With interest in entrepreneurship on the rise, we look at the importance of ensuring positive entrepreneurial well-being to run a successful business.
From the likes of Evan Spiegel of Snapchat to John and Patrick Collison of payment app Stripe, to ‘Robot Guru’ Kyle Vogt – the world is abuzz with news of entrepreneurs who have struck it rich by striking out on their own. And these success stories are generating a lot of interest in entrepreneurship.
Data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey of 2016 across 61 economies revealed that more than two-thirds of the adult population believed that entrepreneurs are well-regarded and enjoy a high status within their respective countries. The survey also suggests that, on average, 42% of working-age adults see good opportunities for starting a business in their field.
But let’s face it. Success is by no means guaranteed. Data from the GEM survey also suggests that the lack of business profitability was a primary reason behind nearly a third of business exits among entrepreneurs. From coming up with an idea for a new venture, finding the capital to launch it, to fighting to keep it going, it is clear that entrepreneurs need to be prepared for the long haul.
Masters of their fates
But talk to any entrepreneur, and they will swear by the sense of accomplishment they get from running their own business and being in control of their destiny. This is what makes entrepreneurial life attractive for many.
“Entrepreneurs lead challenging lives in general, but their work is their shelter”, declares Nadav Shir, researcher and teacher at the Stockholm school of economics. Shir has extensively researched the relationship between entrepreneurship and well-being, a factor that he says is instrumental in deciding motivation, commitment and the determination to enter into and persist in entrepreneurial activities.
Shir says that there is a positive state of wellness which individual entrepreneurs get from the process of starting up new ventures and running their firms. He calls this feeling “Entrepreneurial Well-Being” or EWB, explaining that it can help entrepreneurs continuously engage with their venture, keeping them motivated and invested. Shir has researched the topic extensively in his thesis – Entrepreneurial Well-Being, The Payoff Structure of Business Creation.
“It a positive mental state that reflects entrepreneurs’ affective and cognitive experiences of engagement in venture creation,” he explains. “In other words, experiencing high EWB is all about judging one’s entrepreneurial life positively and feeling good about it.”
With the help of data collected by GEM, and over a period of 2 years, Shir compared and contrasted individuals actively engaged in entrepreneurial activities, with regular, non-entrepreneurial employees to understand the EWB and its effects on business creation and execution. And the results were illuminating.
“In my research, I found that individuals were motivated in entrepreneurship not merely by wealth, status or image, but mostly by orienting their pursuits to community involvement, personal development, and own goals,” he says. “We also know that while individual entrepreneurs on average derive greater well-being than average employees, they also suffer great levels of psychological stress.”
Shir attributes this to the demanding and uncertain nature of entrepreneurial work, which has a high psychological price which can lead to depression, anxiety, and fatigue.
“We know that about 70% of all potential entrepreneurs never move forward to action,” he says. “One reason is that the cost on mental health in the process of planning a new venture is so great, that individuals lack the energy, the cognitive and mental resources to start the process.”
Dealing with being your own boss
The fact that entrepreneurs are under a tremendous amount of stress can also be seen from real-life examples from around Europe.
British entrepreneur, hypnotherapist and life coach Nikki Powell spent 20 years in the public sector, before turning to entrepreneurship. While she loves the flexibility that entrepreneurship gives her, she admits that the stress can get to her at times.
“If you take time off when you work for yourself, say if you are ill or on holiday, then you are not getting paid,” Nikki notes. “Overall, it is rewarding, but a lot more stressful than working for someone else.”
The experience is much the same for mechanical engineer turned yoga instructor, Luisa. Her favourite part about being an entrepreneur is being able to be her own boss. But all the associated administrative responsibilities that come with the job have proven to be too much to handle on her own.
“From my home office tasks, such as writing emails, managing documents and files to following up on invoices and chasing after payments, I do not like all the paperwork,” she declares.
While both Nikki and Luisa are enjoying the full benefits of being entrepreneurs and steering their own course through life, anxiety about finances and the responsibilities that come with running a full-fledged business can be a dampener. And if this continues, it could negatively affect EWB, preventing them and other entrepreneurs like them, from carrying out their work.
Improving entrepreneurial well-being
Keeping this in mind, it is clear that entrepreneurs need to take steps to improve their well-being.
“I believe that one thing that individuals can do in their own lives is to allow themselves the freedom to organise their own approach to work,” says Shir. “This should also be seriously considered by organisations. Giving individuals, within reasonable boundaries, the discretionary power to adopt their own approach to work – to pursue their own goals at work and have more control over their work relationships – is likely to improve their well-being in the workplace.”
That’s not all. Other steps that entrepreneurs can take to actively improve their well-being include:
Not biting off more than you can chew
At the start of a new venture, entrepreneurs may be tempted to take on more projects than they are able to handle. Learning to say no will help you manage your energies betters and in a more focused manner.
Building a routine
Entrepreneurs have a tendency to immerse themselves in every part of their business. While that can be a good thing, in the interests of health and wellness, it is essential that they focus only on the big tasks that help drive things forward, and not micro-manage every aspect of their business.
Relaxing and recuperating
If you thought not working hard was bad for your business, imagine the costs of you falling ill or burning out. Exhaustion, sleep deprivation and anxiety are sure-fire ways to kill your business before it even has a chance to take off. Entrepreneurs must take time to work out, get a good night’s sleep and practice methods that can help them rejuvenate both mentally and physically.
The days of entrepreneurs single-handedly slugging it out against the world are long gone. Thanks to smart productivity tools to handle different tasks like invoicing, accounting and customer relationship management, even individual entrepreneurs can successfully run a full-scale business.
It may sound simplistic, but with entrepreneurship on the rise, these techniques may be what helps you build a successful business without sacrificing your physical and mental well-being.
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