A new campaign is highlighting the affect that growing a business can have on mental health.
Anyone who has launched a business knows what hard work it is. Grit, tenacity, determination, self-belief, perseverance, these are all qualities needed to build a company from scratch. The character traits of entrepreneurs are regularly applauded as their achievements are celebrated, but new research has revealed that, for many, their darkest hours have been while growing their businesses. Founders of some of the UK’s top high-growth businesses have revealed the personal toll that building a successful company has had on their mental health. Many have experienced isolation, betrayal, emotional and mental scarring. Others have shared accounts of broken marriages, bankruptcy, mental breakdown and burnout, while they have been growing their company.
The candid and honest disclosures form part of an in-depth qualitative and quantitative study by the
100 Stories of Growth campaign, which is gathering data and insights from 100 one-to-one interviews and surveys of more than 250 of the UK’s top entrepreneurs.
Often boasting 20% year-on-year staff and turnover increases, founders of SMEs are celebrated as UK growth heroes. However, according to the study, for more than 53% building their business has been one of the toughest times of their lives and more than 45% felt under constant extreme pressure. A staggering 25% of the entrepreneurs questioned revealed that their mental or emotional health has been negatively affected but they’ve “suffered in silence”, while 22% said they “felt like a burden” to their friends and family. A smaller but not insignificant proportion (8%) have resorted to seeking medical advice due to the notable impact on their mental health.
Guy Tolhurst, SME champion and founder of the 100 Stories of Growth campaign, said: “The reality of scaling a business in the UK can be exhilarating yet bleak at the same time. It’s a big dipper of high-octane peaks of self-belief, followed by plummeting drops to the depths of self-doubt. In the past, the runway to investment was much longer and founders experienced rollercoaster-like highs and lows before they even thought about taking on financial capital, which builds emotional resilience. Today, there’s more money sloshing around than ever before, just waiting to be ploughed into the next big idea, often run by entrepreneurs with little experience of the pressures ahead of them. Investors hand over a wad of cash and urge the founder not to lose it, but they should be advising the same with mental health in mind.”
In response, 100 Stories of Growth have launched its ‘Don’t Lose It’ initiative, encouraging all parts of the investment community to have a much-needed and transparent discussion about the pressures of building a high-growth business, and ask the wider investment industry – from angel investors to VC funds – to take responsibility for founder wellbeing and be more ‘mindful investors’. Over the coming months, the campaign will bring together both the investment community and entrepreneurs in a series of workshops to explore the topic from both sides. The ‘Don’t Lose It’ manifesto will comprise a list of actionable points the investment community can adopt to acknowledge their responsibility and make a positive difference to founder wellbeing – something that was mirrored by 26% of founders in the research who would like to see more support from the investment community.
This article was originally featured in The Informer – November 2018. To read the full magazine please click here