Why it’s OK to be vulnerable and open as a small-business owner

start-ups, vulnerable

Even at the best of times, running a business requires resilience, determination and mental fortitude. The last two years have been far from the “best of times”, though, and as many Australian small-business owners invested so much time, dedication and love into maintaining their business’s well-being, they spent little time thinking about their own wellbeing. It’s no surprise that many professionals are mentally and physically exhausted. For small-business owners, the stakes are higher and so the burden is often greater.

While taking a step back is rarely top-of-mind for small-business owners, it’s OK to be vulnerable and to take time out for a professional pause. I know, because I took a professional pause in my career, and not only did it alleviate some incredibly challenging times, it also contributed to the leader and colleague I am today. But as a small-business owner how and when should you embrace a professional pause?

Let go

I can identify the exact moment I knew I had to do something about my emotional stress. I had many high-pressure responsibilities at work – something that is inherent for business owners – which led to a mental breakdown. I was tired, overwhelmed and I was bottling it up and if I did nothing, the situation would only worsen. I came to the conclusion that a professional pause was the only way to take care of myself. For any small-business owner, it’s not a decision you’d reach easily, but I’ll attest to it being the best professional decision I made.

Reflect and recover

Everyone’s process is different, but a universal place to start is with rest. Whether it takes four days, four weeks or four months, decompress, reflect and ask questions about what happened and what could’ve been done differently. For me, the key was sharing my experience and seeking help, including therapy, engaging in emotional methodologies, and even speaking more openly and honestly with loved ones. As a small-business owner, don’t overestimate the value of confiding in your peers, all of whom can relate, and many of whom might have similar stories to serve as inspiration.

Make peace with vulnerability

In the business world, there’s a dangerous stigma that vulnerability means weakness. Fighting this and ignoring mental strain can have profound effects on any business. Mental struggles can hurt your motivation, cloud your vision and impede your decision making. Ultimately, that hurts your small business. So be vulnerable. Treat it as an opportunity to start a conversation around how to manage the pressures and emotions that many are facing too. If your team sees you normalising vulnerability and being open with your emotions, you’ll make it easier for them to be open about – and cope with – theirs.

If it wasn’t for the pause I took, I wouldn’t have figured out how to turn my previously debilitating anxiety into a manageable emotion. My experience also reinforced me to never take for granted the people I’m speaking and connecting with on a daily basis – we are all dealing with different situations.

Small-business owners require and possess many different qualities, but don’t overlook the importance of understanding when it’s time to take a break. The strongest business owners aren’t those who ignore vulnerabilities, but those who embrace them. If you need a break, you need a break. Turn it into an opportunity to reset, recover and improve your mental health. After all, the benefit of a healthy small-business owner is a healthy small business.