Why Reducing Stress Stabilises Your Profits

As a small business consultant, I see the impact that stress has on people’s lives up close. Many times it is a good thing as it forces the business owner to adapt and excel so that his business thrives. Excelling, however, is contingent on the business owner knowing how to harness small doses of stress and manage its effects.

Unfortunately, for far too many people stress both consumes them and paralyses their decision-making abilities so that their health deteriorates and their business suffers as their short-term profits evaporate.

Elevated stress levels over time can lead to myriad health issues, such as high blood pressure, obesity, sleep problems, and headaches. Work relationships with employees, clients, and suppliers can also suffer as unmanaged stress can cause the owner to make more mistakes, become irritable, lack focus, and perhaps even resort to medications to lessen the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Unmanaged stress can impact profits. The American Institute of Stress in 2014 estimated that around $300 billion is lost each year in America due to stress related absenteeism and health costs. While in the UK, the Labour Force Survey found that 11.7 million days were lost in 2015/16 due to stress.

As an owner’s ability to perform suffers due to stress, the management of the business can deteriorate. Client work will not get the attention that it deserves, staff will leave to find a less volatile work environment, and competitors will start to gain an edge. Diminishing business performance will undoubtedly cause the owner to become even more stressed, leading to further poor decision making. It will only be a matter of time before the overall business declines because its foundation, the owner, is unstable.

So, what is the small business owner to do?

  1. Remember to keep things in perspective. While the success or failure of your business endeavours are largely dependent on your efforts, there are many things outside your control, such as the economy, regulatory change, and political decisions.
  2. Focus your efforts on the task at hand. Evidence suggests that multi-tasking does not work. It only leads to ineffectiveness and inefficiencies. Just think how dangerous it is to text and drive at the same time; it is illegal, not just inadvisable, as you are repeatedly shifting your focus from the road to the phone. You cannot do multiple tasks at once and expect to do them all at the same high level of performance. Constantly switching your focus as you move between tasks drains your mental reserves.
  3. Schedule your activities to achieve control over your day. There is a reason why militaries and schools are highly regimented, and that is because routine is the best way to achieve results. If you want to have less stress, you need to have more planning, which should encourage you to schedule your activities, track the time taken to complete these activities and then follow up on them to see how it could be done better in the future.
  4. Document processes and repetitive tasks, whether they are back office or client facing. Thanks to technological advancements, this is now very cost effective with companies like Process Street or SweetProcess specialising in standardising operating procedures. Every successful business is bigger than any staff member, even the owner. Therefore, by documenting work process and key areas of organisational knowledge this will allow a new person to step in and with minimal training pick up where the last person left off. If everything is in the owner’s head, or in the heads of employees, you are putting your business in a very precarious position.

As you can see, having high levels of stress for indefinite periods of time and having no way to manage this will have a negative effect on your health and overall business performance. Managing stress is vastly more important than chasing profits because most small businesses are an extension of their owner and an owner can’t just take six months off on stress leave and have other people cover for him. A healthy owner equals a healthy business and a higher chance of converting profiits into a long term sustainable future.

Benard Chedid is a small business consultant based in Sydney, Australia. His aim is to help small businesses professionalise by filling in the missing gaps that are holding them back, whether marketing or administration, sales or bookkeeping.

Image: Flickr

How to Make Stress Your Friend

Viewing stress as helpful can foster courage, and connecting with others under stress can aid resilience

KELLY McGONIGAL explains that merely believing that “stress is harmful” can increase your chances of premature death.

The good news is that by changing how you think about stress you can change your body’s stress response and improve your physical resilience.

When you choose to see stress in a positive way, as a sign that your body is energised and rising to meet the challenge, it can help you remain more relaxed and work better under stress. At the same time, it can change your biological response to look like joy and courage.

One of the interesting things about the stress response is that it can make you more social. Oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the cuddle hormone, is produced under conditions of stress and can prompt you to strengthen close relationships and support the people you care about.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, caring for other people can provide you with stress resilience. When you ask for help or give help to others under stress, the body produces more Oxytocin. And since the hormone is a natural anti-inflammatory, this can help your blood vessels stay relaxed and protect your heart and cardiovascular system from damage. According to McGonigal, people who spend time caring for others show no increase in premature death when placed under conditions of stress.

In the end, pursuing meaning in your life and in your career by finding ways to help others is likely to be better for your heath than merely trying to minimise stress and avoid discomfort.

3 Steps to Eliminate Worry

Identify the source, weigh your options, and take action

DO you suffer from worry?

Worry is an obstacle which can prevent otherwise talented students and business people from setting and achieving goals; even ones that should be well within their reach.

Do you ever twiddle your thumbs for five minutes (or an hour) before making a sales call (or calling the girl/boy you like)? Do you ever worry that people might not like you? Do you ever worry when you feel sick that you might actually be dying?

Worry affects most people at some point in their lives, and in that sense it is perfectly natural. However, if you were completely in control you wouldn’t choose to be worried, would you? It’s uncomfortable, it’s stressful, and worrying makes it more difficult to think clearly and get things done.

To help you retain a calm state of mind, here are 3 steps which you can follow to help you reduce worry and stay in control of your day:

  1. Identify the source: what are you worrying about? Be specific and write it down. At the same time, also write down a description of what is the worst that could happen. If everything that could go wrong does go wrong, what would that look like? Would it be so bad?  Prepare yourself to accept the worst.
  2. Weigh your options: what can you do about it? Write down possible options that you could use to remove the source of your worries. For example, the source of your worries might be that “the prospective customer will reject me if I try to sell them the product”. This worry provides you with a number of options: for example, you could do nothing and achieve an outcome as good as rejection. You could play it safe and send the prospect a text message or email. Alternatively, you could think carefully, develop a clever pitch, anticipate responses to the prospect’s most likely objections, and then make a call or speak to the prospect in person. Weighing your options can help you understand which ones are most likely to succeed.
  3. Take action:decide what you should do, and start immediately to carry out your decision.

Just three simple steps, but if you follow them then you will be well on your way to eliminating worry.

If you are serious about reducing worry, you might also want to take a look at an excellent book on the topic written by Dale Carnegie entitled How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.

Keep calm and carry on.