So this is how it starts. You created your own company, became your own boss and started to climb the ladder of financial independence. However, it is always healthy to have a reality check and consider the possible risks your business may encounter on the way. What if something goes wrong and your company fails? Do you have enough skills and stamina for it? Can you build a successful and motivated team? Do you know how to run all the different parts of your business including sales, admin, marketing, accounting and HR?
Welcome to the life of an entrepreneur where you can forget about sleep, having a personal life or your health. Although incredibly exciting, running a business can be extremely stressful not just for you but for your employees also.
We had an opportunity to speak to Billy Muir, a director of LBJ Consultants, who has over 25 years experience in dealing with HR and Employment Law issues and working with giant companies like BT. We are happy to share his insights and dig a little bit more into the stressful lives of startups and SMBs.
The reality behind the startup
Workplace stress is a burning topic nowadays, especially in the world of startups and SMBs.
“It’s no surprise that entrepreneurship can be stressful to anybody” – says Billy. “You are in charge of employing people, leading them and making decisions that will determine your business.”
One of the biggest mistakes managers do is take too much work on their shoulders: employment, HR and finances. At the same time they are juggling new customers, planning their business and marketing strategies. Other causes leading to stress is endless working hours, the high workload, research and people you have to meet. Sometimes it seems that there are not enough hours in the day to complete everything from your “to-do” list. Sounds familiar? Well, according to the Small Business Census survey conducted by instaprint, 1 in 8 business owners get so stressed that they only sleep three or four hours at night. What’s more, 50% of small business owners feel more stressed than in their previous jobs. Billy stresses the need for small companies to seek for professional help, particularly based around how to create a healthy workspace.
Stress factors and solutions
With years of experience in HR and training, Billy points out the main stress factors that every entrepreneur should consider and ways to alleviate it.
Financial and employment concerns
Staying on top of your financial paperwork, managing loans, paying monthly salary – every entrepreneur feels pressure to manage all of these things at once. As a business owner, you’ve probably invested a big chunk of money into your startup, so every decision you make can be detrimental to your business. The best solution is outsourcing your workload. For early stage startups outsourcing your HR function provides the one thing that is usually non-existent in the early days of launch – piece of mind. You might want to explore DayOneHR – a virtual HR assistant. Moving this workload to outsourced HR services can not only provide an effective solution, it can save a company money. Most importantly, give founders time to focus on the future growth of their startup.
Managing deadlines and responsibilities
As a leader of your company, you are also expected to be the “boss” of your tasks and make sure everything runs smoothly. That also means that you are making decisions in every step that you take. “Have you ever heard of “decision fatigue”? It’s become a phenomenon, which can negatively affect your mental health” – says Billy. That is why it is important to learn to switch off and take some time to yourself. Plan all your week in advance to know exactly when you are working and having a day’s break. Keeping your plans in a calendar is a good habit, but don’t forget to dedicate a day for relaxation as well.
You cannot run a business without customers. Interaction with them either face to face or over the phone is your everyday life. In order to sustain your business and client base, it is important to maintain the relationships and provide excellent customer service. The more customers you have, the more time you have to dedicate to each of them (especially in the early business days). When it becomes too stressful to manage multiple customer requests and complaints, just sit back and think if this client is valuable to your business. Not all customers are worth retaining. If you are certain they will not negatively influence your business, go ahead and disengage with them.
How to create a healthy workspace?
Creating a positive and healthy working environment for all your employees – mission possible. Most importantly, as a manager, you have to create a clear job description so that your employee knows what is required and what is their role. It‘s not that easy with startups where their job description changes every 10-12 weeks.
“Getting the right people and building healthy relationships with them – this is what leads business to success” – says Billy.
When the employees know what is expected from them and are not afraid to ask for help, work becomes more friendly and enjoyable place to be. It is crucial for a manager to acknowledge employees as individuals, who have good and bad days, who have their personal lives and struggle with everyday problems.
How often should you praise your team?
Did you know that only 28% of employees are satisfied with overall company culture, i.e. work ethics, values, etc.? Employees do not feel appreciated for their time and efforts. This is due to the lack of communication with the team and managers.
Billy suggests having a meeting at least once a month with your employees where you are going through what they have done really well and the areas of improvement. Don’t forget another important thing – training, training and more training. Once your staff is trained, they’ll know all aspects of their job and the level they should be at.
“That brings us to the planning stage, where you have to set goals for each team member” – he adds.
The key to employee job satisfaction is simple. Make them feel needed, set realistic goals and tasks, leave fields for improvement and praise them for their good work. Receiving praise is empowering, it increases productivity and motivation and it costs nothing.
“At the end of the day, people should be experts on making their business a success and make it grow” – says Billy. Therefore, making sure you have the right people to work with leads your business to success and less stress.
As any other startup company, here at Teamgate we completely understand the struggles that come from a high workload. Sometimes stress, pressure and fatigue dawns at you all at once and it is difficult to stay positive and motivated every day. We agree with Billy that being organised, planning your work and rest days can help relieve stress and start the day with a more positive note. Have you experienced stress at your company? What helped you to deal with it and overcome it?
Billy has over 25 years experience in dealing with HR and Employment Law issues. He is currently a Lay member of the Employment Tribunal Panel in Glasgow. You can contact Billy through his Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn