src=”https://buffer.com/resources/content/images/2022/10/Paynter-carelabel-.jpg” alt=”Why Small Business Owners Need Support Systems, With Examples From 6 Small Business Owners”>
It can be extremely stressful to start and run your own business. Capital One conducted a survey and found that 42% of small business owners are experiencing burnout, or have suffered from it in the last month. Entrepreneurs need to have a strong support network. Small business owners can benefit from having a place to vent their frustrations and people who understand them. This will help you be more resilient and better able to weather any storms.
We met with a number of small business owners who have amazing stories about how they manage multiple growth challenges and growing families while ensuring that they receive the support and encouragement they need to succeed in their businesses.
Holly Howard, a business consultant, says it best: “It’s not about business growth without personal development.” In the Capital One report, more than half (53%) of business owners reported that burnout is a barrier that prevents them from succeeding in their businesses.
We discuss how owners of SparkToro, Made With Local, Zingerman’s, Destination Unknown Restaurants, Harlow, and Paynter Jackets approach support as small-business owners in Small Business, Big Lessons, season 2, episode 6.
Establish healthy boundaries and work policies
When talking about support, the first thing many small business owners will mention is setting healthy boundaries. These can take the form of helping to set healthy boundaries for yourself, and also supporting their team with work policies that prevent them from becoming burnout.
Kelly Phillips, founder of Destination Unknown Restaurants in Washington DC, knows that boundaries often begin with her as the leader. “I respect time off. I don’t text, call, or email when people are on vacation.” Kelly Phillips leads by example when she is not working. “I try to not let myself get too caught up in work when I’m not at work.” I know I am a better leader when I have the time to rest.
Kelly also cares about the environment in which she creates at her restaurants. Kelly says, “I strive to create a stress-free atmosphere.” It can get stressful. Yes, it can get stressful. But, I love to make people laugh or give them a high-five or something that will lift their spirits. We must close the doors and we will see a new day tomorrow.
Intentional work strategies can make a big difference in reducing burnout and building a support network. Harlow is a software program that helps freelancers manage their businesses. Samantha Anderl and Andrea Wildt are co-founders. Because their 9-to-5 jobs weren’t working for them, they decided to start their own business. This supported their future employees and helped them quit their previous jobs. Samantha shared their philosophy.
They established policies that allowed for fewer meetings and created a work environment that disarms the need to be urgent. What is the result? Both co-founders claim they are becoming better versions of themselves. “Our brains aren’t able to function in an ‘on state’ for more than eight to nine hours per day. We need downtime, breaks. That’s what I believe. Many corporate environments aren’t conducive for creativity. Samantha and I wanted something new, where creativity could flourish.
Create a network of founders and customers
You can also get support by building a community around you — both from other founders who understand your struggles and those who are faced with similar ones. Also, look to your customers who better understand your business than most others.
Holly describes it as “Who are the people you can talk to?” Holly says, “Everybody has the same challenges as entrepreneurs, and when we see each other, we have that camaraderie and that support for growth.” It’s much easier to make changes when you’re not alone. It’s important to have a support network of people who understand your situation and can help you each other.
Harlow’s co-founders have been building communities since the beginning. This proves that it is never too late to build one. Samantha explained that the co-founders of Harlow have been building their community for eight years. It includes freelancers as well as other founders. Samantha stated that “I don’t think we ever had a problem that required solving, that we didn’t have someone in our community who we could talk to.”
You can also find community through traditional business groups. Made with Local is a Canadian snack-bar company founded by Sheena Russel. It has been certified as a B-corp. “I feel like we are part of an amazing purpose-led business community.” Sheena Russel knows how important community is. Sheena has experienced the loneliness of being a founder and entrepreneur. She also looks to her customers, as well as her network of entrepreneurs. “We have an incredible community of businesses around us, as well as our customers.
Rand Fishkin, co-founder and CEO at SparkToro, says the common theme among all these business owners is what he calls an “intentional investment in building a community of like-minded founders” or “an intentional investment to build a network of like minded entrepreneurs and like-minded businesses.” The key is to just get started.
Connect with like-minded people via groups or social media to form a network
Sometimes, there’s already a community that can help you. Kelly is part of Re:Her, a national non profit founded by women restaurateurs. The mission of the organization is to empower women entrepreneurs in the food and drink industry. She explained, “We have regular calls in which we discuss issues within the restaurant community, as well as we have resources for one another. Even if it’s just to check in and say “Hello, how are you?” You know what? Prices have risen on this. Is there anyone who can recommend a vendor that could do this? “We really do help each other.”
This type of organization can be a great advantage in gaining support and making connections with like-minded people. These groups can be found online via tools such as Meetup, Facebook Groups and LinkedIn Groups. Ask around in your industry for information about organizations you don’t know.
Another powerful tool to find existing groups, communities, and resources is social media. Made with Local founder Sheena is a Canadian woman who uses digital platforms to connect. She said, “If you’re an entrepreneur who’s having trouble connecting with mentors or a community, I would suggest that you start looking online. Social media is an algorithmically driven way to find other entrepreneurs doing the same things as you.” It doesn’t matter if you use LinkedIn or Instagram. It’s a great way to find out where your friends are.
Samantha Harlow had the same experience. “I am very active on Twitter. I am very active on LinkedIn and Instagram. So I am always making connections there.” Samantha’s advice when it comes to joining these communities is: “People and people are having the discussions, so you just need to get involved.”
Therapy support should be sought out by professionals
There are many ways to support yourself. Sometimes the best support you can get is professional counseling or therapy. Holly, in addition to being a long-term business consultant, is also a trained therapist. She explained that because of her experience, she often recommends that clients seek therapy. For many entrepreneurs, this is their first experience with therapy.
Ari Weinzweig is the co-founder of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses. He has personally experienced this type of support. “I went to therapy when I was ready for it, and at that point I felt comfortable through the pain. I wish I had gone at 10. It’s almost like having a coach at the gym. It’s not wrong or strange. It’s not unusual to want someone to talk to about your emotional problems, who is grounded, thoughtful, caring and slightly disengaged.
Ari is not the only one who seeks this type of support. Rand was there when he needed therapy following a particularly hard time. “I am only a few years removed from my mental and emotional struggles, depression, anxiety. I am very grateful to have been through these times. It was incredibly difficult and heartbreaking. After experiencing that, I decided to step down as CEO of MOZ and to leave the company. Rand also said that he was able to talk to a professional coach and counselor, but he is hesitant to offer advice because “I don’t believe that what worked for me will be the same for everyone.” What I’ve heard from founders and others who have been through similar situations is that the solutions can often be different.
Rand now has a new approach to his mental well-being. Rand says, “I have made an effort to prevent the same pattern from returning. I have prioritized my personal health and happiness over working as much as possible.”
You can always stop.
There are many avenues to get support for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Remember that sometimes, support can also feel like giving up.
Paynter Jacket Co co-founders Becky Okell, and Huw Thomas. The company creates limited-edition jackets four days a year. Both have positive perspectives on slowing down when necessary. Huw said, “When momentum builds in your business, you kind of keep it going until the busy times become normal ones one day.” Becky and Huw both experienced this and realized that they needed to take some time for themselves. Huw describes it like “It’s a matter of being self-aware enough that I can recognize when you need me to slow down and pause.” Take a deep breath.
Becky believes that there must be peak and trough times in busy times. It’s not possible to do everything at the speed of light and everything will not be perfect. Becky’s advice is to take some time to recharge your creative energy and to read and gain an outside perspective.
We can’t do it all alone and need help from others. We rely on our communities for support when we are struggling.
Find out how to get support for small business owners. Listen to the complete episode of Small Business, Big Lessons.
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