TOUGH GIG: Research has revealed the emotional toll small businesses face.
TOUGH GIG: Research has revealed the emotional toll small businesses face. BRETT WORTMAN

Small businesses victim to emotional struggles

NEW research has revealed the emotional toll small business owners face in day-to-day life.

Findings published in the BOQ's Business Balance Report has shown more than one in 10 (13.5%) SME owners in Queensland have been diagnosed with depression, stress or anxiety at some point as a result of running their own enterprise.

The report also revealed that close to a quarter (24%) of local small business owners had become physically unwell as a result of operating their sole venture, while a further 17% had sought the services of a psychologist to help them manage the daily pressure.

Sunshine Coast businessman Kristian Muir can attest to the daily struggles SMEs face, having started Muir Developments in his early twenties.

"It's definitely hard getting a start in small business," he said.

A big sports fan, Mr Muir said one of the many sacrifices he had to make early on was his weekend sports and socialising.

"It's pretty much a full-time job and you can't just go home and switch off," he said.

"In small business you will tend to have to give up some of the finer things like playing sport and general hobbies."

While Mr Muir said he hadn't fallen down a dark path, he knew plenty that had.

"I do think there is depression out there in any small business, but my advice is to surround yourself with good people and just try and keep going," he said.

Leaning on fellow peers in the industry, and getting advice from those with experience in SME, was something that Mr Muir considered invaluable.

"We were pretty lucky just by surrounding ourselves here on the Sunshine Coast with people that were successful and they were able to show me the ropes and the potholes to dodge," he said.

Mr Muir said his BOQ banking manager had been a huge help, along with his father, who had once started an Italian shoe business and been in small business for more than 30 years.

The report also found almost half of all SMEs (41%) admitted they'd be unlikely to discuss the emotional strains of running their own business, raising a red flag for mental health experts.

Corporate psychologist Stephanie Thompson said most SME owners tended to keep the pressure they were feeling bottled up in a bid to save their friends and family from feeling the same strains.

"When someone goes out on their own there's a tendency for them to hide any struggles they are experiencing in case they are perceived as a failure or as unable to cope," she said.

"Equally, they feel the need to shield their loved ones from their stress as they are afraid it will pass on to them.

"However in many cases, once an SME owner decides to open up and talk to someone - whether it's a professional, friend or family member - they feel a huge weight has lifted and are able to address these challenges more effectively."