The Psychological Cost of Entrepreneurship and How We Can Support You

Society idolizes successful entrepreneurs and celebrates fast growth companies. Fortune 500 CEOs and self-made millionaires and billionaires seem to set the standard for what an entrepreneur should be like. The reality is that before making it big, many of these entrepreneurs have struggled through times of debilitating anxiety and despair, times when they feel everything is crashing down on them.  Also, such success stories are few and far between. Reality and consistent statistics over time indicate that 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, 50% fail after five years in business and 70% fail in their 10th year in business. Harvard Business School reported that 70% to 80% of start-ups fail to meet projected return on investment and a whopping 90% to 95% fail to meet performance targets. Statistics on the survival of Canadian small businesses are better but still uncomfortably high – over 40% fail after 5 years and close to 60% fail by the time they reach their 10th year. Approximately 7000 businesses go bankrupt every year in Canada. It is therefore not a surprise that most entrepreneurs experience intense stress and anxiety while trying to sustain their business.

Entrepreneurs often feel the pressure to be “on” and to put up a front that would assure investors, employees, and family members of the viability of their business. In most cases, they carry the worries, anxiety, and burden of the business on their own. When growing or trying to save their business, most may be in a constant state of anxiety, have unreasonably high expectations, would work very long hours, not get adequate sleep, not eat properly, neglect their social circle, and not dedicate enough time to care for their health. There is a strong fear and/or strong feeling of failure. In combination, these, according to psychiatrist and researcher, Dr. Michael Freeman, can trigger “mood vulnerability” and exacerbate any stress, anxiety, other mental health issues or relationship difficulties they may already be experiencing.

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) released an in-depth report in June 2019 examining Canadian entrepreneurs’ mental health. They found:

  • Two thirds (62%) feel depressed at least once a week.
  • Entrepreneurs who are female, whose enterprises are in the growth or early stages and by those with fewer employees or less revenue are more likely to report mental health issues.
  • Nearly half (46%) say that mental health issues interfere with their ability to work.
  • One in five (21%) entrepreneurs feel satisfied with their mental health less than once a week.  Among the general population, eight per cent of Canadians perceive their mental health as poor or fair.

A 2015 University of California San Francisco study by Dr. Freeman on the prevalence and characteristics of mental health conditions among entrepreneurs found equally disheartening results. The study found that start-up founders/entrepreneurs are:

  • 2 times as likely to suffer from depression
  • 6 times more likely to suffer from ADHD
  • 3 times more likely to suffer from substance abuse
  • 10 times more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder
  • 2 times as likely to have a psychiatric hospitalization
  • 2 times as likely to have suicidal thoughts

In the study, mental health was a concern for 72% of the entrepreneurs and one half (49%) of entrepreneurs suffer from at least one form of mental health condition during their lifetimes. These include ADHD, bipolar disorder and a host of disorders.

Family-owned and/or family-run businesses often bring an additional set issues such business versus personal relationship boundaries, breach, conflicts, succession, and others. A 2014 Deloitte survey reported that only 17% of Canadian family businesses have a clear succession plan. Less than 30% of family businesses survive into the 2nd generation. A 2016 research by National Bureau of Economic Research further shows that only 12% of family businesses make it through the 3rd generation and a mere 3% make it through the 4th generation.

Without a doubt, the pressure and stressors of launching and ensuring the continued viability of a small or family business can have a huge impact on the physical, psychological, and relational wellness of the entrepreneur. This in turn will impact the owner’s ability to function and perform in their role, and that would ultimately impact the business’ viability and on-going progress.

According to Entrepreneurship Researcher and Psychiatrist, Michael A. Freeman: “If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re going on an emotional rollercoaster ride. There will be horrible days, horrible months, great days and great months,….Nobody is beyond the need for support.

As such, in addition to taking care of their business and employees, entrepreneurs must also take good care of themselves, especially if they are experiencing severe stress or other psychological issues, cognitive impairment, and/or relationship breakdown.

How we can help you, the entrepreneur

Our expertise is in taking care of your psychological, cognitive, and relational wellness so that you can concentrate on taking take care of your business. More specifically, we can support you in the following manner:

  1. Help you to properly assess your condition if you suspect that you may have a psychological, cognitive, or alcohol/substance dependency issue.
  2. Help you to deal with and recover from your psychological, relational, or alcohol/substance dependency difficulties through specialized counselling and treatments.
  3. Help you to re-train and re-build your cognitive and functional abilities if you are experiencing cognitive impairment or deterioration due to concussion and other brain injuries, medical condition/illness, or aging.
  4. Help you and your family to deal with issues related to boundaries, breach, conflicts, succession, or others that are affective the sustainability of your family-owned or family-run business.
  5. Help you to build a psychologically healthy and productive management team and work crew.
  6. Help small business owners, where needed, to address concerns related to small business HRM, business development, and operational effectiveness. Such concerns can become major, life altering stressors for an entrepreneur/business owner.

Our people, your advantage

Our services are guided by therapists and associates who are or have been successful entrepreneurs, business leaders, and/or family-business owners themselves and can directly identify with the stress and challenges of running a business. Each of our business development and operation partners are not simply professionals with training and theoretical knowledge in business advancement. They are seasoned business leaders and advisors with significant direct experience and expertise in business start-up, multi-aspect operation improvement, and business development.

While not all of our psychological care therapists are or have been business owners, they all have dedicated an extensive amount of time and effort to specialize in the psychological area which you may seek counselling and treatment. Our therapists also work with partner physicians and specialists in various medical and para-medical areas. Where appropriate to do so, they will collaborate with other clinicians to provide you with the multi-disciplinary interventions and support that may be needed to address your issues and concerns in a holistic manner.

Please contact us to learn more.