Firstly small business owners suffered from the pandemic and its restrictions, BREXIT and lost workers, now the Russian-Ukrainian War and potentially, if experts are to be believed, one of the worst economic situations in years.
Mental Health Awareness Week 9-15 May
According to iwoca and Mental Health UK, 4 in 5 small business owners are reporting that they’re experiencing poor mental health. We are not talking about one or two business owners. This report suggests at least 80% experience symptoms of poor mental health. In part, it is as a result of the pandemic, it’s also about the worries with cash flow, massively hiked costs, paying creditors, as well losing customers. The whole situation is contributing to their increased stress and anxiety levels. They’re often more isolated, and don’t know where to turn to for either business or mental health support. Actually, they possibly don’t have the time for mental health awareness. On top of this, they may be scared to admit to the problems for fear that customers will leave them.
The result of this is a rise in stress levels, small business owners simply can’t switch off – those constantly worried brains affect concentration, sleep and just about everything else. This recipe for poor mental wellbeing is especially affecting female business owners. So how does it spiral out of control for small business owners?
Small business owners and freelancers spend more time having to chase and collect payments than they should have to. Whether it’s the overdue invoice, a contract that delays payment or even those who withhold it, and no end of returns that involve refunds and more – they all affect the small business owner. There are also the customers that expect hours of free advice and quotes but then don’t buy from the business. That’s right, after hours of putting free quotes and ideas together, the customer chooses the multi-national or does it themselves. Why? Probably, because the customer believes they have more guarantees and they’ll save a few pennies.
It’s a total minefield and small business owners are suffering as a result. Most small businesses fail because of cash flow issues. Basically, that means they can’t pay their bills and don’t have the resources or often expertise to chase debtors. Sadly, many of those debtors are some of the unscrupulous small business owners. You know the ones, who close one company and open another without any thought of their impact, or simply won’t pay. As small business owners, sole traders and freelance workers account for 96% of all businesses in the UK, they deserve more respect. According to the FSB, Federation of Small Businesses, 50,000 small businesses a year fail because of bad payments. Is it any surprise that small business owners have such high levels of mental health problems?
The Spiral of “I Must be Seen to Do This”
I recently shared a post about the number of hats the average small business owner wears:
- Operations Manager / Chief Financial Operator
- HR Manager / Marketing Manager
- Sales Person / Customer Services
- Office Manager and Admin
- Technical Advisor / IT specialist
- On the job person
Along with coffee makers and magicians, the jobs never stop. Many of these businesses don’t want to become the next Elon Musk, they simply want to do an honest job. Yes, we’d all like to earn a little more and have a little more flexibility in what we do but we’re not there to take over the world.
Unfortunately, over recent years, the expectations of what small business owners must do to market themselves have spiralled out of control. The owner must be actively posting 2-3 times on social media platforms and replying to posts, every day, similar for LinkedIn, as well as writing blogs on their website. We’re all drawn into these must-dos with stats like:
- 90 million small businesses use social media
- 63% of customers expect companies use social media
- 200 million people use social media
It leads to the idea, that if we don’t follow suit we are failing or not good enough.
It’s also getting ever more invasive. Business owners are supposed to personalise their content, video themselves while walking the dog, showing off their young children. All in the hope of getting the extra sale.
They must also manage the different types of advertising – print, online Google Adwords, social media advertising as well as all the others. There used to be a rule of being seen 7 times, one PR agent recently told me that in his opinion it’s now closer to 15!
It doesn’t stop there though, there is the relentless gravy train of experts advising that you must enter awards too. True you pay to enter, but think of the prestige! Do the benefits pay off? In reality, it is hard to truly measure, with the financial costs of entering (usually) and time costs and then, of course, paying for the dinner table when attending the event for the award that you may or may not win.
Yes, many business owners will be financially successful if they do all these things, but I ask from a mental health awareness perspective, at what cost, because all of this comes on top of the day-to-day business.
Of course, other issues also contribute. Social media and review platforms make it very easy to complain. Suddenly the moaners build up a frenzy about the small business owner and their products and service. Generally, those who comment won’t necessarily know the full story but are prepared to confirm the failings of that business. Disparaging online reviews, possibly from competitors, can make it even worse. For the average small business owner, we’re left with the how do I:
- get my Google reviews up
- improve my TripAdvisor score
- get FB to remove the negative review which is untrue anyway
Mental Health Worries
It is of little surprise to me that so many small business owners are suffering from mental health worries. So many are now losing their businesses or simply closing and walking away. That business owner is a real person, not an algorithm. They have a story behind their venture and live in your community. Behind the scenes, they may have a myriad of things going on that most of us will never ever know about. While that shouldn’t affect your view of the business and its owner, if they’re in your community, just maybe it should.
Remember this, the average business owner is usually trying hard to fulfil a dream – they are passionate, they care and they want their business to work. Mostly though, they want the best for their customer too and they need our support.
What Can We All Do?
If you truly want to keep small local businesses in your area and help reduce their mental health risks you can:
- buy their products
- write nice reviews
- tell them not the world if there is a problem
- take their advice and buy from them
- don’t try and undercut them by telling them you can get it cheaper
My advice having watched some fabulous businesses closing recently:
Support them today, don’t wait
- buy flowers from your florist, not the supermarket
- use the beauty therapist or hairdresser in the high street, not in the department store
- ask a local trader to fit your kitchen not the multinational
Come on let’s give a small business owner a break and help to boost their mental health. After all, it is Mental Health Awareness Week.
For more information about mental health awareness:
Website: Find out more about Mental Health