October 27, 2022
Sam Draper

The 10 most common causes of stress for business owners

There are many pressures that business owners face, ranging from financial uncertainty to looking after a team of employees. Your ability to withstand these pressures and continue making the best decisions for your business will be pivotal to your long-term success.

The 10 most common causes of stress for business owners

It comes with the territory; the life of a business owner is a stressful one.

Whilst hard work is a quality that’s essential to run a successful business, having a strong stress tolerance is equally important.

There are many pressures that business owners face, ranging from financial uncertainty to looking after a team of employees. Your ability to withstand these pressures and continue making the best decisions for your business will be pivotal to your long-term success.

To effectively manage your stress levels as a business owner, it’s necessary to identify the avenues that raise your anxiety levels at work.

In this article, we’ll go through the ten most common causes of stress for small business owners and the best ways to overcome them.

1. Time pressure

You’re not alone; many business owners feel like they have too much to do and too little time to do it.

When the performance and operation of the business is primarily your responsibility, you will likely find it hard to be constantly on top of your to-do list. The fear of approaching deadlines and time-sensitive tasks is a common source of stress and can quickly start bleeding into your personal life.

Whilst your initial response may be to work long into the night and on weekends, this strategy can often exacerbate the toll on your mental health.

To combat time pressure anxiety, create an effective task management strategy that allows you to prioritise important tasks, set deadlines and maintain control of your work schedule. Utilise online project management tools, outsource or delegate tasks when possible and focus on not overloading your to-do list with unnecessary tasks.

Most importantly, focus on sustaining a healthy work-life balance that will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed by your work.

2. Missing goals or targets

Missing sales or performance goals can be a significant cause of stress and bring a feeling of failure to business owners. Many of us expect the growth of our business to be linear, and anything short of this is reason to hit the panic button.

If your business is missing targets, focus on what you can control and identify the areas of your business that are falling short. Strategies such as reviewing your sales techniques, analysing customer feedback and updating your marketing approach can all help get your business back on track.

Business ownership is a long-term game, so don’t expect your business to be a roaring success overnight. Try to avoid impulsive decision-making and continue to back in what your business is doing well. If your business’s performance is a serious need for concern, you should seek professional help from a business advisor who can use their experience to get your business back on track.

3. Administrative duties

There’s no doubt that bureaucracy and governmental red tape can hamper a business’s growth. According to recent polling, over 40 per cent of small and medium business owners say administrative responsibilities interfere with their business’s performance.

Completing administrative tasks can bog down your workflow and distract you from more important tasks. Studies have emphasised the burden of admin, finding that the average small-to-medium business owner spends between 65 to 70 hours each month on administrative tasks, such as contracts, tax, wages, compliance, and safety duties.

Managing all of these responsibilities can be tedious and stressful, especially when it holds you back from taking care of other areas of the business.

If possible, delegate these tasks to others to help spread some of the workload. As an alternative, investigate the many great outsourcing and offshoring options available, allowing you to free up your workflow for a relatively low cost.

4. Decision-making

Naturally, most small business owners find important decision-making to be stressful.

When you’re trying to grow your business with limited revenue, making a mistake can impact your business’s financial stability and future success. Because of this, it’s common for business owners to procrastinate or put off making key decisions, furthering their feelings of guilt and anxiety.

Unfortunately, the best solution is often to tackle these decisions head-on. Making the wrong decision is often better than making no decision at all, and will be a great source of learning for you as a business owner.

Creating a positive business culture that celebrates every little success can also help ease the fear behind each decision. By trusting other staff to take on added responsibility, you can share the burden of decision-making with the rest of your team.

5. Managing staff

Effective staff management is one of the most important and consequential tasks for any business owner. It’s no surprise many small business owners report that managing staff is their biggest cause of stress and one of the hardest parts of their job.

Recruiting, training and directing a quality team requires strong leadership and a significant investment of your time and resources. As your staff's output will determine your business's direction, keeping your employees happy and productive should be your highest priority.

Creating a supportive and positive work environment will make your job as a manager much easier and mitigate a lot of the stress that comes with it. Avoiding micromanagement, rewarding hard work and providing job pathways will help you foster a loyal team that is equally striving for business success.

6. Compliance

Complying with frequent regulatory changes can be costly and time-consuming for small and medium businesses.

Recent polling has even found that 26 per cent of small business owners in the pacific region find regular compliance stressful and hard to manage single-handedly.

Luckily, there’s an easy solution to ease the burden of compliance; work with a trusted accountant.

Not only will you be able to offload the stress of fulfilling your legal and tax obligations, but your accountant can also identify and implement tax planning strategies to save your business on costs.

7. Poor cash flow

Financial stress is a real problem for adults across all sections of society. This pressure is heightened in small business, with access to finances critical for the survival and growth of your business.

Poor cash flow management is the number one reason why small businesses fail, presenting a significant threat to small business owners.

Planning out your cash flow ahead of time will give you peace of mind and help you identify financial difficulties before they arise. Once again, reaching out to a trusted accountant to help plan and manage your cash flow is essential for your long-term survival.

8. Keeping your clients happy

Customers are the lifeblood of a business. Unfortunately, damaging your brand and reputation only takes one negative customer experience.

Keeping your customers happy, particularly when they’re difficult to deal with, can be incredibly stressful.

Firstly, improving the customer experience will help reduce negative interactions you have with customers. Over-delivering instead of over-promising is a great way to keep your customers satisfied and loyal to your business.

Dealing with customers shouldn’t be a nasty experience, but it also shouldn’t be avoided. If customer service isn’t your cup of tea, employ staff with great people skills to engage with customers for you.

9. Multitasking

As a small business owner, you are constantly juggling many different roles and jobs at any given time.

With a smaller budget and smaller team, the responsibility and pressure to keep the business running will largely fall to you. As your workload grows, keeping all of these plates spinning at once can feel overwhelming and add stress to your work life.

Whilst it may be daunting, multitasking is a fundamental part of small business ownership and a skill you’ll need to master. Have a clear task management system that keeps you in control of your workflow, and prioritise each job in order of importance.

Once again, your team will be your greatest ally when easing the stress of multitasking. Don’t be afraid to delegate and get your staff involved in the management of your business.

10. Things out of your control

In a small business environment, there will inevitably be many factors that are out of your control. This can include changing economic and market conditions, competitor activity, supply problems and the loss of staff.

When external factors are impacting the performance of your business, it’s important to stay focused on what you can control. For example, if you’ve lost a staff member through no fault of your own, you can continue creating a healthy work environment that will limit staff turnover in the future.

Staying nimble and adapting to external influences will put your business in the best position to grow and succeed.

A lot of stress and anxiety in business can be managed through planning and getting support from the rest of your team. Understand which areas of business ownership affect you the most and how this stress influences your behaviour and decision-making.

Taking breaks, regular exercise and a good night’s sleep are all great ways to relieve pressure and promote a healthy state of mind.

If persistent stress or anxiety is having a negative impact on your physical and mental health, we strongly recommend that you seek help from a healthcare professional.

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