrepreneurs experience relief from discussing their concerns with an objective party. Rather, it’s about creating balance for the business owner and equipping them with the skills they need to work through particularly challenging times. The start of a coaching programme is what we call the alignment, where we identify exactly what the business owner wants out of life and then we compare that to where the business is and prioritise the business from there.” 

Scholtz refers specifically to the stress experienced by entrepreneurs: as seasoned business owners themselves, business coaches are able to identify with this emotion. They are able to share their own ideas and tips for dealing with stress but, more than this, they are also able to provide practical solutions. For example, the business coach may be able to suggest a resource that can offer the assistance needed to bypass an obstacle; or perhaps they can recommend an alternative approach to tackling the problem that the entrepreneur has not considered because they are too immersed in the situation.  

Business coaches can also lessen the isolation experienced by entrepreneurs by tapping into their own extensive networks to find potential contacts who may be a good fit for the startup owner. They will also be able to suggest appropriate conferences and industry events where the entrepreneur can broaden their knowledge while meeting industry peers who may help further the business. 

“Ultimately, our role is to ensure the health of an enterprise – and the mental strength and wellbeing of the business owner plays no small role in this. By working together with a business coach, the entrepreneur may build the mental resources needed to tackle the business world,” Scholtz concludes. 


Brandfundi is a boutique PR and marketing communications agency boasting 20 years experience across many various industries and categories.

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