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Small business owners feeling the stress

MORE than three quarters of small business and family business owners feel unwell and in bad health due to work-related stress, according to a recent study by Edith Cowan University’s Faculty of Business and Public Management.

Some 500 small and family businesses from industries including construction, hospitality, manufacturing, service, retail, wholesale, mining and transport were surveyed.

A significant number of respondents said they had difficulty coping with stress. Many revealed levels of depression, alcohol consumption and feelings of isolation.

Joint chief investigator in the study, Thandarayan Vasudavan, said many people were achieving success in small and family businesses at a high personal and social cost.

“More research is required to find out how small business owners can be helped to better deal with sources of stress in their business,” Mr Vasudavan said.

“This is important as the study results show the long term health effects of their inability to cope successfully with stress could be harmful to their health.”

The top ten greatest stress triggers were:

• Having far too much to do

• Factors not under their control, such as seasonality

• Proposed introduction of the GST

• The need to make a profit

• Complexity of tax regulations

• Satisfying Government regulations

• Managing the cash flow of the business

• Mundane administrative tasks

• Book keeping and financial results

• Demands of business versus spouse and children

The study also found that business owners who were married reported higher satisfaction with their business compared to those who were not married.

Sole proprietors were significantly less likely to view Government regulations as a source of stress than those run by more than two family members or partnerships.

Almost 74 per cent had either a high school education or a trade or TAFE qualification while only 20.3 per cent had a university or higher qualification.

Almost half of respondents said their education had not provided them with sufficient business skills.

The study found those with a higher education were less likely to view the business environment and Government regulations as sources of stress.

Mr Vasudavan said respondents reported using a variety of strategies to cope with stress.

Some tried to ‘buy time’ or stalled on issues while others turned to hobbies and pastimes or used alcohol to “calm their nerves”

Many of those reporting stress suffered symptoms of insomnia, anxiety and feeling run down.

Only 21.8 per cent of respondents reported feeling well and in good health.

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