How are you feeling about this year? 

You probably spent the latter part of December talking, eating, drinking and hopefully relaxing with loved ones. And one frequent topic of conversation was likely “What are your New Year’s resolutions?” If you’re anything like me, when you made those well-intended statements of what you will do differently, you genuinely meant it.

Then January comes and goes, and you return to working reality, and all too soon, you’re right back doing what you always did in the way you’ve always done it.

And your job as a business owner hasn’t been easy since COVID-19. The turbulent economic climate has taken its toll on many business owners, affecting their interpersonal relationships and ability to make sound decisions and apply creative thinking.

On the positive side, an economic downturn can allow your company to expand and thrive, so perhaps this year will see you achieving your resolutions by taking a different approach and setting new goals.

Whether embarking on your first venture this year or managing a long-established company, take time to refresh your planning and strategy skills. The long-term benefits are enormous.

Firstly, let’s talk mental health

Entrepreneurship is often portrayed as a glamorous, exciting journey filled with success and rewards. However, the reality is that it can be an incredibly challenging and stressful experience that often takes its toll on a business owner’s mental health. The link between mental health and business success is a topic that is often overlooked in the business world, yet it is essential to thrive.

Mental health will play a significant role in your performance and decision-making. When you are stressed or experiencing mental health issues, you may struggle to focus, make sound judgments, and effectively manage your businesses. The pressure and demands of entrepreneurship can lead to burnout, anxiety, and even depression if not addressed.

Your mental well-being will also affect your ability to handle setbacks and failures. Resilience is crucial when facing challenges, and good mental health enables us to bounce back, learn from our mistakes, and adapt our strategies accordingly.

Strategies for managing stress in the workplace

Here are some practical strategies to help you manage stress and maintain well-being in the fast-paced business world.

1. Prioritise self-care

Make it a point to prioritise activities that promote well-being. This includes getting enough restful sleep, eating nutritious meals, and engaging in regular exercise. Taking care of your physical health can have a positive impact on your mental well-being.

2. Practice stress management techniques

Find healthy ways to manage and reduce stress. This can include practicing mindfulness or meditation, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in hobbies and activities you enjoy. Taking breaks throughout the workday to relax and recharge can also help alleviate stress.

3. Create boundaries

As a business owner, it’s easy to work around the clock. However, setting boundaries between work and personal life is vital for maintaining balance and preventing burnout. Set specific working hours, delegate tasks when possible, and make time for activities outside of work that bring you joy.

4. Seek support

Don’t be afraid to reach out for support from friends, family, fellow entrepreneurs or a business coach. Surrounding yourself with a supportive network can provide a listening ear, valuable advice, and understanding, especially during challenging times.

5. Regularly assess your mental health

Check in with yourself regularly to evaluate how you’re feeling mentally and emotionally. If you notice signs of burnout, anxiety, or depression, seek professional help.

Read our article The SME and mental health for more in-depth information on the subject of mental health and how it affects business owners.

Familiarise yourself with the latest Business trends 

It’s important to keep yourself up-to-date on industry trends so that you will be better placed to make informed decisions, innovate, and adapt to changing customer needs and expectations.

Forbes report that the general global economic downturn is expected to worsen before it improves, making business owners cautious regarding spending and investing.

Stay ahead of the curve and future proof your business, with their top 10 business trends for 2024.

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Soft Skills – the Human Touch
  • Skills Shortage
  • Sustainability
  • Personalisation
  • Data economy
  • Customer experience revolution
  • Remote and distributed work
  • Diversification and inclusion
  • Resilience

Take a new approach to running your business

Are you stuck in the owner’s trap, running the business in the same way, failing to delegate, replying ‘we’ve always done it this way’ when challenged.

Einstein’s famous quote “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Your business may sell the same products to the same people, but are fewer people? Is there more competition? Have you managed to retain your key staff? Do you need to re-evaluate your cash flow and supplier relationships?

Don’t be an Outlook Warrior

Are you spending too much time on Outlook, reacting to emails, customer complaints, and staff issues instead of being proactive and planning for the future? Ask yourself, is what you are doing today getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow?

Free up some time by delegating tasks to your staff and ensure you schedule planning time.

Reignite your Excitement and Passion

You have probably worked hard to achieve a reasonable income as your business achieved its original objectives. Still, if your original energy and passion have waned, it may be time to stand back from your company and set new goals and objectives.

Get the fundamentals right

1. Formalise Job Roles

The business started with you, and then over time, you will have been joined by others – a relative or friend who helped to take on some of the burden as your business grew. Then came actual employees, and you now have a mix of the formal and informal. It’s time to formalise job roles.

Formalising job roles helps people understand what is and what isn’t their job. Untangle personal assets and business assets and make them separate. If there are two of you, enter into an owners’ agreement and get the appropriate insurance.

I spoke with a business owner who had lost his business partner to a heart attack. The partner’s wife inherited his shares and, therefore, had a claim on half of the company’s profits for the following fifteen years, even though she contributed zero to the company. Look for any oral agreements you have made and formalise them in writing.

2. Reduce your reliance on any single entity.

Being heavily reliant on any single entity, suppliers, employees, or customers will prevent your company from achieving growth. While many business owners recognise the risks associated with dependency, they often ignore them.

3. Review critical contracts

Schedule time to review crucial contracts and ensure that you understand them fully and that they are fit for purpose (your lawyer will help you with this). Check that you are not bound by anything that you do not find acceptable. Review your insurance policies to make sure that you are not overpaying, inappropriately insured, or both.

4. Finance for growth

Have a look at the financing you have in place. Is it the right price, and is it appropriate to support your growth plans? Ensure you manage your cash flow effectively, or it could seriously hamper your growth.

5. Review your business plan

Do you have a business plan? Was it written to get finance or as a temporary measure, or is it a living and breathing document that is familiar to all of your people? If not, get your Business Advisor to help you create a true plan that leads to your definition of success, and then use the professionals to structure the details to support your plan. How to write a business plan.

Give yourself the best chance of success.

1. Seek and engage with people that can help

You don’t need to feel isolated, there are a number of individuals and organisations that can help. Make your first task this year to reach out and engage with people who can support you and your business, whether it be your accountant, financial advisor or business coach/mentor.

2. Join business support groups

There are a number of online business support groups, find your local one and join. Examples are your local authorities, The Federation of Small Business (FSB) or your Local Chamber of Commerce.

3. Attend business workshops

Attending local business seminars and workshops is a great way to meet and chat openly with other business owners.

I will be running a  Mental Health in the Workplace Seminar on 16th January with some fantastic guest speakers including, Chas Howes – ex CFO of Superdry, Dr. Helen Scott, Head of School, Psychology, University of Worcester, Chris Hopkirk of The Business of Mindfulness, Dominic Dutton-Edwards – NHS Talking Therapies for Anxiety and Depression, and Paol Stuart-Thomson – MIND Charity. Register here to attend.

Business Doctors will also be running a number of  Planning for 2024 seminars, check here for one near you.

Have a fantastic year!

Steve Ennis