If you google “starting a business is…” you’ll see suggestions from “so hard” to “like having a baby” to the memorable “like eating glass.” Ouch.
As a business founder, startup owner or early stage entrepreneur, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in for a tough time. But founding your own company doesn’t need to be stressful. With the right skills, knowledge and preparation, it can even be stress-free.
We caught up with 11 founders who told us how they did it themselves. Here are their practical tips to help make setting up a business a breeze.
Separate “good stress” from “bad stress”
"For me personally, there are two kinds of 'stress'” says Elliot Agró, CEO of Mable Therapy. “One gets me fired up and primed for ideas – it’s like watching a big football match or trying something new you might find scary. The other is debilitating, chronic, and provides absolutely no function for either myself or the business.”
It’s never a bad idea to pause during the day to pay attention to how your mind and body feel. Keep a note of the tasks that give you “good stress” and try to build your work around them.
When “bad stress” shows up, accept it as a signal that this is a part of your work that you should delegate or outsource in order to avoid it.
Select staff and colleagues carefully
Agró also recommends “choosing your team wisely.” Many people just want to get a team together as quickly as possible, but Agró says it’s best to “take your time and don't rush in. By not spending enough time on choosing staff members, your co-founders, or even potential investors, you're setting yourself up for that 'bad stress' for years to come.”
Find your “why”
“One thing that will help you get through the tough times is to have a purpose for your business that you truly believe in,” says Matthew Vamplew, founder of mental health startup Paranimo. “Research suggests that if you feel you have a purpose in life, you’re more likely to feel both physically and mentally well on a daily basis.”
Rene Murata, founder of CEO Essence, agrees. She expresses that “knowing what I wanted to do, to accomplish and especially the why, provided clarity for me. Your mission statement should become a lighthouse for your business.”
Prepare your loved ones
When you start a business, it’s not just you who’s going to go through it, but everyone who cares about you, too. Digital artist Christian Azolan explains that he “communicated with my partner that a business is a third wheel, it will take up my time, money and commitments for it to work.”
Talking about this allows you to discuss the commitment you’re about to face and how the other person feels about it. From there, you can both set some boundaries around the support that may be needed or how to communicate with each other through the process. It’s also a good idea to do this as early on in the process as possible to lay the groundwork for the future.
Take charge of your time
As your own boss, you’re probably trying to wear a thousand hats a day and have a to-do list as long as your arm. But adding some structure to your day really streamlines productivity and focus.
Business mentor Silja Thor says that “themed days work like magic – make sure you have one day to be a CEO and work on your business and get strategic, then one day to work on client attraction, etc.”
Create buffer zones
Nothing increases stress levels like a pile of work and a deadline that’s set in stone.
Jemma Broadstock, founder of Virtually Done, recommends “only fill your day up to 60%, so you have space for emergencies or things that take longer than planned.”
Onboard specialist support
Hamza Datoo, founder of WorkWyse, swears by hiring help, saying entrepreneurs should “outsource all the "heavy tasks.” Using a ‘stick to what you know’ approach, founders can save themselves a headache by bringing in experts in various fields to get certain tasks done quickly.
“You can’t learn digital marketing in a day, but you can incorporate your company or open a business bank account yourself. [Outsourcing] helps you keep your focus narrowed on what really matters. It’s not the cheapest way to do things but if you decide to take on complex elements yourself, you’ll lose valuable time that would be better spent somewhere else.”
Know the bottom line
As a business owner, you’ll be expected to know your business turnover, predicted sales and forecast for the next quarter at any given time. And not only know them, but know what they mean and understand what you need to do if they’re off.
“Do your numbers, check them and then do them again,” says Azolan. “If you’re not making a good margin on everything you are selling you will be running around in circles. A business with no numbers is not a business, it's a hobby.”
Making sure you’ve got the figures locked in your mind will not only give you a sense of preparedness but help you prioritise your workload based on them.
Choose your own hours
As a business owner, you have the freedom to choose how you go about your day. And that can really work in your favour.
“Work your day around how you like to work” says Broadstock. “So often we work nine to five because it's familiar but actually just working four til eight might make you 10x more productive. Don't force yourself to fit into a certain schedule, listen to yourself and work in a way that works for you.”
Stay in the present
“Living in the future is a common characteristic of new founders,” says Vamplew. “Thinking about all the things that could go well and also all the things that could go wrong. Future thinking is often based on predictions of what might happen fuelled by assumptions not facts, leading to fantasising and catastrophising in equal measure. This can cause a lot of mental health distress.”
Identify your successes and build on them
“The most important thing I've learned about keeping everything – including starting a business – (relatively) stress-free is to start with iterating on what you've done before,” says Dr Morgana McCabe-Allan. There's a very steep learning curve in any new business, and you can minimise that by focusing on taking the very best of all that you've done before into your new business.”
Curate your social feed
Social media has a lot to answer for when it comes to your mindset and this applies to your business, too. In the times when you’re taking a break, it’s important to control your feelings during your downtime just as much as when you’re in business mode. “Unfollow anyone who you compare yourself to” says Broadstock. “Ensure your environment (virtually and in real-life) is inspirational and triggers positive feelings, not negative ones.”
Money worries are a big stressor when you’re starting a business. Minimising your overheads can help to keep these concerns at bay.
“Starting a home-based, online business requires little (to no) capital and it’s possible to keep the business very lean,” says Facebook ads strategist Jess Brookes.
If you have the option of moving back to a family home or downsizing temporarily to reduce your housing costs, seize the chance. You’ll be freeing up cash for your business and, just as importantly, buying yourself peace of mind.
Try not to compare yourself
“It's really tempting to put your focus on what other people are doing, but that's really distracting and stress inducing,” says McCabe-Allan. “If you begin comparing, you start doing things that aren't your best skills, or even aligned with your values, because you're wrapped up in what others appear to be doing. Your perception of their reality is nothing like their lived experience. If they are genuinely successful, copying them will not replicate that, because their success has come from a completely unique series of events and interactions. The truth might look very different.”
Ultimately, creating your own company is never going to be as blissful as a beach holiday. But arming yourself with these tips will no doubt reduce unwanted stress and anxiety, so you can build something amazing.
As business founder Enterprise Ian says: “if you ever did a bungee jump or a parachute drop and said you were not worried or stressed, would anyone believe you? Stress is good when you start your business, provided it’s the right kind of stress.”
Get business insurance
As a business insurance provider, we’d be mad not to mention this one! Having the right cover in place really can bring peace of mind and make a difficult situation so much easier to navigate. Whatever your needs, Superscript can help you build a flexible monthly business insurance policy to keep you protected. If you're not sure where to start, check out our guide to the different types of business insurance.