Dealing with the Stress of Operating a Business

Posted: May 16, 2024
Category: Spotlight on Business

Stress is a reality of life, and everyone manages it differently. However, business operations have triggers that can increase an owner’s stress level. The list is long and subject to change based on economic fluctuations, weather, or customer behavior. Some may think the easiest way to manage unpredictability is to ride the situation until it improves. But that’s not the best option regarding your mental and physical health. Studies by the Mayo Clinic identify common physical effects of stress – high blood pressure, strokes, and sleep problems. Changes in behavior and mood can result in angry outbursts, restlessness, and anxiety. So, bottling up stress is not the solution.

Admittedly, it’s not practical to step away from the essential tasks a business owner must perform—but there are ways to de-stress. Store owners are the backbone of their operation, and the company’s success depends on them being in good “operating” condition. So, what can you change to ensure that happens? First, recognize the source of your stress, and second, devise techniques to manage the situation. A report commissioned by Xero, a cloud-based accounting software firm, identified the primary sources of stress for small business owners. Here are the top four.

Managing Staff̶̶
Building highly effective and engaged teams is crucial to the success of any business. When everyone is moving in the same direction, the operation runs smoothly. But when there are missteps, chaos can result, and production suffers. Forty-two (42) percent of respondents say managing staff is their number one source of stress. Leaders are responsible for keeping their staff happy, motivated, and productive. That can be quite a load to shoulder every day. Koren Wines, Managing Director of Xero, has this to say about being a business owner. “The responsibility of running your business efficiently, making decisions about the future, and paying your employees on time falls entirely on your shoulders,” she said. “All too often, the accompanying stress bleeds into one’s personal life, leaving business owners feeling isolated and disconnected from their loved ones.”

Solution: One of the characteristics of an effective leader is empowering teams to make decisions. Being a micromanager impedes the company’s growth and stifles employees’ desire to contribute. With the proper training, employers require less hands-on management and can help improve the business. It’s essential to communicate and listen to staff to address their concerns and share ideas. Collaboration will result in happier employees, less turnover, and increased productivity.

Administration and Paperwork
Thirty-two (32) percent of respondents cited administration as a “major obstacle” when operating a business. Studies indicate owners spend 60 to 70 hours a month on paperwork. Schedules must be created, taxes paid, and contracts must be signed. These administrative tasks are required to keep the doors open but are also a source of stress that can increase over time.

Solution: Hire someone part-time to manage the company’s paperwork. In this “gig economy,” many people are looking for ways to supplement their incomes. Hiring a retired accountant or bookkeeper may be the answer to your paperwork overload. There are also services that can manage specific tasks that are particularly time-consuming.

Feeling responsible for the company’s success or failure
The burden of leadership requires making decisions that dictate the company’s future success … or failure. Over one-third (31 percent) of owners say the sense of responsibility for their business causes them stress. This constant stress takes a toll.

Solution: In business, there are big and small victories. Acknowledging the little successes every day creates a positive culture that recognizes the role of individual contributors.

Keeping Up with Compliance
Every business must comply with rules and regulations that can change overnight. Keeping up with regulations can be challenging since their implementation can alter current processes and workflows. Twenty-six (26) percent of owners list complying as a stressor.

Solution: Change is always going to happen. It should be embraced and seen as an opportunity to make the business more agile and responsive.

Ask for Help
President Harry Truman famously said, “The buck stops here.” Realistically, no person can manage everything—even presidents hire help to manage the country. While owners sometimes feel they must see and touch everything related to the business, there are limits. Don’t attempt to manage everything alone. Asking for help can reduce stress and help overcome roadblocks that cause companies to struggle. Four “stressors” are mentioned earlier. These are the remaining six that owners also find challenging.

  • Overheads and expenses (24 percent)
  • Acquiring clients and keeping them happy
  • Imposter Syndrome (20 percent)
  • Filing Taxes (19 percent)
  • Time pressures (17 percent)
  • Multitasking (14 percent)

It can be challenging to ask for help, but it’s better to request it sooner rather than later. Problems tend to worsen when pushed aside for an easier task. Carefully assess the issues you need to deal with, come up with a plan, and then move forward.