Small Business Owners Say Mental Health Suffering
Many small business owners are barely holding on to their mental health with a crisis looming, particularly if another lockdown occurred.
A new study from Business Mentors New Zealand has found seven out of ten small business owners are feeling stressed and anxious with nearly half of them saying they’re burnt out. More than a quarter of those surveyed (27%) reported feeling depressed.
Business Mentors New Zealand has been supporting small businesses for nearly 30 years, providing mentoring services to start-ups, existing businesses and social enterprise. Chief Executive, Sarah Trotman, ONZM said the past 12 months have taken their toll on the mental health of the country’s small business owners.
“There is a real sense of struggle with some small business owners not being heard and feeling unsupported. Mental health issues and the fear of onset of mental health issues, particularly if there was to be more hardship, came through loud and clear from survey participants,” says Ms Trotman.
Isolation and loneliness factored strongly with half of business owners stating they felt very much on their own.
Hours spent working have been extended in the last six months for two thirds (63%) of business owners, just to meet demands.
While 40% of respondents said the biggest challenge over the last 12 months was a lack of revenue and cash flow, future unpredictability hampered 21% of small business owners. A significant number sited finding skilled staff as their major challenge.
Nearly two thirds (61%) of small businesses have accessed a Government financial support package in the last 12 months while 13% have turned to family and friends to borrow more money to keep their business afloat. Another 13% have turned to their bank to take out a business loan or mortgage the house and others reported breaking into their own piggy banks to utilise personal savings.
Nearly a quarter (22.5%) of respondents have turned to a business mentor or coach to seek help with their business while a similar number (21%) have sought the knowledge of their accountant and 15% have turned to family and friends.
Ms Trotman says business owners use a mentor for many reasons – new ideas, management and financial guidance or problem solving – but the overwhelming reason is a sounding board. “When you’re running your own business, often you can’t solve your problems at home and there are not many seasoned people you can talk to. Having an experienced, independent, empathetic person to bounce ideas and problems off can have a massively positive impact on the owner and their business.”
While the past 12 months have been extremely demanding on some business owners 65% of those surveyed are hoping their business will do well in the next 12 months. Two thirds of business owners aspire to profitable growth over the next 12 months while another 24% just hope to survive the next 12 months.
More than a quarter (27%) of business owners plan on investing in marketing and social media over the next year with the second highest investment going into people (17%). Introducing new products and/or services were on the agenda for 17% of small business owners and 9% of businesses are considering developing e-commerce capabilities.
Looking to the future, feelings were mixed with some respondents saying opening New Zealand’s borders would have the single biggest positive impact on their business while others were thinking that with Kiwis trapped in their own country, there would be more people spending locally and boosting the economy.
There has been an upside to the past 18 months with 80% of small business owners saying they have had positive learnings out of Covid 19 that they believe will better prepare them for any future issues and 55% reported that their business is more resilient as a result of the pandemic.