When did business become more important than people?

written by Sarah Colgate

Business Tips for 2024

April 28, 2023

The personal toll on the business owner and their family

The reason I ask this question is because of my own experiences as a business owner, my parents’ experiences as business owners, and the experiences of my close friends, where the trend of business becoming more important than people has been increasingly noticeable. How many times have you missed catching up with friends, opted out of a family dinner or missed your kids’ sports game because of your business? I can tell you for me it was a lot. I prioritised my business over my family, over me, my physical and mental health to the point where I could no longer function.

Why? Why is this acceptable?

When did taking phone calls and answering emails become the priority for all of us? And why do we no longer value the people in front of us? What has changed? And when did it change? I feel like we have it all wrong, we have put so much importance into making money, building successful businesses and on delivering products or services to people who are not our family, who are not us and we probably don’t even know. But everyday as business owners we feel like we need to put the business first and everything else second. I don’t know what your excuse is but I have a good one, my parents did it.
quote on business become more important than people
My parents ran a building business and roller door company that was super important, or that’s how I felt about it as a child and teenager. For years it was the most important member of our family. Time was spent talking about the business, doing business, going to meetings and appointments for the business. I remember I had a job at the local McDonalds as a teenager and my mum was always late picking me up because she was caught up with working in the business. In the evenings after dinner, my dad had to pop out to do a quote or drop something off for someone or speak with a client. My parents worked hard and they did that so we could go to good schools, live in a beautiful house and wear nice clothes. They worked their asses off for those things, they worked 6-7 days per week and into the night every night. I am not criticizing my parents, they did what they knew how to do. I always believed the Maya Aneglou quote In our family a culture for business first was created. Possibly unwittingly by my parents or by their parents who came out of hard times and had the view that there was never enough and if you wanted something you had to work really hard to get it. So maybe it’s generational and only now is it so obvious because of the technology that allows us access to our email, our booking systems, accounting software and staff communications all on our phones all the time.

Do we know better now?

struggling knowing that business become more important than people
So now we know better, we know spending every minute of your life focused on your business or your success kills relationships, affects health and diminishes mental health. It’s not only bad for the business person, it’s also detrimental to the family, friends, spouse or partners and the community as a whole. In a study around mental health for small business owners conducted by the Australian Government, Department of Industry Innovation and Science – Small Business Owners and Mental Health reported that 21% of business owners were concerned to very concerned about their own mental health. About one in three respondents (34%) reported diagnosis in the past 12 months of either stress, anxiety, or depression.
So what’s going on? Because we all know better and not many of us are doing better. We are still putting a significant amount of stress on ourselves to look after our businesses. The problem is that business has no end. There is no achievement in business where you have reached your goal and now you can relax and chill out for a bit. Business is an everyday activity. Lets say your goal is to turn over $5 million this financial year. You work hard, you give it all you have, 60 to 70 hour weeks to achieve that goal. Then what? You wake up on 1st July having achieved that result and you still need to run the business, you still need to achieve the results and keep things going. Are you planning on an increase to $5million? If so, you are not working harder again to get the next result. I know this situation because I was in it. I spent every day focused on the next result, then the next one and over and over. There was no celebration or recognition of the achieved result, just the plan to achieve again or better yet bypass it. So how do we change this? How do we pull ourselves back from the brink of burn out, mental health issues or worse?

Tips to help you maintain your mental health as a business owner

Here are a few tips to help you maintain your mental health;
    • Exercise everyday – Set aside time for you to exercise every single day. No excuses because exercise reduces tension, stress and anxiety. Anxiety is a buildup of negative energy in your body so if you are exercising regularly then that will be reduced. Also exercise releases endorphins making you feel good.
    • Brain space – give yourself 30 mins to an hour everyday for brain space. No devices, no interruptions. Sit in a chair with a notepad and pen, write down anything of value that comes to you, write down what you might be concerned about, what you want to say to someone you might be angry with, whatever comes up. Once it’s written down it’s then released, you don’t need to think about it again.
    • Turn off the devices – when you get home each night turn your phone off or on silent, put it in a drawer and get it back out in the morning after you exercise. Home time is sacred and is the most valuable aspect of your day. Treat it with respect and you will feel safe and secure in your home always, so will your family.
    • Schedule time off – Time off keeps you healthy, your relationships intact and keeps you fresh for the days when you need to push through in your business. The more you work in your business the harder it is to have the mental capacity to work on your business.
        • Each day limit your hours. Commit to it and turn off at the end of the day. If you find your head clears and ideas pop in, write the down old school with a pen and paper.
        • Each week ensure you have at least 2 days off. Have someone cover the business to ensure you have space away physically and mentally.
        • Every 2-3 months take an extra long weekend. 3 or 4 days where you are not contactable.
        • Once a year minimum bring someone in to manage your business for 3 weeks minimum (during the quietest time) so you can disconnect and take a mental break from your business.
If you need help structuring your business to protect your mental health, your family and relationships,  visit my  blog or  call me 0491 729 043.

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