Last weekend I had a very interesting discussion with a doctor friend of mine that challenged me to think differently about business performance. Our discussion focused on the role of stress in business failure, which he said is never given the serious thought it deserves.
He argued that contrary to what many business experts would have us believe, most failures in business actually does not stem from things such as undercapitalisation, competition, entrepreneur’s incompetence or a lack of management skills, inadequate customers or even poor marketing.
The real culprit and the single most significant cause of business failure today, he said, is stress. He said all other factors mentioned above and many more are easy to solve once one is physically and mentally fit. But once stress sets in, and it often does, everything falls apart and anything that can go wrong goes wrong at the speed of thunder.
Stress is like HIV. Just as virus destroys a person’s immunity and expose them to all sorts of maladies, stress weakens the entrepreneur’s ability to fight and survive in the market.
A stressed person loses enthusiasm and optimism to face daily challenges as well as ability to make key timely decision correctly.
Stress in business derives from many sources. It can result from inability to find enough customers, enough cash flow to meet daily and monthly demands and failure to get good employees who understand your vision as well as workload.
Stressors such as strained family relationships, finances and uncertainties make things worse for any entrepreneur. Anxiety and fear of the future cause insomnia or a lack of sleep.
When a lack of sleep is combined with much work, the result can be catastrophic. It severely stresses the brain and impairs short-term memory and concentration leading to many errors and low productivity.
Medical reports reveal that success affects ability to remember things already known, process new information and knowledge, analyse situations logically and even sustain focus and concentration, all of which are key to business success.
Essentially, most sources of business success can be singled to one thing — failure to meet ones expectation. It could have to do with money or freedom, esteem, security or whatever else one expected when starting a business.
When venturing into business few people anticipate or even adequately plan for challenges such as product failure, cash flow problems, competition, a lack of skilled or loyal employees and so on. There is a high tendency underestimate the actual cost of steering business to success both in terms of material and emotion input. There is even stronger tendency to overestimate the returns.
As a general rule when venturing into business don’t expect everything to go according to your plan or expectations. As far as money is concerned, which is a key source of stress, provide for a situation where the cost could go up, up to three times of your estimate and the revenue could shrink up to one third of your projection.
Solicited support from your spouse or family members because in case things don’t go as planned, you need their support.
It is also very important to have a business mentor or a coach who understands business very well to guide and tell you from experience how things work. Some of the things that really stress start up entrepreneurs are normal hiccups in business that should not be an issue at all.
Generally, how you handle the effects of stress depends on whether it is easier to change the situation or change your attitude toward it. Next week we will learn few tips on how to manage a business.
Mr Kiunga is a business trainer and the author of ‘The Entrepreneurial Journey: From Employment to Business’. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org.