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Business owners warned of mental health issues

Business owners warned of mental health issues heading into Christmas

A chartered accounting firm is warning that this Christmas will take mental health to breaking point for many New Zealand’s business owners.

Director of Auckland-based accounting and business advisory firm, NexGen Group, Vinay Iswar, said this is the time of year when there’s a large increase in clients contacting the firm because their financial, family and social pressures reach extremes and they can’t cope.

“It’s not just us noticing that unrealistic pressures from deadlines, clients, family and reduced cashflow lead to a spike in heart attacks and mental health problems for business owners. The research supports our position that business owners need to be very careful at this time of year – now is not the time to push too hard.

“Research by the Institute of Public Accountants in Australia has identified mental health rates for SMEs across the ditch are declining, and what’s true for Australia is no less relevant for Kiwis. Analysis by the University of Melbourne also shows that heart attacks in New Zealand increase over the festive season.”

Iswar said that anecdotally, the firm is aware that clients are stressed because they’re being pulled in all directions, they’re burning the candle at both ends and their alcohol consumption is up too.

“Clients contact us because they need to open up lines of credit, as if that will bring relief. Unfortunately, this time of year it’s too late for the banks, and borrowing to pay bills just compounds the problem.”

Iswar said it is the time of year when customers want things faster, while at the same time there are social events and functions and a lot of time gets spent on non-profit generating activities, which just raises anxiety levels.

“Coupled to this are the financial problems that come with the Christmas shut-down. Business owners know they’re closing for two or three weeks, so no money is coming in, and in January and February the IRD is going to demand five or six big tax payments – it’s all too much.

“If business owners want to avoid anxiety and depression, or a crash into illness when everything does finally stop, now is the time to stop saying ‘yes’ to everything,” Iswar said.

He offers the following three Christmas survival tips for business owners:

1. Don’t change your normal routine

Small business owners are advised to avoid replacing or changing how they do things just because it’s Christmas.

“If you are good at life balance, don’t give it up in December. Some business owners get so busy with events they’re hardly ever home in the evening. Say ‘no’ more so you can spend more time with your family – reduce your alcohol and unhealthy food consumption too.

“Make it a priority to pull back and be more selfish with your time and energy,” Iswar said.

2. Focus on cashflow.

Forecast what your cashflow will be at the end or middle of January. Automate your expected payments, and vigorously chase people who owe you money.

“If it’s going to be a disaster, at least you’ll know the extent of the disaster, rather than having it worrying away at the back of your mind – uncertainty is the biggest stressor, so get some certainty around your cashflow between now and March.”

3. Take stock, acknowledge and celebrate the last 12 months

Iswar said everyone deserves to be rewarded, including the business owner and his or her team.

“Pull back. Celebrate the good things you’ve accomplished this year, and reward your team. We’re taking our team fishing this year and there’ll be no shop talk,” he said.

Iswar said that in his firm’s experience, lack of planning and forecasting is the Kiwi business owners biggest Achilles heel.

“Clarity reduces stress. Not knowing what’s beyond the horizon is a far heavier burden at a time when you need to be putting the brakes on – not hitting the gas. Recognise success over the last 12 months and take a break,” Iswar said.

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