The journey of running a small business can feel a bit like a rollercoaster. There are incredible highs, but equally terrible lows and taking any time or focus away from your business can seem impossible. As we begin looking to the New Year ahead, small business mental health advocate, Leanne Faulkner, challenges you to reframe your thinking and recognise the biggest investment in your business, is in fact, an investment in yourself.
In 2008 Leanne was at the helm of a successful multi-million dollar global business. She had growth plans, distribution plans and a number of employees working for her, and then the Global Financial Crisis hit. The business slowed down, she slowed down, and in crept the belief that everyone else must have a secret to business success that she hadn’t been let in on. Leanne’s business was failing, and to her, that meant she was failing.
In reality, Leanne, along with many other business owners around the world were going through an extremely challenging time – challenges not too dissimilar to those facing many small businesses today. Despite the shared difficulties, and the many late nights spent on Google searching “small business owner and anxiety” Leanne couldn’t find the resources and support she needed to help cope.
Fast forward to 2020, and Leanne is now a passionate small business mental health and wellbeing advocate, an ambassador for the Council of Small Business and Organisations in Australia and a lecturer for the University of Newcastle.
On a mission to dispel the myths of running a small business, Leanne shares her three key tips developed to help support the over 2 million small businesses we have here in Australia.
1. Build your resilience muscle
“Learning to build your resilience muscle will help you manage your own mental health and stay healthy and productive particularly through some of those unique challenges we face as small business owners” Leanne said.
“There is a lot of research out there about building resilience but, I’d bring it down to three key things”
- Seek out gaps in your day to reset and recharge, take a few deep breaths or pop your phone on aeroplane mode for an hour
- Move your body in some way each day for mind and body connection
- And remember that stuff happens to all of us, we’re just not talking about that enough at the moment –
There are over 2 million small businesses in Australia and yet according to Leanne’s own research, “70% of us can only name a few entrepreneurs. It’s the well-known success stories of the few that are heard the loudest. Small business is tough, it can be long hours, hard work and we tend to pay ourselves last. We need to start talking about what small business and entrepreneurship really looks like day to day”.
2. Recognise ‘you are not your business’
Although running your own business can often bring more flexibility and freedom, it can also be more difficult to practice work life balance and separate your individual identity from that of your business.
“The issue when small business owner’s tie their identity to that of their business is they inevitably tie their self-worth to it as well. When the business is succeeding, they are succeeding, but on the other side, if the business is struggling then they must be a failure. It’s simply not the case,” Leanne explained.
“We need to accept that the activities, performance and success of the business doesn’t reflect on who you are as a human being. Keep being you, and let the business do its thing”.
“If you start to notice any ‘red flags’ - being more short tempered than usual, changes in sleep patterns, physical pain, and missing out on family events and other social activities - it may be indicating you are starting to get caught up in your business, and this is a great time to reach out to some of your connections for support”.
3. Connect with others, particularly in your industry
Social connections can significantly improve your mental health and wellbeing, so it is important to have people on your side who can listen without judgement. “This person doesn’t have to be your partner or family member, it could be a doctor, a counsellor or a work mate in the pod next to you. What is important is that they don’t want to solve your problem, but instead act as your sounding board, allowing you to voice your problem” Leanne explained.
“I’d also strongly recommend seeking out your Industry Associations, nobody knows your challenges like those in your business and your Industry Associations can offer you specialist information and specific industry support”.
Leanne shared these insights with Women in Focus as part of the Edging Ahead, Small business series. For more information on Leanne Faulkner as well as a list of Leanne’s recommended resources, visit her website at fortitudeatwork.com.au.