So escaping the corporate world and becoming an entrepreneur is certainly an attractive deal for any of you aspiring to be your own boss. However, before you jump ship it is important to acknowledge just how hard it can be to launch a successful startup.
Running your own business today is a difficult task.
Sallie Krawcheck, owner of professional women's network Ellevate stated in a recent article posted on LinkedIn that she tells 'anyone who asks that being an entrepreneur is tougher than running Merrill Lynch.' She of course should know as not only did she hold the title of CEO of Stanford Bernstein and Smith Barnet, she also ran Merrill Lynch Wealth Management for more than two years.
The first piece of advice she gives is that before you considering pursuing a career as an entrepreneur you need to take a long hard look at your finances to see if you can afford to invest heavily in your business whilst earning little or no income. This is with the idea that 'it's not how much you can make, but how little you can make and for how long'.
Secondly, she recommended some introspective research before jumping in head first. It is important to know what your true motivations are? Is it your passion for creating something out of nothing, or is it the idealised portrait of life as an entrepreneur?
Even if you are financially prepared and you are doing it for all of the right reasons, it's safe to assume that, to some degree, you will fail. According to Krawcheck, all entrepreneurs fail at some point. It's how you deal with the failure, how quick you recover that matters. You will be rejected, its just a matters of getting past the rejections.
Of course, life as a entrepreneur does sounds rather appealing and glamorous when you are on the outside looking in. Building your own company, setting your own schedule and rules can all be incredible alluring. In fact entrepreneurs are often idolised as they appear to be happier, more successful, and more driven than anyone else. However, I was to discuss the hidden dark side of being an entrepreneur and the psychological price they often pay for their choices. You see the demands of owning your own business may prevent the entrepreneur from making positive lifestyle choices which can prevent mental health problems. Here are just a few ways in which being an entrepreneur can take it's toll on your psychological well being.
Entrepreneurs are often isolated which can increase the risk of depression. They also work long hours and are often not able to take care of themselves. The mentality that 'time is money' means that they devote less time to sleep, leisure, relationships, exercise and other activities that can ward off depression.
Depression comes in many forms, it doesn't always present as sadness. Sleep difficulties, irritability and changes in weight are all signs and symptoms that can also be associated with depression. The entrepreneur may also attempt to mask the symptoms by working even longer hours, or they may in fact believe that the symptoms are stress-related which can make the symptoms worse.
In extreme cases, the entrepreneur may even experience thoughts to harm themselves or end their life. Extreme success, fame and fortune doesn't prevent anyone from experiencing a mental health issue.
Self worth issues
Many entrepreneurs tie there self worth with their net worth. If business is profitable and is doing well their self esteem goes through the roof. But when they lose a little bit of money or fail to reach their targets and goals, they find themselves struggling with their own identity because their business isn't just what they do, it's who they are.
Many entrepreneurs believe that if they work hard enough they will be successful. Despite this notion, the figures are actually quite grim. Statistics actually suggest that only about one-third of small businesses survive a decade. Statistics on start-ups are even bleaker with reports suggesting that as many at 90% of them fail. These kind of set backs can cause a psychological crisis with the entrepreneur living by the mantra that 'failure isn't an option'.
Entrepreneurs are not only under a lot of stress, but also a lot of pressure. The pressure of knowing that this months mortgage payment depends on you closing a deal, or feeling that you are unable to spend time with the family because you need to keep working - all of which can bring about anxiety. Entrepreneurs may struggle to function normally as they are constantly worried about their business.
The strong desire to achieve can also be at times detrimental to their well-being, with them second guessing their actions and ruminating over worst case scenarios. This constantly anxiety can be exhausting and immobilising, and for many entrepreneurs it can eventually lead to burn out.
An entrepreneurs is passionate by nature and even a little obsessive. Their compulsive drive to keep going, even when faced with adversity such as relationship or health problems can actually be an addiction.
A 2014 study by the Journal of Business Venturing found that habitual entrepreneurs were found to display symptoms of behavioural addiction that included obsessive thoughts, withdrawal-engagement cycles, suffering through negative emotional outcomes, high levels of strain, negative physical health and negotiating tolerance of resources and self worth.
Similar to other addictions like gambling and drug abuse these serial entrepreneurs are more likely to experience negative consequences which originate from their desire to keep going. There is evidence to also suggest that people with an addiction in one area are more likely to have a behaviour or substance abuse addiction in other areas.
Entrepreneurship - create a realistic attitude is the key to success
It is therefore important to reconsider the romantic notion that being an 'entrepreneur' and being your own boss is the key to happiness. Whilst there are many benefits, for some the psychological drawbacks just don't make it worth it.
Emotional difficulties are not a sign of weakness. The entrepreneur lifestyle is one which lends itself to reduced resilience against mental health issues. Therefore, is it essential that as a entrepreneur you must take a proactive approach in order to prevent emotional problems and build mental strength.
If you are already experiencing or noticing the psychological toll of business ownership and you would like to seek some help please get in touch.