This week I announced a suite of measures for the Government to consider when it comes to small and medium sized business and what we can all be doing as we start to look at emerging from the COVID19 lockdown. The reality is that a good number of small business owners, no matter what part of the country or world we hail from are doing it tough. Now that we are in isolation it makes it even harder to grapple with the challenge of the future with little or no people to interact with other than your family, who, you don’t want to take on the burden of where things might end. But; in doing so my concern will also be for your own well-being. With the challenges of today its less about the mental health side and much more about the daily struggle of life and stress that comes with it. As someone who is worked in suicide prevention, mental health and small business I can tell you that you are not alone and whatever challenges are thrown up we can get through this. Here are five things you can do to manage stress and three things you can do know as a small business owner to prepare for the future:
1. It’s always ok to ask for help
Asking for help is never a sign of weakness nor is accepting it. Today, more than ever, the stigma associated with help seeking is being pulled down and replaced with the message that its ok to reach out. The need for help in a small business comes in many forms. One is reaching out to a mate to help you online to get your books and finances in order, talk about sales and revenue growth is where to seek support on getting things up and running post lockdown. There a multitude of small business groups on both Facebook and LinkedIn that sharing knowledge and insights from one owner to the next – its self-motivating and helps put things into perspective. Treat everything as series of smaller challenges and go about solving them amongst your peer group. By not seeking help when it comes to small things, those small things tend to fester and grow. Suddenly, the help needed is out of all proportion to when the problem began. Asking for help is ok and you would be surprised at the number of people that will step in at a moment’s notice to give you a hand.
2. Keep a social circle of friends
The truth is you need to get away from the business and one way of doing this is to maintain a social circle of friends. Always make time for a coffee with friends or maintaining a social schedule; even if it can’t be physical; the opportunity to stay in touch using virtual and online networks can gill the gap. In doing so you create a stress outlet for yourself. By being in the business all the time you can soon become overwhelmed while maintaining a social circle of friends will give you an escape; an opportunity to recharge the batteries and start a fresh. Social circles are also good sources of help when you need it the most.
3. Sleep, finishing work and eating well
Whatever business you are trying to get off the ground or own you still need to sleep, eat regular meals and make sure you close the workbook of an evening. In all reality if you don’t maintain a consistent sleep pattern then you will forever be trying to survive on a few hours a night. All of sudden exhaustion can creep in and next thing you know you’re out for the count. The same is true of eating regularly. Always make sure you make time for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even if its only 20 minutes for each – a healthy diet combined with regularity of sleep is fundamental to managing stress. Always make sure you finish work at a reasonable time to manage the balance between family and the business.
4. Ensuring the home front is with you
When we start-up a new business we sometimes forget that the impact on the home front can be just as daunting and stressful as it is in the workplace. That is why it’s always important that if you have a partner or a family to include them in the decision-making process or give them insights into how things are running. This will lead them down a path of both understanding what it is you are going through and give them an opportunity to help where they can. Too often we hide the reality of our situation from our partners and families and its only in the final analysis that the truth comes out. Sometimes the truth comes out too late. Always, always include you family – don’t let them watch from the sidelines – include them as part of your journey and together you can share the load.
5. Its ok to fail
We often think that failure is a bad thing; indeed, that’s what we are led to believe. Failure is not a bad thing especially if it means we have learnt some very important lessons. Failure often leads to the next venture being successful. That means its ok to make the decision to close things down. Yes, it will be emotional and may leave some debt but, if the only alternative is to struggle through and never reach that light at the end of the tunnel then for your own wellbeing, it’s ok to move on.
And three things you can do right now from a small business perspective:
Apply for Government subsidies
Investigate your eligibility for Government subsidies including wage subsidies for your employees – there are a raft of subsidies that you can apply for now that could keep you cashflow moving as well as pulling your payroll bill into positive territory. Also have a conversation with your accountant at the Tax Department about delayed payments and so on. Every little bit helps.
Talk with your creditors
Have a conversation with your creditors: don’t ignore the mounting bills and to help put your mind at rest have a conversation about restructuring your debt, put in place more affordable payment plans or negotiate delayed payments. Whether they are banks or personal lending organisations do not be afraid to at least ask the questions.
Take the time to plan for the future
Re-work your business plan – now is a good time to think about the positive future of your small business including how it might run past lockdown – that includes thinking about quick hit sales, managing a steady increase in sales and revenue, bedding down regular cashflow, having a look an invoicing terms with customers and suppliers and even revenue diversification. Now is the time to think positively about growth and what it will take you not just to survive the period but also thrive.
And remember – reach out; there is help around every corner.
Matthew Tukaki is the former Head of the worlds oldest and largest employment companies, Drake International who he led through the Global Financial Crisis, the founder of entrepreneurs network, the EntreHub , Chairman of global news content company, NewsNow, former Chair of Suicide Prevention Australia and current Executive Director of the New Zealand Maori Council.