We all know that, left unchecked, stress can grind down your passion and undermine your performance – not to mention, take a serious toll on your physical and mental health. So when you consider the pressures of starting and running a business it seems wise to add effective stress-management to the list of skills you need to develop to build and sustain a successful business.
Everybody experiences stress sometimes. But it is possible to stop stress from derailing your productivity, profits, and overall well-being. Follow these practical tips to avoid the main causes of “business-owner stress.”
1. Maintaining positive cash flow and a steady income
The Australian Psychological Society’s Stress and Wellbeing in Australia Survey 2015 found “personal finances” to be the leading source of stress among Australians. More than 49% of survey participants reported financial issues as a major cause of stress. As a business owner the potential for financial issues to cause stress are often even greater. After all, the buck stops with you! As an entrepreneur you take on the risk of no longer receiving a regular pay check, and the responsibility of ensuring that your employees and suppliers do.
All businesses must ensure they have enough cash to keep running after covering expenses each month. Cultivating a consistent cash flow is crucial for managing both your finances and your stress levels. Here are a few ways to stay cash flow positive:
Manage your debtors
- Prioritise managing your debtors regularly and methodically to get cash flowing into your business on time. See our article for some easy to implement tips: 8 smart ways to manage your debtors for business success.
Monitor your cashflow
- Make it easy to monitor your cash flow with a cloud accounting system like Xero where you can manage your invoicing on the go to get paid faster, and check your cashflow at a glance on the real-time dashboard.
Get your pricing right
- Be wary of slashing prices! If you must mark down a product or service, be sure you can recover your costs elsewhere. Your business advisor should be able to conduct modelling with you to help you establish a pricing structure balanced for turnover and profit.
Control your inventory levels
- Think “less is more” when purchasing inventory to avoid sinking precious cash into excess stock.
2. Managing too many tasks with too little time
Business owners have notoriously long to-do lists. With the multiple responsibilities of being a business owner, and without effective strategies for managing time and sharing the load, you’ll be forced into a reactive versus proactive position – the perfect storm for chronic stress, inefficiency and impaired decision-making.
Try these approaches to free up more of your time:
Do only what you do best
We’re all guilty of thinking “it will be quicker to do that myself”; but that’s a short-term solution to getting things done. By letting others focus on the areas they are good at, you can concentrate on the parts of your business that you love and are best at.
- Begin delegating more tasks to your partners and employees.
- Look at what you can outsource. Both repetitive and specialist roles are often outsourced, including bookkeeping, payroll, tax accounting, workplace relations, marketing, IT support and legal services.
- Engage a great business advisor. The right advisor will bring expert financial capabilities and business management experience to support you with effective operations and strategic issues. He or she will also be your mentor and sounding board, and will help you navigate the nuances of managing your business. Ultimately, the right advisor will save you time and money.
Learn when to walk away
It sounds contrary to suggest freeing up time by walking away, but focusing your energy in the right place at the right time can prevent burnout and increase your productivity.
- Make sure to make room in your day for yourself, your family and your other key relationships.
- Try not to blur the boundaries between work and home or you will feel like you never knock off. If you do work from home, create a separate space in your home for work; not only will you be more productive in that space but it will keep the lines of work and family time clear for you and those around you.
- Resist the temptation to work when you are feeling unwell … and take holidays! The business will not collapse without you and you’ll come back refreshed and at the top of your game.
Use the right tools to run your business efficiently
Putting the right tools in place can change the way you do business. Increased efficiency and flexibility as to how and where you work are just the beginning. Here are some things you should consider when looking at tools for running your business:
- Move as many tools as you can online to increase efficiency and maximise results. You can invite your staff and trusted advisors to access the same information as you in real-time to help get the work done and keep you on track. Online tools also provide the flexibility to integrate apps to work together, minimising data entry and helping you manage all aspects of your business seamlessly.
- Your accounting software is at the heart of running your business: bank reconciliation, cashflow management, financial reporting, invoicing, payroll, expense claims, bill payments, inventory management. It pays to get this right so make sure you have a business advisor who can support you in choosing, implementing and getting the best results from your accounting software. Read more here about the many benefits to cloud accounting which are prompting more and more businesses to make the move to online accounting software.
- Set up a well-planned, integrated project and time management tool to prioritise and assign tasks, track progress and share results with staff, management teams and clients. A good system will help you stay on top of your to-do list and will grow with your business. At Synectic we use the accountants version of WorkflowMax. This article from Xero tells you more about why you should also use online project management software.
- For more idea see our article 5 apps that could revolutionise how you do business.
Find out what works for other people
Keep in mind that the stress of time management – so many tasks, so little time! – is a problem that most business owners face. There are a multitude of resources available to help you develop effective strategies. Here are two we have found useful:
- Synectic’s book club have recently read The ONE Thing, by Gary Keller, which has great ideas on how to have fewer distractions and less on your plate, while gaining more productivity and more satisfaction from your work and personal life.
- The Flying Solo micro-business community has a range of time management resources and time-saving tips.
3. Growing your business
Sometimes as a business owner you become so busy maintaining the customers you have that opportunities for generating new customers start slipping by. And when you are the main (or often the only) lead-generator in your business the pressure is really on. But don’t let your sales focus slip until suddenly you don’t know where the next job is coming from. Auditing your current approach and implementing better growth strategies is key to alleviating that stress. Here are a few ideas to get started:
Target your marketing efforts
- Drill down into the behaviors and preferences of your customers, so you can better target your marketing.
- Choose your online presence wisely. Social media is relatively inexpensive but it takes time so, rather than trying to maintain too many profiles, find out where your customers are hanging out and meet them there. To get started, write down 10-20 people or businesses who symbolise your “ideal customer”. Find the top few platforms they are on, then explore how your business can add value to the conversations on those platforms.
Improve lead generation and sales
- Analyse each step in your sales process to see where the holes are, and tighten your approach to close the holes.
- Motivate and train all your staff to be engaged in attracting leads and closing sales. Even staff who are not customer-facing should be able to confidently answer what it is that your business does and why someone should choose your product or service over the competition.
Consider product development
- Consider using your customer research to develop a new product or service – one that fills a unique need for your customers and gives you a leg up on the competition. Make sure to talk to your business advisor to see how product or service development fits into your business plan.
More resources for managing the stress of business-ownership:
- Business in Mind is a resource developed especially for business owners and managers.
- Heads Up has great resources and tips to manage the mental health risk factors facing small business owners.
- The Flying Solo website has various articles addressing Stress management techniques for business managers.
- Engage a business mentor and join business networking groups for support from like-minded peers facing the same challenges as you.
- If you need more help managing the impacts of stress, see your GP or other health professional, or visit the Mental Health Council of Tasmania website for a list of online support services and helplines. Many of these resources operate nationally in Australia.
Starting and growing a business takes courage and tremendous energy. But by leveraging skilled help and improving key management processes, you’ll learn to pace yourself – and keep your entrepreneurial passion burning.