Small business stress is more common than you think. Here are tips on how to beat it, by managing your stress and your business.

This is the story of John as told by Tracey Loubser, a Calxa Partner and the founder of multi-award winning business, Confident Cashflows. Tracey’s experience in working for small business has provided her with the insights to help businesses.She shares some ideas on where to start when anxiety and mental stress gets you down and how to manage daily stress by better managing business finances.

Permission was given by the author for this article to be published here.  Article first published in SavvySME in June 2017.



Small Business Stress Is More Common Than You Think!

To the rest of the world…John was a happy and very successful businessman. His friends respected him and admired him for the business he had created, which he seemed to run successfully. They remember when his office was his garage, and he would spend endless nights and weekends “working the business”.


Fast forward ten years, John now ran his office from a snazzy office in town, he had a great team of staff, and was always on the go, meeting someone, going to some event and getting something done. Outside, John looked “cool, calm and collected”. His staff, his wife, his customers…. Everyone was shown the “poker face” of “it’s all good, everything is on track, business is great, life is good”. John was hiding the stress of business.

If he didn’t keep up the pretence… imagine what everyone would think? His regular customers could possibly steer away from him to get the job done and maybe even “jump ship…just like nervous rats leaving a sinking ship”. After all, nobody wants to deal with a business that is not successful….


On the inside, John was stressed, frazzled, panicked.


These days, it was pretty normal for him to still be at the office after 8pm and working most Saturdays and Sundays. Despite his ideas to improve business, he lacked the motivation to take action and follow through. He felt restless and had difficulty falling and staying asleep, and he constantly felt exhausted.


To many business owners this may seem very familiar. If not now, then at some stage most business owners experience some heightened level of anxiety/ mental stress.



Small Business Stress Symptoms

Psychologist, Jay Anderson of South West Wellbeing Centre in Bunbury describes the symptoms as:

  • Restlessness (Feeling keyed up or on edge)
  • Easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness)



Small Business Stress is Common

In a survey done in April 2015 by Dr Michael A Freeman MD, based on Mental stress among Entrepreneurs vs non-Entrepreneurs, it was found that; (excluding a prevalence of previous symptomatic families) 49% of Entrepreneurs reported a mental health condition compared to 32% of non-entrepreneurs….that’s 17% more! Frightening!


So, it seems pretty reasonable to deduce that Entrepreneurs suffer more depression, more despair, more hopelessness than their employee type counterparts.


This pressure can be caused by many different factors from planned or unplanned growth, changes in economic conditions, or changes in customer demands. These and more factors may cause pressured changes in the flow of money for the business…which will naturally cause more anxiety for the business owner.



How to Beat Small Business Stress

It doesn’t have to be like this! Here is how you can beat small business stress.


There are things that John could do to help manage the anxiety, sleep peacefully at night, feel more “in control” to help him get back to track and get his “mojo” back.


Psychologist, Jay Anderson suggests:

  • Share your feelings with those close to you. This includes business partners and spouses. By keeping too much information from your wife and maintaining the pretence of “it’s all ok” can add to more unnecessary anxiety when she goes off for a 5-star high tea with her mates, which in the past may have been “normal”. Resentment may just make anxiety worse.
  • Have some regular reflection time. Spend some time to notice your thoughts and feelings. Writing down your worries and difficulties can help you to figure out if they are accurate and justified. Then plan for some problem-solving time.
  • Look after yourself: Do things you enjoy, including regular exercise, be aware of your work/life balance



Ask for help!

By taking action in both the mental side of handling the anxiety and practical side of what is happening in the business, your staff and family will thank you for its longevity, steady growth and reduce your small business stress.

So here are some tips:

  • This may come in the form of a counsellor – to talk about managing the symptoms of your anxiety or depression and strategies to assist with sleep difficulties.
  • Gain a clearer picture of where the business is financially today, and set out a plan of how you can get out of it. The only clear and guaranteed way of doing this is to base your decisions on the reality of the numbers.
  • Contact a financial performance consultant that specialises in the area of improving SME profits and cash flow, to help you:
    • Analyse your business to find any money leaks, so you can act quickly and plug the holes in your bank account, before too much of your hard-earned cash drains away.
    • Create a quantified plan (budget) for the next 6-12 months so you can clearly see the ins and outs of profit and then
  • Develop a cashflow forecast for the next 6-12 months, so you can work at minimising the time span between money out (in advance purchases for the stock, payment of staff) and money in (late invoicing and payment of slow paying customers).




About the Author

Nearly 10 years ago, after a 5-year stint with Deloittes, and a brief stint in corporate, Tracey Loubser made the conscious decision to NOT be a normal tax and compliance accountant. Instead she became a “let’s-get-this-business-achieving-its-potential-and-make-more-profit” accountant, and after achieving great results for many SMEs, with Calxa as an integral part of her product delivery, she became known as The Queen of Cash Flow. Through Tracey’s multi-award-winning business, Confident Cashflows, Tracey has helped many business owners achieve higher profits & improve their cash flow.

Five years ago she launched Confident Cashflows PLUS, where she trains, coaches and mentors accountants to follow her Turn Key program and learn from her experience to deliver successful Financial Performance products with their clients.
Tracey has been recognised among her community as a leader in her field by winning many awards including 5 local chamber awards, Best Home Best Business in Regional WA in the SBDC awards, and was Top 8 Finalist in the Nationally based Australian Accounting awards in the Thought Leader category.

Tracey is also the author of 23 Ways to Improve Cash Flow and How to Heal Cash Flow Crunch and Resuscitate your Business Goals.



Editor’s Note

The ATO recognises that stress and other mental health problems can have a serious impact on businesses.  Calxa corporate partner the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers publish an ATO Fact Sheet that has some useful links.