Aussie Entrepreneurs at Risk of Business Burn-out

Saturday, 01/07/2017

With the end-of-financial year upon us, experts are calling for better support for SMEs to help them through what more than a third of small business owners have named the most stressful time for the sector- beating even the Christmas ‘silly season’.

BOQ’s Business Balance Report highlighted that while stress may peak at EOFY for small business owners the issue of emotional wellbeing is ongoing for SMEs, with more than one in 10 admitting to having been diagnosed with depression or anxiety as a result of running their enterprise.

Further findings showed close to a quarter (24%) of small business owners had become physically unwell as a result of operating their business, while 15% had sought the services of a psychologist to help them manage the daily pressure. These wellbeing impacts are most commonly culminating in regular sleep problems (35%), constant fatigue (21%) and feeling distanced from friends and family (15%).

When questioned about the causes of emotional stress the primary contributing factors cited by SME owners was related to the day to day administration of their business while generating enough funds to keep afloat, while end-of-financial-year in particular exacerbates stress levels due to overwhelming admin and paperwork and the pressure of hitting sales targets.

Interestingly, one in 10 said their main source of EOFY stress was the expectation by customers for discounted goods or services, causing close to a quarter (23%) to worry that they’ll lose profit. For a further three in 10 SMEs (30%), their stress stems from having little time to spend with family and friends as the financial year draws to a close.

The repercussions of trying to balance business stress with a fulfilling personal life can be extreme, with close to one in five (17%) saying they had put plans to start a family on hold because of their business and close to a quarter (23%) delaying the purchase of a new home.

Despite this, almost half of all SMEs (41%) admitted they’d be unlikely to discuss the emotional strains of running their own business, raising a red flag for mental health experts.

Corporate psychologist Stephanie Thompson said most SME owners tended to keep the pressure they were feeling bottled up in a bid to save their friends and family from feeling the same strains.

“When someone goes out on their own there’s a tendency for them to hide any struggles they are experiencing in case they are perceived as a failure or as unable to cope,” she said.

“Equally, they feel the need to shield their loved ones from their stress as they are afraid it will pass on to them.

“However in many cases, once an SME owner decides to open up and talk to someone – whether it’s a professional, friend or family member – they feel a huge weight has lifted and are able to address these challenges more effectively.”

With almost half (47%) of SME owners saying they would most likely seek business help and advice from their banking advisor, BOQ spokesperson Mr. Brendan White said banks had a major role to play in better supporting the three million Australians who have chosen to become their own boss.

“It’s a well-known fact that small businesses are essentially the engine room of the Australian economy,” Mr White said.

“It would be a significant oversight by any financial institution if they did not recognise that the pressures of business extend beyond the practicalities of day to day operations.

“We’ve long acknowledged that our BOQ branch owner managers – who are SME owners themselves – need help and support to succeed and grow, which is why we offer both business coaching for franchisees and access to business psychologists throughout the network.”

Mr White added that BOQ would be supportive of any discussion into SME pressures and mental health support both among BOQ’s 145 Owner Managers and within the broader business community.

“It’s critical that we normalise the issue so that SME owners feel they are able to talk openly about their struggles,” Mr White said.

“We know that emotional pressures can be caused by financial issues such as cash flow and bank loans, so banks in particular need to recognise this and provide appropriate emotional support.

“BOQ has always been and will continue to be champions for small business owners because we understand what pressures they face and, more importantly, how we can help support and overcome them.”

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Independent research undertaken by the ORU on behalf of Bank of Queensland between 11th and 17th May 2017 with 500 national respondents.