I was particularly taken by a blog post that I came across recently on the Mente website. Titled Entrepreneurs, business owners and poor mental health, the post resonated with me on a number of levels, so much so that I feel compelled to share it and add a personal perspective.
If you’ve not come across Mente before, I recommend you check it out. Mente is a resource for employers and employees dedicated to raising awareness and addressing the issues of mental health in the workplace. The platform offers a range of digital and human-led services to help line managers and their employees understand and support mental health at work, and avoid any deteriorating mental health issues escalating into more serious problems.
In an insightful combination of academic research and interviews with business owners, the post makes many compelling points, none of which are more powerful than a comment from Mel Joseph, the founder of Mente, herself:
“In the start-up stages, we work with limited finances and to ensure we stay in the game, we develop the always-on culture that leads to intense work schedules, sleepless nights and feelings of helplessness, which can lead to low self-worth caused by heightened threat of failure”.
Mel has been candid about her own challenges with mental health in the past and it’s clear that this comment comes from a very personal place. Well Mel, let me tell you, we hear you.
Did you know that start-up founders are twice as likely to have depression, are 10 times more likely to have bipolar disorder and, most worryingly, are twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts? Nor did I, but it’s a frightening prospect and enough to make you wonder why any of us do it.
Of course, when we go into running our own businesses, we do it with our eyes only half open. We are so motivated by our idea, the vision of what we are going to create and the prospect of the freedom that will come from being our own boss that any thoughts of it all turning into stress, sleepless nights and poor mental health are swept under the carpet. And in some respects, it has to be that way. Without confidence and optimism, nothing would ever get started and it’s these traits which set entrepreneurs apart.
But it can’t be excitement and success forever and there will definitely be times when the going feels really tough.
To recognise that you’re overwhelmed, anxious or depressed can be the hardest thing of all. An inability to make a decision, cross words at home, difficulty in focusing on a task and an overall sense of falling out of love with the one thing that gave you all the energy and optimism in the first place are all signs that everything is not quite right and that some time out or even professional support might be needed.
When I founded CaFE, one of my biggest motivations was to be a small part of the solution. The most common concerns impacting mental health are, you’ve guessed it, cash flow, tax and falling revenue. Managing cash flow is challenging and it is even more difficult if you don’t have the information at your finger tips to let you know what is going on. Cash flow forecasts can just add to the stress, so we set out to make it as simple as possible for somebody without any financial training to manage their cash flow effectively.
With CaFE, you get the information and alerts you need in the palm of your hand and helps you stop having to make last minute panic decisions like borrowing money to supplement your cashflow, which can be expensive as well as stressful. How much cash you have, if it is enough to cover upcoming bills and expenses, and what you need to do if the answer is ‘no’, such as asking a customer to make a due payment. You can dig deeper into the figures if you want to, you can even create budgets and forecasts at the touch of button, but that’s down to you and what you feel you need to make you feel in control.
I’m not a psychologist. I’m just a humble business owner like you that is riding the roller-coaster of trying to scale a business that I believe passionately in and desperately want to succeed. I know that I feel at my best when I feel in control and anything that gives me control, I grab with both hands.
But, I have bad days too and it’s then that I need the support of my family, friends and colleagues. To them, I will be eternally grateful.