No one said being a business owner was easy.

Even owners who appear on the outside to be doing well based on company revenue and growth can harbor the secret demons involved with reaching that coveted million-dollar mark.

From getting and keeping customers to having trouble finding and retaining good employees to getting invoices in on time to cash flow concerns to wondering if making payroll is going to happen, the struggle is all too real for some business owners. Look at the National Federation of Independent Business‘ recent survey that listed the problems facing businesses today, including taxes, government regulations, quality of labor, poor sales and labor costs. (Luckily, we provide some ideas to help you solve these headaches in this month’s Compensation Report.)

The inside of a business owner’s mind is a brilliant, but also lonely and stressful place.

How brutal can it be? What price do entrepreneurs pay?

Think lost customers, partner or family business disputes, the competition’s cutthroat pricing, employees not showing up. Any one of these issues can be quite traumatic to deal with.

Every single entrepreneur struggles—mostly silently—with the day-to-day challenges of running a business. On top of these emotional and psychological struggles, the small business owner also tends to neglect his or her health—eating inadequately, lacking sleep, not having time for exercise.

In fact, 34 percent of entrepreneurs report being worried, according to a Gallup survey, and 45 percent of entrepreneurs say they are stressed. This is 4 percent and 3 percent higher, respectively, than other workers feel.


First, there’s a high risk of failure. Three out of four venture-backed startups fail, says Shikhar Ghosh, a Harvard Business School lecturer, in Inc. And more than 95 percent of startups fall short of their initial projections.

On top of that, entrepreneurs naturally have traits (highly creative and motivated, to name a few) that make them more vulnerable to moodiness—the ups and the downs.

And most small business owners won’t talk about it because they don’t want to appear weak, so they keep it all bottled up inside, compounding the problem.

So what can you do to cope?

  • First, connect with human beings. Family and friends can help fight off any depression or anxiety.
  • Be healthy, including eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep.
  • Don’t exaggerate your failures. Just because something in business didn’t work out doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It just means you tried something and it didn’t work out. Life is all about trial and error.
  • Talk. Share your feelings and emotions. This helps you form deeper connections with people.

The stress isn’t going away, but taking care of yourself along the way might just make the difference between hitting your goals and losing the very reason you started this business in the first place.


Nicole Wisniewski