Monday, June 17, 2024

Taking care of business and yourself

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Bruce Billson, has urged small business owners to take time early in the new year to take stock of their mental and financial well-being.

“When you own a small business, it is just as important to spend time working on your business as it is to spend time working in your business,” Mr Billson says.

“Too often the daily quest to keep the doors open and manage the many immediate demands prevents time being spent thinking about the health, future and goals of your business. And for that matter, your own health.”

“That’s why it is vital those running or managing a small business look after their mental and financial well-being. Sometimes it can be as simple as making time to pause, reflect and reconnect.”

Mental health challenges

Research published by Treasury just before Christmas confirmed that many small business owners struggle with mental health challenges.

One-in-five of those surveyed had been diagnosed with a mental health condition by a doctor or health professional. In some industries such as manufacturing, retail trade, accommodation and food services it was one-in-three.

Small business owners said a key cause of stress was finding a balance between the demands of work, family and personal life followed by lockdowns owing to Covid 19.

Other top issues causing stress were: Worry about the ongoing profitability and survival of the business; maintaining cashflow; difficulties accessing government information and small business support; accessing or maintaining affordable finance; receiving payments on time; and developing knowledge and skills to cope with a changing business environment.

Support networks

One of the insights of the study was that small business owners feel acute pressure to ‘do it all’ and to keep up the appearance of being fine even when they were struggling with their mental health and wellbeing. They feel others – family, business partners, employees, and suppliers – depended on them. One of the respondents to the survey said: It all rests with me.

Mr Billson urged small and family business owners to take advantage of the many free support services provided by small business experts.

“Being able to speak to someone who understands the mental load of running a small business makes a big difference,” he says.

Some resources to help small business owners include:

  • New Access for Small Business Owners is a free mental health support service developed by Beyond Blue. It offers one-on-one telehealth sessions tailored for small business owners with specially trained mental health coaches providing evidence-based advice on strategies for managing stress.
  • Ahead for business helps small business owners take action on their mental health and wellbeing through personalised resources and tools tailored to their specific needs, including a Mental health check-up you can use to see how you are tracking with your mental health and wellbeing.
  • MindSpot provides free, digital mental health services to adults across Australia including a free and confidential online assessment tool that can be used to learn more about the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and access clinically-proven treatment options.
  • The Small Business Debt Helpline operated by Financial Counselling Australia has a team of qualified financial counsellors who can answer calls directly or assist via a web chat function. The helpline provides free, independent and non-judgemental advice by calling 1800 413 828.
  • Lifeline are a national charity providing all Australians experiencing emotional distress with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. Call 131144.
  • ATO support for businesses and employers has learning resources, tools and services to support small business.

More information, resources and tips to help run your small business is available at www.asbfeo.gov.au.

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