Everyone has it, not everyone wants to talk about it, yet it can significantly hinder, or conversely propel, someone forward – entrepreneurs in particular. What are we talking about? Our mental health. The widely reported frequency of mental health conditions among entrepreneurs poses the question; Does entrepreneurship itself spur mental illness or do individuals already susceptible to such conditions more regularly become entrepreneurs? And is mental health talked about enough, if at all, prior to an entrepreneur embarking on his or her business growth journey, so they at least have some awareness of what might ‘trip them up’ along the way?

An entrepreneur’s mental health is typically looked at more closely once the individual’s journey has reached a place where they deem themselves and/or their business a success. Perhaps they are asked about the lessons they have learnt or how they would’ve done things differently. Perhaps the reflection takes place at a stage where other areas of their life, such as their romantic relationships, have irretrievably broken down, and the entrepreneur wishes he or she had given more time to their personal life and less to the now successful business. This is not always the case, but life is about balance after all, and building a successful double-digit business can be likened to raising a small child with little time to do much else in the early stages.

So, why are entrepreneurs not being prepared for the impact that building a business can have on their mental health? Because it is somewhat expected that an entrepreneur’s mental health will be impacted during the build phase of their business, and that it is simply par for the course. To some extent this is true, but we believe – from observational and personal experience, that entrepreneurs can prepare themselves for what is likely to impact them emotionally, and share this with their family, so they too are aware of the possible impact on them if their partner is to embark on the journey of building a business.

The bigger picture

In a 2020 study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health, the following graph was produced, which illustrated the fact that entrepreneurs outweigh comparison participants in every mental health condition category. Considering this study was undertaken in 2020, which was at the start of the Covid pandemic, the results of such a study if undertaken again today, would no doubt present even more concerning reading. However, given the world is still edging at a slow pace towards mental health openness and acceptance, it is unlikely that an entrepreneur who is focused on the imminent business journey ahead of him or her would want to get a formal diagnosis for a mental health condition – even if they know deep down there is something that needs addressing. However, what we feel that entrepreneurs can look to do, as part of the preparation phase, is to start accepting who they are and the way they do things – even if it is different to lots of other people or different to how the media suggests things should be done when scaling a business.

Source: Forbes article Oct 4, 2020: ‘Why entrepreneurs need to talk about their mental health’

In fact, in a separate study conducted by Michael A. Freeman of the University of California, he says: “People who are on the energetic, motivated, and creative side are both more likely to be entrepreneurial and more likely to have strong emotional states.” So, there is clearly a tendency for entrepreneurs to experience stronger emotional states such as feeling low, high or even manic, or struggling with attention span. One could even argue that such emotional states – once the person emerges and feels a little more like their usual self, can give way to great ideas, epiphany moments, quicker decision making and so on. Mental health struggles can also be so profound, that significant levels of resilience are built – a key ingredient needed for an entrepreneur’s journey, and risk-taking in business feels easier because the individual has been in worse places and has learnt that life goes on and humans can and will bounce back from struggles.

Forewarned is forearmed

At OMNIA Global, we feel that self-awareness, self-acceptance and mentally preparing yourself and those close to you, are key ingredients prior to navigating the world of growing a business and weathering the potential mental health storm. In a recent podcast episode with our CEO, Daniel Hansen, he outlined several things that entrepreneurs can consider, plan for and/or share with their immediate family before embarking on their business journey.

Whilst not all of the points below are directly about our mental health, they are pinch points that may well impact an entrepreneur’s mental health or way of thinking, and we hope the framing of each one sets a more realistic and reassuring bar.

  • Sleep – if you are supposed to have all the answers as the founder of the business, you can’t if you are tired, so make sure you get the right amount of sleep for you personally. Your body will guide you.
  • Tell yourself the journey ahead will take 10 years and not the aspirational 2-3-year time period. Why? If you know it could be a 10-year journey, your way of operating and working will be a lot more sustainable. And many people easily reach 2 years in their business journey, but then continue for 10 years anyway, so it really is a long-haul process.
  • Be realistic – nobody can work 100 hours per week for 10 years.
  • Work out what success looks like to you and keep it to yourself. Shut out the toxicity that exists on social media, which suggests that you need to work excess hours to make something a success. This is nonsense.
  • Focus on what capital you are able to raise and your profitability.
  • Look at how you can improve your performance without your performance being a high priority. Quick wins when it comes to time and communication are often the things that aid personal performance.
  • Doubt is normal. Many entrepreneurs think their business journey is taking too long, but often this is because society is creating artificial barriers and measures of success. Feel the doubt but move forward.
  • Think you need to be under 35 to be a successful entrepreneur? Many successful entrepreneurs are in their 40s and held a corporate role before attempting to launch and scale their own business. It is never too late and life experience is a good thing to take into the development of a business.
  • Romantic partners, when consulted by their partner who announces they are going to scale their business, often want some sort of timeline. This is dangerous territory and creates the ticking clock effect, which is not beneficial for the entrepreneur or the partner.
  • Review who is calling you each day and taking up your time. Do you bounce off them or do they sap your energy and move you away from the ambitious person you once started out as?
  • Life coaches: If you are willing to spend money on marketing and with no real sense of whether it will achieve the results you want because your business is new, then you can afford a life coach. An essential part of your journey and ideally, somebody who has been in your position, so they can act as a lifeline during the good and not so good times.
  • Preparation is key – have conversations about your mental health before you embark on your entrepreneurial journey. If you know you can have high highs or low lows, then the likely stress you will encounter when growing your business will only exacerbate this. Work out what your pinch points are early on and work on them with the life coach or a therapist.

Please click here to listen to the episode with Daniel Hansen in full.