“There is scarcely any passion without struggle” Albert Camus
I watched a clip the other day whereby Prince Harry was talking about mental health and bringing it to the forefront of people’s conversation. In it he stated that “none of us can go through mental health difficulties without being willing to have a conversation and being able to admit that we might need some help. We started this campaign because we saw that fear of judgement, stigma, and outdated prejudice meant that too many people stayed quiet about their mental health challenges”
Being in the position we are in, we are the boss, we are at the forefront of our companies, and we are meant to be in a position of strength, to lead and to have all the right answers. For people to place their trust and faith in you, you have to know what you are doing and do it in a way that shows strong leadership and strength of character. But with every business there are always going to be challenges and how a person deals with these challenges will determine the success of the business. To be anything other than these things is to be weak, to be a failure, and does not reflect the qualities a business owner needs in order to succeed. This is the not the type of conversation you have with the people who frequent your business, for the very reasons Prince Harry stated above. Fear of judgement, stigma and prejudice.
I have had many times throughout my life where stress has impacted greatly on my physical and mental health. I’ve had my director come round to my house on many an occasion to help me get off the couch, I’ve had a number of breakdowns in front of my staff, my health has suffered massively and it has been so bad a few months ago that I have got to the point where I have wanted to sell my business. Whenever stress is prolonged within my body, it affects my memory. I always own my mistakes but with each failed thing, comes ammunition for the ego. My own thoughts tell me I’m weak, that I’m not the right person to lead and manage this team, your families deserve better than this, you are not strong and you’re a failure, but what has reinforced this lately is situations that have told me that I have mismanaged something, that something I’ve forgot has disappointed someone, that they have lost all trust and faith and it is hard to find the mental strength to be able to disagree. You start to believe that your company would be better off with you out of the equation.
I have now started to recognise the signs early on and I am very lucky to have a very good support network around me to step in and help me find solutions. One of my girls said that if I don’t put myself and my own needs first, then everything else will suffer, similar to a domino effect, the ripples will just keep on going.
To birth an idea is similar to birthing a child. They both need nurturing to be able to grow and succeed but they both have challenges that sometimes lead us to breaking point. Owning your own business means that you continually have to look at ways of keeping the business going, always staying ahead of the game. It is a daily thought process as the lives of so many people depend on the success of the business. Strategies need putting in place, external business connections need to be forged, bookings taken, invoices raised and invoices paid, payments taken and accounts sorting, wages done, resources purchased, emails responded too, calls taken and all this needs to be done outside of the working day. We need to make sure that my business is marketed, that sessions are booked up, managed and delivered, that we have children coming to these sessions that will go on the waiting list for the nursery, that enquiries and admissions are done, settling in sessions are managed and questions are answered. Our children need looking after and nurturing and we have statutory obligations to ensure that they are meeting government expectations. We do this through monitoring and observations, we have daily conversations to reflect on what we can see and how we can further children’s interests, a third of our children have SEN so we liaise with external services to provide support to meet the needs of the children and families. This entails writing EHAT’s, attening meetings, liaise with consortia, Educational Psychologists, Community paediatricians and any other professionals involved in the family. Then we need to write up plans and put strategies into place. Reports need writing, meetings need arranging, additional training is sourced so that we are fully understand how best to support the child and family.
I have staff that need looking after, that their own personal aspirations are met and training is sourced to upskill and motivate them. I need to ensure they are the best possible people to look after the children in our care, but sometimes difficult decisions need to be made if they are not up to my expectations. Like myself, they have all had their own personal challenges to overcome and solutions need to found to help and support them through it. And then last year, on top of all this I fully renovated our new nursery building. This is only a fraction of the things that an entrepreneur in this sector has to manage, so you can guarantee that at some point the plates you are trying to spin are going to come crashing down. In addition to my business responsibilities I am a single mum of a 12 year old with a house to try and look after and you can guarantee that mum guilt plays heavily on my mind when I am too busy trying to manage work responsibilities.
Business is ever changing and adapting and what worked in the interim may not be working 3 years down the line. Just because you have always done it doesn’t mean you should always continue. You have to evaluate because if you don’t it will become a job and not your passion. We removed the birthday party and family sessions off our programmes because they didn’t fit in with the mission of the company any more. They were needed to get the business where it had to go and when they no longer served the company so we discontinued them. The only way you know when something isn’t working is when it becomes challenging to manage it all, so you have to look at alternative strategies, look at financials and decide the next course of action. No one taught me how to do business, I taught myself. I started off slowly so that I grew with business and business grew with me, but at the end of last year business had got to a point where it had overtaken my skill set and I had to look at what to do. I got a business coach, signed up for HR and Health and Safety support in order to take that responsibility away. I have delegated the majority of my responsibilities now so I can just be the entrepreneur who drives it forward. However in order to understand all the intricacies within the business, you have to first immerse and understand how it operates then remove yourself from it.
To succeed is to fail and to fail is to succeed and in bringing this to the conversation I’m allowing myself to share with the world, that yes I fail at things, that I’m vulnerable and that I am only human with the same challenges as everyone else. But you have to have faith and pick yourself up and remember the reasons you do it in the first place. Business will break you that is a certainty. It will push you to your absolute limit and just when you think the only option is to shut it down, or sell it, you somehow find the strength to carry on.
“Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough” Og Mandino
With vision comes purpose, there is a reason why we do the things we do, and to strive for a higher purpose means that we must find solutions to the things that are not working and carry on. My business coach asked me if I was familiar with Simon Sinek’s Start with Why, for which I was. If you are not familiar with him, I suggest you watch his Ted talk as it is a perfect formula for any business owner. She had reminded me that I had forgotten my Why, that business had taken away my passion because I was constantly doing the How and the What of day to day business instead of focusing on my Why. It is my ‘Why’ that is my passion, it is my‘Why’ that I am good at and I need to reconnect with it.
I have spent the past two years listening to staff aspirations and training them up so that when the time came I would be able to step away and allow them to continue what I’d started. That time is now. I’m now taking a much needed break to be able to do what I do best which is to visualise the next chapter of our journey and to continue to be the change I want to see in the world.
I’m interested to hear other people’s stories about how their business has impacted on them, am I alone in this or do we all have the same struggles and stresses.
Julie Ann White