How to Get Over the January Blues as a Startup Founder
March 11th 2022

Today is the most depressing day of the year. Well maybe not quite. But each year, the third Monday of January is dubbed as Blue Monday- a cold, dark day where we don’t want to think about our post-Christmas bank balance, and we are just far enough away from New Year’s to have seen our resolutions slowly grind to a halt. Even though Blue Monday is a bit of a myth, it is a great opportunity to talk about the importance of mental wellbeing for founders, and how to establish that work/life balance. If building your startup is taking its toll on your mental health, then don’t ignore the warning signs. Here are 3 ways you can ease the stress of scaling your team. Running-a-business-can-have-a-knock-on-effect-on-your-mental-health

Build a support network

As a founder, it is easy to feel like you are alone. But the statistics prove otherwise. Over 20% of founders report feelings of loneliness, and 77% of founders admit that running a business has had a knock-on effect on their mental health. Reach out to other founders and expand your support network. The chances are you will meet other founders in similar positions- resilient but run-down. Whilst the support from your family and friends can be crucial, connecting with founders experiencing similar struggles and frustrations will allow you to speak to people who understand exactly what you’re going through. One of our directors, Alan, is a big fan of peer networks and we asked him how it supports him and his mental health. “Over the last few years, I’ve benefited massively from the relationships I’ve developed through peer networks. Sometimes that’s been other recruitment leaders that I can dive into detail with, but often it’s been founders and leaders from outside of our industry. Any business leader shares similar challenges, like growing sales, motivating teams, or reviewing strategies, but having different perspectives can help you see the fuller picture. Leading a business can be lonely place at times. I’m fortunate that I’ve had a trusted business partner in Henry, but even so having a select group of outside leaders that understand my position has helped reassure and motivate on many occasions. I support several accelerators and many of the founders I encounter through those benefit from the peer support as much as the structured learning on offer. No-one is marking your performance, but another benefit is that when you spend time regularly talking to people about your intentions, whether that’s striking the right balance of work and family time or listening before making judgements, you’ll find that you feel the need to show that you’ve moved forward next time you meet!” Research has shown that accountability is a powerful motivator and leads to higher productivity levels. This in turn leads to improved ability to regulate emotions and manage the stress of building a team. Many-founder-struggle-to-draw-the-line-between-life-and-work

Find your way to switch off

The nature of a startup makes it likely that your attention will be pulled in many directions The natural reaction to this is to work longer hours to get everything done. With 44% of founders reporting that they struggle to draw the line between life and work, it is no wonder that there is an increasing number of founders who are reporting a decline in their mental wellbeing. To avoid burnout, you need to find a way to switch off. Whether it is meditation or donning a pair of skates, find a version of mindfulness that works for you. We recently spoke to Founder and CEO of Bob’s Business, Melanie Oldham about how she struggled with overworking and insomnia whilst growing her team. After failed attempts at meditation, Melanie took a (quite literal) leap of faith and fell in love with sky diving. Whilst your version of ‘relaxed’ may involve keeping your feet firmly rooted to the ground, dedicating time to learn a new skill can help ease the stresses of growing your startup. Many people report that picking up a new hobby can help them to regain a sense of control that often wavers with the uncertainty that come from living life one funding round to the next. The secrets to finding time for your hobbies

  • Make it routine- commit to making time for yourself the same time each week
  • Do it with a friend- no one wants to be that friend who cancels, so commit to going with a friend
  • Turn your phone off and step away
  • Set goals and work to meet them
  • Delegate the tasks you can to other members of your team to free up some more time

Remind yourself why

Sometimes the reality of starting a business can overshadow the initial passion that drove you to set it up in the first place. Every founder has a why and the key is keeping this at the heart of what you do as you scale. Going through funding rounds can be disheartening. But even if it takes 99 no’s, that one yes could make all the difference. Touch-base every so often to remind yourself why you are doing what you’re doing- and communicate this with your team. If scaling a successful startup was easy then everyone would do it, and inevitably some days will be darker than others. If this Monday is particularly blue, then take a step back and remember your why. We talk to startup and scaleup founders everyday who are experiencing the frustrations that building a business can bring. There is no quick fix to the complex challenges you will face, but in times of uncertainty, people are your greatest asset. Check out our Talent Guide for Founders to ensure that bad hiring decisions aren’t weighing you down. 

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