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Who Looks After the Leader?

June 6, 2022

According to Merchant Savvy, SME’s (classified as businesses of less than 250 employees) make up 99.9% of all private businesses in the UK!  That’s 5.58 million businesses.  

Each of these businesses has at least one owner, sometimes a few. People find themselves in leadership positions for a number of reasons, ambition, inheritance, longevity.  For some it has always been a dream and for others it can be a burden.  

Leadership is exciting.  It usually means a good salary, great perks and complete flexibility.  It often doesn’t.  In fact, when the buck stops with you, salary, perks and flexibility sometimes go out the window.  Often not forever, but particularly during periods of hardship or growth, business owners and leaders can find that the burden of being in a position of ultimate responsibility can be pretty tough.  They can find themselves working excessive hours to fulfil an order, or increasing the salaries of their employees whilst taking a pay cut themselves to keep things running smoothly. Every decision lies with them, to take on staff, to take on more staff, to invest in new technology, offices, stationery… the list goes on and on.  Often leaders are in these roles because they love what their business does, but the reality of being a business owner, especially of an SME, can mean also taking on accounts, marketing, HR and administration on a daily basis.

The pressures of working life can often extend into their personal lives, with many leaders finding they have far less time for their families and friends, often the driving force for running their own business in the first place.

But it doesn’t need to be like this.  Leaders are often great with people, but they mustn’t forget themselves.

Whether you’re new to this or an old hand, take a moment to yourself to think about why you’re in this.  Spend time, on your own or with a trusted friend.  Go for a walk or a pint. Or put 10 minutes in your work calendar for some quiet time in the office.  Answer the following questions:

• Why am I doing this?

• What does success mean to me?

• What is my single biggest challenge right now?

These questions aren’t straightforward and they’re very different for everyone.  For example, for some success means being able to support a family, for others it’s grand holidays, and for some it’s tonnes of cash!  But by being clearing your mind about these three questions, you can plan what you need right now and into the future to ease the burden of leadership in a way that works for you.

Find a support group.  This might be a social thing, making new friends through a book club or badminton can help you to find people with shared interests you can let off steam with.  Or it may be through work - a leadership group or networking event.  It’s so important to have people around you who you can bounce ideas off and who aren’t afraid to tell you when you might be wrong.  Of course, you don’t have to listen, but an outsider’s opinion can be very valuable.

Most importantly, take care of yourself.  When talking about self-care I always think about the advice when flying to secure your own oxygen mask before helping anyone else.  This applies to business leaders too.  If you aren’t looking after you, how can you look after your employees, clients and ultimately your business?  Take a break, go on holiday, visit a spa, play golf, take the kids to Alton Towers.  Whatever it is that fills up your jug and enables you to pour from it again is worth the time and money it costs.

Oh, and hire an HR consultancy… after all, according to Maxwell Davies, “42 per cent of SME owners feel staff management is their biggest cause of stress.”

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