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Pressure to Succeed Translates into Stress for Entrepreneurs

By Harsh Mariwala

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There has been a growing focus on mental health and work - but this has been restricted to start-ups, and mental health at the workplace. We have conversations about employee well-being, but not about the health of the leader of the enterprise. It is important to have resources on this, not just for the individual, but also because challenges to their wellbeing are likely to be felt throughout the businesses, and the larger economy, given how SMEs form the backbone of the country's economy.

While issues pertaining to entrepreneurial mental health are experienced collectively. It is equally important to discuss and give importance to each of their personal journeys. It is important, therefore, to focus on the conditions that lead to stress, and the stressors within an entrepreneur's ecosystem that are unique to their nature of the business, environment, and even gender and age.

These have been brought to light by a study conducted by the ASCENT Foundation and Mariwala Health Initiative. The study observes that early achievement in businesses for young entrepreneurs is a means to prove oneself to family and peers and hence the pressure to succeed translates into stress. The stress is different when compared to an older entrepreneur, who defines success by the milestones they achieve, including innovations, size or expansion of business, and building a second line of management in the organization.

The 1st generation entrepreneurs are also found to be more anxious about their cash flow management while entrepreneurs who are part of family-run businesses are found to feel frustrated dealing with disagreements with other family members/directors on matters of day-to-day functioning, or the larger vision of the business.

The stress factors are also observed to be gendered, such that male entrepreneurs are observed to stress over cash flow and employee performance, while female entrepreneurs are dealing with the pressures to perform. Moreover, male entrepreneurs measure their success solely based on business growth and achievements while their female counterparts seek a holistic sense of achievement by also managing their personal front successfully.

Hiring and retaining senior management is a constant stress for service organizations while entrepreneurs in the manufacturing sector worry about building the next line of leadership

Stressors have been found to vary drastically, depending on the entrepreneur's personal journey and environment. These manifest into anxiety, frustration, irritability, and confusion, which in turn has an effect on the entrepreneur's mental wellbeing and the performance of the organization.

Through our conversations with the various entrepreneurs, as a part of the research for our study, we identified how most of them have developed unique support systems to help them manage stress, including certain personal habits like exercise, mentoring, therapy, meditation, journaling or even joining an entrepreneur peer group. I personally am a strong believer in the far-reaching impact of physical fitness on mental well-being and continue to ensure that I remain physically active through regular exercises

While it is encouraging to know that entrepreneurs have their individual ways of managing stress, it is important for each of us to also work towards challenging the current narrative within the entrepreneurial ecosystem that links business failures to the failure of the individual. Entrepreneurs are often regarded as inspirational and aspirational figures--symbols of perseverance, drive, passion, and success. Much has been written on the professional journeys and personal attributes of those who have been considered successful in the classical sense of the term, However, the challenges and failures that come with these perceived successes are rarely discussed, and are usually painted to reflect negatively on the individual. It is time that workplace mental wellbeing starts with the well-being at the top of the hierarchy - the entrepreneur/business owner. I hope that B-schools start conversations on mental well-being, this is the learning space of future entrepreneurs

Harsh Mariwala

Founder, ASCENT

Harsh Mariwala is the Founder of ASCENT and also the Chairman of Marico Limited.

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